"I sort of had an instinct for comedy. Being the youngest of six kids, there was always something going on in our house. I was kind of quick-witted. I took that to high school and I was quick-witted then. So yeah, I kinda took to that pretty easy and knew I could do it. And it was something I would have fun doing because my imagination was all over the place then. It was fun to do."
– Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker: Hey, Guy, how you doing?
Guy MacPherson: Hello, Chris Tucker! How are you?
CT: Good, good.
GM: Thanks for taking this call, by the way.
CT: Oh, no problem. Thank you.
GM: Are you in New York right now?
CT: No, I'm in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm from Decatur, Georgia, so I moved back home and I live here in Atlanta now.
GM: I thought you can't go home again?
CT: You know what? Home is good! Everybody's going back: LeBron's going back, I went back. Everybody's going home!
GM: I was telling someone yesterday that I was going to talk to you and they didn't know that you did standup. A lot of people only know you from your movies.
CT: That's what people have told me. That's why I'm so happy to be back doing it now because this is where it all started. This got me to the movies, standup comedy. That's something.
GM: How long did you take off from the stage?
CT: I took off accidentally when I was doing movies. I didn't really have time to go on tour. But I've been touring for the last probably now eight years non-stop. But before that I took off a little bit. Probably a few years.
GM: When you started out, was that in Georgia?
CT: That was in Georgia. I started at a comedy club called The Comedy Act Theater. Before that I started in high school. My high school talent show was the first time I hosted and did some standup. And after that I hit local clubs, dance clubs and bars. They opened up a real comedy club in 1991. When I graduated from high school, I was an amateur there and then became a regular for a year there.
GM: Did you start out with other comics we might know?
CT: One of my good friends is an actor and he did standup, too, for a period of time, named Shy Guy. He did a lot of TV. A lot of other guys were a little bit before me. They were already doing comedy a little bit before me. But nobody I think you know of that started out exactly with me.
GM: When you think back to the time you were on Def Comedy Jam and starting to get noticed, was that as exciting as when you were making the big bucks? I mean in a different kind of way. Because everything was new and you were getting noticed.
CT: Yeah, it was more exciting. Because it was just a dream then. Living with that dream was exciting and fun and the possibilities and what could happen was so much fun. Just to go on stage and get five minutes meant a big deal because it was so hard to get on stage because there were so many comics jockeying for time. So much competition in the comedy world. It was so much fun to be able to do that, find something I love and then also get into the movies. And then the movies became really fun, too, the success of them. You had to wait a little while longer. Standup you get that immediate response right then and there but the movies you wait about a month or a year to get that response. That's the great thing about standup.
GM: Did you take to standup immediately? Did you do well right off the bat?
CT: Yeah, because I sort of had an instinct for comedy. Being the youngest of six kids, there was always something going on in our house. I was kind of quick-witted. I took that to high school and I was quick-witted then. So yeah, I kinda took to that pretty easy and knew I could do it. And it was something I would have fun doing because my imagination was all over the place then. It was fun to do.
GM: Is there a segment of your audience that comes to see Chris Tucker the movie star and then are pleasantly surprised or shocked that you have a real act. And it's more than five minutes now!
CT: Yeah, that's so true. I never really think about it but that's true: A lot of people discover me for the first time now doing the standup stuff so it's pretty cool.
GM: A lot of comics looked to Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy as influences. Did you have other lesser-known influences that you tried to emulate or at least were role models in some way?
CT: Robin Harris was one who was funny. He was just naturally funny. He was in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing. I thought he was one of the funniest comedians I ever saw. So he's definitely one that influenced me, too.
GM: A lot of actors who've found success in movies or TV but started in standup just can't give up doing standup. What is it about besides the immediate reaction?
CT: It keeps you sharp for anything else: for movies and television. I mean, Bill Cosby's still doing standup. I heard he goes out every weekend and he's 76, 77. It's the key to being ready because even in movies or television you have a lot of down time when you're not working so you've got to do stuff to keep yourself sharp. I think why standup comics are so sharp and quick-witted is we're on the road and we're working every weekend. There's always something going on, something to talk about. It's just the spontaneousness of it and also it just keeps you sharp.
GM: Cosby's doing sitdown comedy, though.
CT: Yeah, he is. He's sitting down. He's mastered that sitting down telling those stories and anecdotes. He's great at that.
GM: Do you get a sense that people have different expectations when they see you, like they think you're that character they know rather than Chris Tucker?
CT: You know what? No. I mean, I guess sometimes I get them hollering out the movie characters and stuff but I never think about it like that. But some people probably are there saying, 'We want to see you in another Fridays.' I make sure I give them a little bit of that and I give them a lot of the real me. I try to give them all of it. But I don't think too much that a lot of people didn't know that I do comedy. I guess it's a big surprise to them when they find it out.
GM: Famous comics often get yahoos yelling stuff out from characters that other people wrote rather than the stuff coming from your mind.
CT: Yeah. Yup. I've had that in comedy clubs, guys yelling, 'I'd rather see you in Fridays!' And you're like, 'Well, you're seeing me right now.' Sometimes you gotta tell 'em.
GM: Do you have a standup movie coming to theatres?
CT: We're going to put it out this year. We don't know if we're going to put it in theatres or on VOD, straight to video on demand. Because there are so many different ways to put stuff out now. I think we'll probably try to get in some theatres and also go straight to video on demand.
GM: This is your first special?
CT: Yeah, my first special.
GM: That's hard to believe, isn't it?
CT: Yeah, it is.
GM: Where did you film it?
CT: We filmed it here in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Fox Theatre.
GM: It's about an hour-and-a-half?
