On this day in comedy on August 31, 1971 Comedian, Actor, Chris Tucker was born in Atlanta, Georgia.
Tucker briefly honed his comedy craft in Atlanta comedy clubs such as Atlanta’s Comedy Act Theater before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career. Following a disappointing result at the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition, Def Comedy Jam talent scout, Bob Sumner cornered Tucker and told him he felt the comedian had been robbed by the judges. He also told him he’d be on HBO the next season – first show of the new season – first slot. Tucker left an indelible impression. With high energy and a likability that translated, Tucker passed his audition before a national audience.
The stand-up comedian was now an in demand talent and made a rapid succession of films. His debut was a small part in Robert Townsend’s The Meteor Man followed by playing Johnny Booze in House Party 3 where he picked up his first of many award nominations for Best Comedic Performance. Next up was his signature role as Smokey, the lovable weedhead out to make the day of his fired friend Craig (ice Cube) a good day in the runaway hit Friday. That was followed up by The Fifth Element with Bruce Willis; a flamboyant role Tucker initially had reservations about how to portray. The end result was a performance praised by critics. He appeared in Panther, Dead Presidents, Jackie Brown and co-starred with Charlie Sheen in 1997’s Money Talks. And then came Rush Hour.
The first Rush Hour martial arts action comedy paired Tucker and Jackie Chan as diverse styled officers of the law: one a motor-mouthed LAPD detective and the other an inspector from Hong Kong. The hilarious combination spawned two sequels and the films were so well received internationally that the franchise made Tucker the highest paid co-star ($20 million for Rush Hour 2 and $25 million for Rush Hour 3) in Hollywood history.
Tucker’s influence extended beyond the silver screen. Socially he was friends with superstar, Michael Jackson and appeared in his video. Politically he traveled with other friend, former US President, Bill Clinton. Tucker returned to stand-up in 2011 and in 2012 he was featured in the highly acclaimed film, Silver Linings Playbook along with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro. The cast won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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