Chris Rock Recalls Testing Jokes at the Comedy Store With Steve Martin Before 2020 Oscars

STEVE MARTIN and CHRIS ROCK at the The 92nd Oscars.

The night before the big show, the two comics gave their set a "real world" test run, and Martin’s appearance caused shockwaves: "It was like George Washington coming off a dollar bill."

Chris Rock has hosted the Oscars twice, and says he’d be down to do so a third time — though he doesn’t see it happening, in part because he hasn’t been shy about the show’s dry format. “Like, is it a TV show or is it that scene from About Schmidt where Jack Nicholson gets the award for selling insurance?” he cracks.

And in part because he doesn’t know that the show will have a host ever again. He and Steve Martin were the closest the Oscars got to hosts this past year, and all they did was riff for a few minutes at the top of the show.

Rock had said no to presenting initially, being busy and all with Fargo. But producers came back with the idea of him doing a bit with Martin, and Rock, who’d long admired Martin from afar, was in. The two spent Oscar weekend holed up in a Chateau Marmont bungalow workshopping jokes. The night before the show, Rock talked Martin into going to The Comedy Store to give the set a “real world” test run.

“A lot of famous comics become banquet comedians — they’re really funny at a banquet telling some joke about Sid Sheinberg that only works in the room,” says Rock. “I pride myself on being able to go over to the club and make the guy who drives for FedEx laugh.”

So, he and Martin turned up at The Comedy Store, where Martin hadn’t performed in decades. “Me and Dave [Chappelle]? We don’t give a fuck, we’re there all the time and people will usually give us a big ovation,” he says. “But when they saw Steve Martin? It was like George Washington coming off a dollar bill. Oscars were fine, but that was the highlight.”

This story first appeared in the Sept. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.