The South Carolina native gained traction after joining the Saturday Night Live cast in 1990. He remained on the series until 1993 and has since returned to host the late-night show multiple times over the years.
“SNL is still a pretty white show,” Rock recalled during an interview on “WTF With Marc Maron” in 2011. “When I got hired I was the first Black guy in like eight years — and In Living Color was just hip. The s–t was hot. I wanted to be in an environment where I didn’t have to translate the comedy I wanted to do.”
In his stand-up, Rock often gets real about politics and race — and he’s no stranger to making a controversial quip. The Everybody Hates Chris alum publicly faced the consequences of an edgy joke at the 2022 Academy Awards after commenting on Jada Pinkett Smith‘s shaved head.
“Will Smith just smacked the s–t out of me,” Rock exclaimed at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles in March 2022 after the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum got out of his seat and walked onto the stage, striking Rock in the face. (Smith later returned to the audience and warned, “Keep my wife’s name out your f–king mouth.”)
The Will author went on to win the best actor trophy later that night and apologized for his behavior during his emotional speech. Smith subsequently gave up his membership to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was banned from Oscars-related events for 10 years.
The altercation quickly became the most-talked-about moment from the 2022 awards ceremony, but Rock frequently asserted that he wanted to move on. “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face,” he teased during a July 2022 performance in New Jersey.
Rock added that he simply “shook that s–t off” and got back to work. “I’m not a victim, motherf–ker,” he told the crowd. “Yeah, that s–t hurt, motherf–ker. But … I don’t go to the hospital for a papercut.”
The Academy Awards saga wasn’t the only time Rock made headlines. In a 2017 Rolling Stone interview, the Grown Ups actor got candid about his divorce from Malaak Compton-Rock after two decades of marriage. (The former couple were married from 1996 to 2016 and share two daughters.)
“My faults are magnified. Your significant other, if they really love you, has a high opinion of you. And you let them down,” Rock confessed to the outlet, noting that he’d toned down his remarks about marriage in his stand-up shows at the time. “It’s not fair. I have a mic, she doesn’t. God forbid people are bugging her in the supermarket. That’s not cool. I’m going to have to see her at weddings and graduations.”
The What to Expect When You’re Expecting star, who began dating Lake Bell in 2022, reflected on his post-split chapter. “Getting divorced, you have to f–king start over,” he said. “You get to reset. It’s not a breakdown, but something in your life broke down.”
Scroll down for a look back at Rock’s career highlights: