Chris Rock's advice on what to do when a set is going poorly: "Slow it down"

The New Yorker has a piece on Chris Rock: Can Chris Rock make the leap from standup eminence to leading man?. Along the way, it mentions a Q&A he did with Eric Bogosian back in 1997 in the NY Times. Here's that: Chris Rock Has No Time for Your Ignorance.

Eric Bogosian: What's the difference between a black audience and a white audience?

Chris Rock: I'll give it to you in musical terms. When a musical act performs, the black audience goes crazy for all the stuff, the album cuts, everything. White audiences, they're nice and all, but they're not going to lose it until they get the hits. Comedy is the same thing.

Bogosian: How do you know when it is funny? When is the joke finished?

Rock: It's never locked. I mess with it every night. But I really don't improvise that much. I mean, 10 percent of the show is improvised.

Bogosian: What do you do when the audience doesn't get the good stuff?

Rock: I slow down my delivery. The natural thing to do when the show's not going well is to speed it up. Worst thing in the world. Slow it down. Make sure they understand everything you're saying. I'll think, Maybe the abortion bit won't play. But I don't drop that much stuff now.

One other interesting line is when Rock explains why he would listen to MLK, Malcolm X, and JFK: "I just looked at it as kind of the same thing as I was trying to do, but without punch lines. I think anybody in front of a crowd is a comedian."

FYI, I've posted lots of stuff about Rock over the years here. Take a look.


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