Competing with legends can be tough, particularly when the legend is your brother.
However, by keeping the competition friendly, Tony Rock and his older brother, Chris — plus seven other Rock siblings — were able to push each other in ways that only brothers can.
Tony, an accomplished stand-up comedian, writer, actor and producer, talked about that singular type of sibling motivation during a Tuesday afternoon interview two days before he begins a headlining gig at Goodnights Comedy Club in Raleigh. We also discussed his MyROCK Diabetes Foundation, the mental weightlifting required to become a good stand-up comedian, how comedy clubs remain somewhat timeless and more.
Enjoy the interview, follow Rock on Twitter and don’t forget The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes at the end.
Tony Castleberry: Growing up, were the Rock siblings competitive?
Tony Rock: That’s what siblings are. That’s the nature of having a sibling. If they do something you wanna do or if they do something really good, you want to do it better. … Having so many of us, it really just inspires us to be better than the next one. It’s friendly competition.
TC: That drives you from a pretty early age, doesn’t it?
TR: That’s how you learn drive. Your first lessons when you’re growing up are usually taught by your siblings. When your siblings get in trouble for doing something, you take notice and you don’t do that. When your siblings are getting praise in school, you take notice and you try to do that. When they are excelling academically or in sports, you take notice and you try to do the same thing.
TC: When do you think you first became a good stand-up? Was it a certain show or a specific bit that worked? Do you remember when that feeling hit you?
TR: No, it’s not a thing where you would notice it in the moment. It’s kind of like working out. Like, you wouldn’t work out one day and notice a change in your body. It’s a gradual thing and one day after consistently doing it, you would notice the changes in your body. (Stand-up) is mentally working out. The more you work out mentally, you have to kind of step back from it and then look and realize, “I’m actually good. This is coming easier to me. I can write about more things. I’m more creative in my writing. My point of view is being more solidified and then you realize, ‘Oh, I’m getting pretty good.’”
TC: Did it take you years to get there or did it happen relatively quickly after you started?
TR: When I started, and I’m pretty much the same way…comics always say what their voice is. My voice is unique in that I talk to the audience like I talk to my friends on the stoop in Brooklyn. It wasn’t like I had to really find that. I’ve always had that. I was just trying to find the material to have a wealth of things to talk about on the stoop with my friends in Brooklyn.
TC: It makes sense that that would connect with people. Do you do any jokes or bits about Chris or any other family members in your act? I’m guessing there probably are some in there.
TR: There are. The only joke about my brother right now, Chris I’m talking about, is his unfortunate divorce.
TC: Oh, so nothing is off limits.
TR: Oh, not at all! This is the Rock family. We talk about everybody.
TC: [laughs] What is the MyRock Diabetes Foundation?
TR: It was started just to raise awareness and educate people about diabetes. My father passed away from diabetes when I was a teenager and I just felt like we should do something to honor him. I feel like if we can just educate people…if you know better, you do better. Our job is just to make sure that you know a little bit more than you did the day before. You can eat healthier. You can watch your diet. You can exercise and you can live with diabetes. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not a death sentence, but you have to be knowledgeable about the problems that you have.
TC: Do you think audiences have changed since Trump has been in office?
TR: No. [long pause] The slightest difference wouldn’t be made in a comedy club. In the world, I’ve seen the difference since Trump has become president. But the beautiful thing about a comedy club, probably the No. 1 thing that I love about a comedy club, is there really is no black, no white, no Spanish, no Asian. It’s just people in a comedy club. People come to comedy clubs to get away from the fact that there is separation when it comes to police matters and the hood and the suburbs and how we interact with each other and the educational system and the prison system. Comics might address those things, but we’re talking to just people in a comedy club.
TC: That’s an interesting way to put it. I guess a comedy club is kind of timeless, in a good way, right?
TR: Absolutely. It’s always weird to me when someone gets offended by something in a comedy club. I think by walking in that room, you should already know that you might hear something that offends your sensibilities as far as race, your sexual preference, your gender, your financial status. But in that room, it’s OK.
It’s like going to church. If you go to church on Sunday, you know you’re going to hear scripture. If you don’t want to hear scripture, why would you go in there? [interviewer laughs]
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes:
Online: "Password must be at least 8 characters long and contain special characters."
Access to your bank account: "Meh, 4 digits is cool."
— Chris Rogers (@ChrisIsJoking) April 26, 2017