Many of iconic comedian Chris Rock’s most famous routines have been steeped in social commentary thanks to the location of his upbringing, where did he grow up?
Chris Rock was born in Andrews, South Carolina. He grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant after his family moved there following a brief stint in Crown Heights.
Chris Rock is a comedian that is well known to avoid shying away from difficult topics. Issues of race and class have often been at the heart of some of his most famous bits, clearly drawing from personal experiences and observation to drive his humor.
The Streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant
Bedford-Stuyvesant, also known as Bed-Stuy by locals, and hometown of Chris Rock for the entirety of his younger years.
Previously and still somewhat known for being an area with a high crime rate, Bed-Stuy was once regarded as being an incredibly dangerous neighborhood, and while it still isn’t altogether safe, the negativity associated with it has died down over the years.
On the plus side, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bed-Stuy boasts the achievement of being home to the likes of Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G, and Mike Tyson, just to name a few.
Looking at the caliber of stars that the streets of Bed-Stuy produced, it leaves you wondering if there was something in the water, due to the cultural significance of some of the people that were born there.
The neighborhood still serves as an important cultural hub in New York.
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener
Due to the low-income, high-crime nature of Bed-Stuy around the time that Chris Rock grew up there, his parents felt that attending a school in a different area offered a brighter future. The thought process behind this was that it could hopefully help to keep Rock out of the potential trouble that a school in a neighborhood like Bed-Stuy could bring.
Rock went to his (ideally) better school by bus every single day. The school was still in a poor neighborhood, perhaps not a “ghetto” as Bed-Stuy was described by Rock, but at least it would hopefully be a step up in its education and opportunities than what would otherwise be afforded to him.
Unfortunately for Rock, the school was also in an all-white neighborhood.
This led Rock to suffer from some fairly extreme bullying growing up. In interviews over the years, he described the process in all of its grim reality, detailing events where he was beaten up, spat on, and just generally given an extremely hard time by other children.
He comments on the fact that a lot of it was likely due to the fact he was, for the most part, the only black student in his grade. This, alongside how he describes himself as being a “skinny runt”, led to much of his issues with bullies.
Despite all of his hardships, Rock sees it as being character building. Despite having such a chaotic and traumatic school life, he still had love at home and comments that he believes as long as you still have some love in your life then you can use any external negativity as fuel for success.
Art Imitating Life
Drawing on these experiences is what led Rock to create the TV show Everybody Hates Chris. The show was a sitcom that revolved around Rock’s younger years, an examination of the race and class issues of the time, and how they affected him.
Many of the locations and events previously mentioned are touched upon throughout the show’s multiple season run. Tyler James Williams portrays the teenage Rock as he navigates the social landscape of the 80s.
The show was incredibly well-received, praised for the funny yet often all too real image that the show was able to paint. Rock’s experiences and a cast of skilled actors to help bring them to life proved to be a perfect concoction, earning the show multiple award nominations.
Although there is an element of tragedy to how hard his upbringing had been at times, Rock always seems to manage to extract the best out of it. Turning an unfortunate or harmful situation into a joke, using his wit to transform negativity into something that he can use.
Thanks to where he grew up, a positive mindset, and a gift for comedy, Rock manages to shine a light on serious issues – all while making you laugh.