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Standing Up With

Chris Tucker

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Chris Tucker. Illustration by Dan Morris and used under the terms of a Creative Commons License.
Hollywood Heavyweight Is Back On The Road And Behind The Microphone But Admits A Friday Reunion Might Happen Because Fans Want It

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By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

March 23, 2013 — From an extra in House Party 3 to the highest paid actor in Hollywood, Chris Tucker is a cultural icon. On March 22, ‘Smokey’ will be playing Phoenix in the round at The Celebrity Theatre, and he talked with us earlier this week about the Phoenix metro, Friday, Michael Jackson and what it’s like to be a Los Angeles folk hero from the ATL.

MTM: Where are you talking to me from?
CT: I’m in Los Angeles.

MTM: Tell me about coming back to stand up after all of the years making films.
CT: I’ve been doing it again since 2006; I’ve been in clubs. I went back to the clubs and then eventually started touring to theaters again. I'm originally a comedian. I started out doing stand-up comedy and I decided to go back to my roots and get that connection. That's the only way you can get that immediate connection with your fans and your audience and my fans are much bigger than when I started, after doing the movies and stuff, so I thought it would be a great thing to do. So its just great for me, keeps me sharp and keeps me in touch with my fans and I bond with my fans and its just great.

MTM: What has been the hardest part of transitioning from big time films back to comedy clubs?
CT: That you connect with your fans because they see you as this movie star and all this stuff and I think it's the hardest part to show them that you're just like everybody else. You got problems, you go through stuff, you grew up, and you know it's just that connection once you connect that's the funnest part too. Because the fans resonate with a lot of the stuff that I'm talking about so it's good.

MTM: How has your stand up act changed since you first started doing it 20 years ago?
CT: A lot more material, a lot more stories, a lot more characters, you know I've lived a lot since I started when I was younger. A lot of stories to tell, a lot of characters a lot of stuff like that so it's just a lot more to talk about.

MTM: Have you ever played the Celebrity Theatre before?
CT: Yeah I have man, I love the round, and I think it's a great place and the fans are right there up on you and the energy is incredible.

MTM: Anything else you really dig about the Phoenix metro?
CT: Yeah I like Phoenix. Phoenix is great. I been there a few times, a lot of times actually, but its just a great place, good crowd and I like the diversity of Phoenix. You know from my movies I get all walks of people, Latinos, black, whites, Asians so it's great, it's a good mix.

MTM: Speaking of your movies, are the rumors true, will you be starring in the next installment of Friday?
CT: Friday is just something that popped up; I don't know where it came from — the rumor that I was doing another one. But you know we are waiting on a script to come in and I'm going to look at it. But you know I did it so long ago I know my fans really want to see it and they're really excited about it so you know I figure I'll look at the script and see what they've got, But I don't know if I'll do another one but I'll definitely look at it because my fans really love it and they really want it so we'll see what happens, we'll see how it comes back.

MTM: What are the biggest differences between making House Party 3 in 1993, and then Rush Hour 3 in 2004?
CT: Oh man, House Party 3 for me it was my first introduction into film. It was a cameo scene and I knew I didn't have that much time to make an imprint on film. I think I played a character named Johnny Booze and I had to create something to make it funny and make the scene good and I had no more than a minute or two, and so that was just quick and that came a lot from my stand up and I knew I had to improv something real quick and know what's funny. When I did Rush Hour it was more acting a character. I had to follow a character and be funny within the character wherever that took me, and the audience thought it was funny because I was just acting. It was just in the character.

MTM: Speaking of Rush Hour, did you ever think while reading the script that it would make you one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood?
CT: I knew it was a perfect role for me. Because it was Jackie Chan and Jackie Chan was to me unique and he was cool, you know martial arts, the things he was doing were different and fresh at the time and I was coming from comedy and I knew it would be a good combination. It would be a good shot and a good break for me because I could do martial arts than also I could do my comedy and I could mix it with this cool martial arts thing that Jackie Chan was doing. I thought it would be perfect it would be a perfect role for me and I could make something out of it. So yeah I thought it could be special I didn't know how big it would be or where it would go but I thought it would be special.

MTM: Which rolls do your fans most often approach you about?
CT: Definitely Friday, people love Friday. Different people, a lot of people love Friday and then you know some people like Fifth Element, some people like Money Talks, Some people like Rush Hour. So different people, but the most people I got to say is Friday.

MTM: Tell me about Fifth Element; was that a different kind of role for you?
CT: It was a lot of fun; you know it was a lot of fun. It was another character. It was a different type of character, you know, and it was a spaced-out, crazy character, it was just a lot of fun, I just got into the character. I put on all the crazy stuff and I was surrounded by this crazy world Luc Besson — the director — created. It was his whole thing and it was fun. I look at it to this day, and I'm proud of it. It was so different and I got into the role.

MTM: What was working with Bruce Willis like?
CT: Bruce Willis is fun, man; he was a lot of fun. Playing off of him, we had a good time.

MTM: What are your feelings toward Michael Jackson?
CT: You know what, Michael. I was fortunate enough to know him and he was such a great entertainer but also a great person and he befriended me. I was in one of his videos and stuff like that, a few things like that, so I was blessed to have known him. But I just think he left us so much music and art and films, stuff like short films, and he was a phenomenon and just a great star, but a great person too. So you know he left us so much so it's hard to miss him too much.

MTM: Do you have any formal dance or music background?
CT: No man, no I just love music, I love all types of music, and I love to dance and that's it.

MTM: How did you end up in the “You Rock My World” music video?
CT: I was friends with Michael and I did something on his album. I did an interlude — you know, joking around, one of the producers wanted me to do an interlude — so I did the interlude. Then from the interlude they said, ‘hey man, Michael wants to get Chris to do the video and that was it.’
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