The real story behind Chris Rock’s firing from ‘Saturday Night Live’ twenty years ago
Last night, Chris Rock entertained millions on Saturday Night Live, a show he once called home before he was fired from the sketch comedy show. Twenty years ago, Chris Rock left Saturday Night Live to join the cast and crew of In Living Color. But, many of the details surrounding why the comedian was fired from SNL have never been revealed until today.
Chris Rock was like many comedians on Saturday Night Live, he worked on the show but never gained a lot of attention for his sketches on the series. Chris Rock joined Saturday Night Live in 1990 and stayed on the show until 1993. He would work alongside Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, and David Spade. Chris Rock’s work on Saturday Night Live allowed him to appear on several movies. He was also able to connect with Eddie Murphy, a former SNL star and comedic A-lister. Many assumed that the SNL gig was going to be the show that would launch Rock’s career however it proved to be more of an obstacle for the comedian.
Rock discussed his problems with the SNL crew in a 2011 interview.
[Rock]explains that were were certain things he was asked to do on SNL that he just flat-out refused to be a part of. Maron asks him for an example. “[Playing] a Ubangi tribesman or whatever… to where, not that I thought they were racist… [but I] was the only black face that was going to be seen for an hour and a half… it feels racist. It’s not racist. But it just feels like it when that’s all you see… If you’re on In Living Color and you’re a Ubangi tribesman there was a black thing before that and one right after it. There’s a context.” [via]
It is interesting to note that the issue of race on Saturday Night Live is still a hot topic today, so it was not just a complaint but most likely a legitimate issue. Rock felt that he was personally frustrated while working on the popular TV series. It would be this frustration that caused him to leave SNL.
Rock had plans to leave SNL, so he was “fired” because he was about to exit the sketch show to work on In Living Color. Maron asked Rock why he’d want to leave such a well-established show to work on Keenan Ivory Wayans’ creation, which was only a few years old at the time.
“The culture’s changing, Rock tells Maron about the state of sketch comedy in 1993, when he joined In Living Color. “And I’m not a part of it. This sh*t is getting hip. This sh*t is getting blacker. This sh*t is getting f*cking rappier. SNL is still a pretty white show. When I got hired I was the first black guy in like eight years— and In Living Color was just hip. The sh*t was hot. I wanted to be in an environment where I didn’t have to translate the comedy I wanted to do.”
Chris Rock would later leave SNL to join the cast of In Living Color but, the series would be canceled weeks after he arrived. For many actors and comedians in the entertainment industry, that would usually be the final curtain call for any actor. However, Chris Rock turned it around and created a career that could make Kevin Hart jealous.
Chris Rock returned to SNL on Saturday with lukewarm reviews. The Hollywood Reporter called his performance “forgettable”.
No surprise here: Rock’s monologue consisted of his stand-up material. He started off by riffing on the absurdity of running a marathon, and he just got stronger from there. He made a point about how he would never enter NYC’s Freedom Tower, saying: “I don’t care if Scarlett Johansson is buck naked on the 89th floor in a plate of ribs.” And he hilariously mocked the commercialization of Christmas by pointing out that Jesus wasn’t a fan a materialism. “No bling on Jesus,” he said. After a forgettable cold open, things are looking up.
At the end of the day Chris Rock has cemented himself in Hollywood and has the fortunate opportunity to pick and choose the projects he would like to work on. As the sketches on SNL show, he is no longer forced to play the only black character in every sketch. Maybe, 2015 will bring back the Chris Rock we have grown to love instead of the Grown Ups 2, Chris Rock we have grown to ignore.
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