The William F-ing Buckley of stand-up.

Taking stock of people and ideas in the news.
Feb. 24 2005 11:35 AM

Chris Rock

The William F-ing Buckley of stand-up.

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Rock also won't burn down the academy's house because he's not that kind of comedian. In Raw, Eddie Murphy's feature-length stand-up film, Murphy opens by describing a phone call from Bill Cosby, who has called, Drudge-like, to complain that he swears too much. Nonplussed, Murphy calls Richard Pryor for advice. Pryor says tell Cosby to have a Coke and a smile and shut the … well you get the idea. The point of the bit is to establish where Murphy aligns himself in the stand-up canon—with the irreverence of Pryor, not the tamer stuff of Cosby.

Rock's breakout 1996 HBO special Bring the Pain, on the other hand, opens by flashing a series of album covers on the screen: the seminal works of Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Cosby and Murphy and Pryor. Rock has always striven for range. He can do a bit that's as raunchy as Pryor but he is also as spot-on about family as Cosby. Indeed, his recent material has increasingly focused on the rigors of marriage and the challenges of raising a daughter (specifically, the challenge of not raising a daughter who becomes a stripper). "I can play the Apollo, and I could play the Senate," Rock bragged to Charlie Rose last year. "In the same day. And have great shows at both." He's probably right.