Chris Rock on Producing Hit Comedies, Writing Top Jokes and Directing Amy Schumer
"Some people aren't making comedy for me, like Samantha Bee," he said. "This is not for me, this is for a certain group of women, and I gotta kinda defer. I think everyone should be funny to the people that look like you first."
The key to producing a successful comedy lies within the lead comedian, says Chris Rock.
“There's definitely a role [for producers in comedies], it's just less of a role than it would be for something dramatic,” he explained at a comedy-focused panel at Produced By: New York, held Saturday at the Time Warner Center. “Like, you can do any Jerry Bruckheimer movie and take the actor out, ... the movie is exactly the same. Get rid of Sean Connery, put in … Clint Eastwood, same f—ing movie! Try that with Talladega Nights and watch what happens: a lot of embarrassment there. People will get fired.”
“You have to pick your boss, essentially,” Rock continued. “It's a jockey job. Ride a f— horse. … No one can ride Chris Tucker like Brett Ratner. Chris Tucker and Brett Ratner, woo! Can't f— with that combination.”
To make a hit film, “the best comedies basically are dramas with jokes,” he observed. “Dodgeball and Any Given Sunday are kind of the same movie, it's just different seasoning. Woody Allen, to me, all of them are dramas with jokes. In order to get the biggest laughs you need something dramatic — the laughs have to be a release.”
Added Louie producer M. Blair Breard: “The difference between comedy and drama is the drama people get more money. … The drama people are sometimes funny, but the comedy people are always dramatic. They're telling a story in a comedic way.”
Throughout the panel, also featuring film producer Stuart Cornfeld, Rock also spoke on how he knows what's funny on his sets: “If my producer totally gets it, the joke’s too old. I wrote a joke that the grips get right away? Sometimes everybody not getting it is just good, it's like you're in the right zone, or they get it and they're uncomfortable as f—,” he explained.
Of judging what’s funny from other comics, Rock admitted, “Some people aren't making comedy for me, like Samantha Bee. This is not for me, this is for a certain group of women, and I gotta kind of defer. I think everyone should be funny to the people that look like you first. If you're not funny to the people who look like you, there's something wrong. If you're real funny, it breaks that down.”
Someone who doesn’t look like him: Amy Schumer, whose HBO stand-up special he directed. “I've never directed stand-up, it never even crossed my mind,” Rock said of doing so, adding that his strategy was to cut jokes he felt were too familiar. “I don't know shit. Part of being a producer, a good one anyway, is knowing when you don't know. I don't know. What I can help this person with is, why are you doing this joke? Are we getting the most out of it? Is there more meat on that bone? ... A lot of that is putting your ego in your back pocket and getting the most out of her.”
Manchester by the Sea producer Chris Moore moderated the panel, presented by Ver.