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The Duke Of Doubt: Can Chris Rock Make The Leap From Standup Eminence To Leading Man?

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27:  Comedian Chris Rock attends Celebrity Charades 2014: Judgment Day at Capitale on October 27, 2014
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27: Comedian Chris Rock attends Celebrity Charades 2014: Judgment Day at Capitale on October 27, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/WireImage)

In 1988, when Chris Rock had been doing standup comedy for four years, he took part in a special called “Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen.” The producer’s idea was to gather together performers who were too shocking for the mainstream: Rock’s co-stars included Tim Allen, who hadn’t yet tamed his horny-Neanderthal act for television, and Bill Hicks, who presented antisocial rants as psychedelic parables. But even in this group Rock’s youth and acerbity and race made him stand out; the m.c. introduced him as “the Nat Turner of comedy.” Rock was a high-school dropout who had recently become one of Eddie Murphy’s protégés. After the two men met in a comedy club, Murphy gave him a six-hundred-dollar bit part in “Beverly Hills Cop II.” Rock strode onstage looking much younger than his twenty-three years: a bucktoothed kid with a multicolored leather jacket, a Jheri-curled flattop, and state-of-the-art Air Jordan III sneakers.

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