Here’s an amazing thing about Chris Rock’s most-eagerly-awaited-monologue-on-Earth: Turns out the comedian showed up about 10 times over the last two weeks at the famed Comedy Store in West Hollywood to work through his material.
Some of Rock’s sets were as short as 15 minutes, others stretched into a half hour. And the whole thing culminated Saturday night with a murderer’s row of comedy led by Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, Dane Cook and Marc Maron.
Adam Eget, the Comedy Store’s booker, would not share any of the material out of courtesy to Rock. But he said it was fascinating to watch the jokes develop.
“He really trimmed the fat and made it real lean,” said Eget. “There were some, even after day four, he’d say, ‘I’m not going to be able to do this joke.’ But then, you’d hear him do it again and he’d have tweaked a word or two. Instead of saying ‘p—–,” he’s say bedroom.”
With all of the #OscarsSoWhite buzz surrounding Rock’s hosting gig, it may seem shocking he showed up at a club, in public, to workshop his jokes. What about TMZ.com? What about the joke thieves? But Maron said he wasn’t surprised Rock came by.
“The club’s a great club so comics coming by to work out stuff for awards shows is not unusual,” he said.
Nor was the fact that Rock’s jokes material stayed under wraps. Eget hired extra staff to patrol the club to make sure nobody was using their phones to text or otherwise record material.
“If you are caught filming, you get one warning and that’s it,” said Eget. “Next warning you’re done.”
“Sometimes,” Maron added, “people are better than you think they’re going to be and I think the audiences were excited to be part of the process. It’s like they’re all in on a secret and they feel special to have helped out.”
In C.K.’s case – he was doing full sets of new material – there was an added line of protection. Anybody coming in was given a small pouch, made by a company called Yondr, to hold their phones. The pouch locked during the set.
And truth is, not everyone abided by the unspoken code of comedy justice. On the red carpet, a press colleague showed me a private Facebook post made by a friend who attended one of Rock’s sets. I could share the bit, which may have taken aim at Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, but for now, I’ll keep in to myself.
Because nobody wants to be the one to ruin a good joke.
This post has been updated.