CT: Yeah, it's like an hour-and-a-half. It's really cool. I talk about everything and I have special footage in there and stuff. It's pretty cool.
GM: So that's about how long you'll do here in Vancouver?
CT: Yeah, about an hour-and-a-half. I have two opening acts. And I do like an hour and something. I was just up in Vancouver. I was up there for a birthday party. My friend had all these big fireworks up there. Everybody was talking about the fireworks not too long ago. I love Vancouver so I can't wait to get up there.
GM: An actor friend or just a regular person friend?
CT: Just a regular person friend, yeah.
GM: Have you spent much time up here other than that?
CT: You know what? No, I haven't spent a long time up there but I love it every time I come up there. The European feel. It's just a great city. I really enjoy coming up there. The fly-over-Canada thing was really cool.
GM: Have you performed here in Vancouver before?
CT: This might be my first time. I don't remember performing there before. I think this might be my first time performing there.
GM: I think so, too. I've been covering comedy here for a while and I don't remember. I woud have remembered you coming here. What's in the act now?
CT: You know, I talk about everything. I talk about so much stuff that you wouldn't know about me unless you came to the show. So I talk about what's going on now in the world, current events, what I'm thinking about, my life, friends. I talk about everything. It's real cool because there's no limits. Nothing I can't talk about so it's really cool.
GM: I saw on your website that you're hosting a golf tournament. Are you a golfer?
CT: I golf a little bit and yes, we have a tournament coming up down here in Atlanta for my mom's church. But I golf a little bit, yeah, I do.
GM: So you'll be in it?
CT: Yeah, I'm gonna be in the tournament hitting a little bit so it should be fun.
GM: I read you became born-again.
CT: Yeah, you know, I was raised in church. My moms raised me in church so I've always been a Christian and always been in the church and stuff. So I definitely hold that close to me really spiritually. I keep it close to me.
GM: Is it unusual for someone of your fame to go back to the fold?
CT: Yeah, I think it is because with me I'm a perfectionist, always wanting to get better in whatever I do so being a Christian helps me in comedy or what I talk about. I have to talk about other stuff. Normally most comics talk about stuff that's easy, to me. Easy jokes or easy things to get a punchline. Maybe cussing or saying something raunchy. I have to dig deeper to find something that's still funny and not raunchy. It's harder. I like the challenge. It made my show funny. It made me a funny comedian and a better actor to be on that level to not cheat stuff. Some stuff has easy punchlines. I try to do a show that don't offend anybody. I try not to offend anybody. I think everybody at my show have a good time. If I'm talking about anybody, I'm talking about myself.
GM: That wasn't always the case with your standup, was it?
CT: Yeah, it wasn't always the case, no. When I was younger, I was just strictly... I never was a raunchy, raunchy comic but I didn't think about what I was saying because I was young. I would just say it but I would make sure still, the main thing, that it was funny and it was something real. I'm still the same way. I make sure that it's real and it's funny even if it's a little edgy. It might be a little edgy. My show's definitely edgy. I think people will appreciate it a little bit more and get a broader audience than when I was a kid.
GM: With the good standups who work clean, you walk out of the club and you don't even notice that they were clean because they're just funny.
CT: I just saw Sinbad just recently at this private party that I was telling you about and he performed. I didn't even think about him whether he was clean or didn't cuss or did cuss because he was just funny. And that's where I'm at. I'm just looking for funny and making sure that whoever comes to my show [thinks that you're nothing] because it's even more funny than I would be if I was just raunchy and saying stuff with a crutch. Everybody's doing raunchy comedy. I go to comedy clubs and it's like, alright, how raunchy can you get? And it's really not that funny to me. But what's funny to me is being creative and talking about stuff that I wouldn't have thought about. That's what stands out to me and I think what the audience really wants to see.
GM: Was it challenging making that transition from your old act to your new act?
CT: No, not really. It wasn't that hard because I wasn't that raunchy to start off with. It was just a conscious decision that I made and then I had to watch what I would say a little bit. It gave me less room to work with but then it made me think even more and work harder to not go into stuff that might just be so easy to do, raunchy and shocking. In that aspect, it was a little harder. But once I got it going, it got easier and easier.
GM: Do you still appreciate comics like Pryor and Murphy? Because they're funny, too, even though they worked blue.
CT: Yeah, definitely, because even though they might have been blue, they were funny first. Like, Richard Pryor was funny and he was talking about real stuff. That's what made me want to get better, because of them: Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. They were funny first and they were a little blue and they went a little edgy but they still had that really, really funny and natural stuff first. You look at Richard Pryor's stuff these days, he wasn't as blue as Eddie Murphy. But Eddie Murphy was so talented in so many different ways. And when he'd get a movie, he wasn't blue so he knew how to clean it up, too. So that's the thing. I always wanted to be versatile. I learned from Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor.
GM: You've had a lot of iconic roles. What was your favourite movie to make?
CT: I would think it was the first Rush Hour because I had to transition into, I guess, a man. Because I did Fridays and I was a young man then. I think I was 25, 26. So that was kind of like what I was doing at that time. You know, not smoking weed and all that, but just being a kid. But when I did Rush Hour, it was kind of like I had to create another character that would appeal to everybody. And I always wanted to do a movie like Eddie Murphy's Beverly Hills Cop that captured a big audience. And it was really successful around the world and I always wanted to do that. So I think that was one of my most rewarding characters.
GM: Can I just ask you who your two openers are?
CT: Terry Hodges is one of my openers and my brother Dexter may be on the show, too, opening up with us.
GM: Oh, he does comedy, too?
CT: Yeah, my brother does comedy.