From Smokey to Franklin Hatchett to Detective James Carter, award-winning comedian Chris Tucker craved his legendary status in pop culture with a trailblazing run in the 90s filled with record-breaking box office numbers, unforgettable characters, and iconic lines that are still cited today. The Legend Tour – a Live Nation presentation – kicks off its Texas leg on Wednesday night, November 1, when Tucker, 52, brings his iconic stand-up to the Toyota Music Factory in Irving.
“Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio love to laugh, love to have fun, and I’m always thinking about when I get here, I grew up watching the show, Dallas,” says a fresh off-the-plane Tucker via Zoom. “My dad used to watch it all the time and make us sit down and watch it with him, because we wanted to watch something else, and we got hooked on watching that show, J.R. Ewing, Bobby Ewing, and all that stuff. Me watching stuff like that, Scarface, Beverly Hills Cop made me who I am. So I think about that and I think about the Dallas Cowboys, of course. Y’all stole Deon Sanders from us, Atlanta Falcons, where I’m from, but I think about that. But as far as the shows, I think great laughter, great down-home people, so it’s going to be a lot of fun tomorrow night.”
The youngest of six, Christopher Tucker was born in 1971 in Atlanta, Georgia. In his teen years, he became fascinated by comedy, which he credits to Eddie Murphy, whom he imitated to his classmates. A high-pitched, animated, and over-the-top comedian, Tucker moved to Los Angeles in 1990. Despite being discovered in Hollywood, Tucker has always credited his Atlanta roots as the foundation of his career.
“My upbringing in the church, my mom making us go to church all the time,” he said. “My dad whooping our butts, making us go to work with him. My family, I’m the youngest of six kids so we always had something going on around the house, a lot of fun. People used to come down to our house because we had too much fun, so we didn’t even know we were funny and all that stuff. We was just being ourselves and people just loved to be around us, loved to laugh. So my family, man, I got to say, that really mold me, shaped me. The church, my spirituality, friends, family, all that stuff comes together and makes me who I am today.”
The Legend Tour is a 30-city stand-up show that returns Tucker to the stage and delivers his highly-praised stand-up to sold-out audiences across the nation. As with most comedians, Tucker returns to his foundation while Hollywood strikes. The Lone Star show plans to turn the tour into a movie after releasing his debut stand-up special, Chris Tucker Live, in 2015.
“I might turn into a movie,” said Tucker. “It’s evolving now, but I’m probably going to make it a movie, and then wherever it goes from there, we will see. Because I’ve got some great stuff I’m thinking about showing in this show, more than just the standup. Yeah, it’s going to be pretty good so I can’t wait for the people to see it, so it is going to be awesome.”
The Legend Tour has been a huge success for Tucker and Live Nation, which has the comedian, actor, and producer already preparing for a follow-up tour in 2024. “I’m already planning on next year to come back to each city and do it again, so yeah, I’m never going to stop,” Tucker says. “Never going to stop doing standup, never going to stop acting, trying to get great roles, good movie roles, and yeah, just keep at it, man. And then other stuff too, producing, directing one day. So yeah, man, we’re just going to have some fun with it.”
After 33 years of stand-up, Tucker says his comedy remains fresh because he’s constantly evolving. “It keeps evolving,” he said. “It’s constant evolution in your stand-up, you just keep working at it and stuff happens every day. Once you’re in the groove of things, it gets easier and then it’s like riding a bike and you just have fun with it. But when you’re a pro, you know how to do it and you just do it.”
In the beginning of his career, he only dreamed about becoming a legend and admits that it is the least of your worries while working. “When you work, you’re just doing something you love, and then next thing you know, you’ve got a few things that people are loving and it becomes something else,” says Tucker. “I grew up watching Eddie and Richard, and Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and those guys just inspired me and I saw that it could be done. You can go from standup and then become an actor, and yeah, man, and make a living at it, and then also having fun and then people watching it, enjoying it too.”
Stand-up comics can tour until their elderly years thanks to the ever-lasting nature of their profession. Tucker’s devoted fan base has kept him entertained since the beginning of his career.
“It’s a blessing, man, to be still out here,” said Tucker. “People still want to see me do stuff. It is a blessing, and I got more to give, and I feel the same way. I feel like I’m just now starting. People are just now going to see the next level of me, so I’m excited. I’m glad I’m still excited about it. Still love doing my shows, stand-up, doing movie roles. The best is definitely yet to come. It’s definitely still coming.”
An individual cannot self-appoint the title of “legend” and it does not occur overnight. A person must earn honor in Hollywood by their accolades and reign. Upon being asked, Tucker, who was inspired to strive for the prestigious honor by the icons before him like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, said the title is given by the people with the following response:
“You don’t know. People start saying it to you. Like younger people say, ‘Hey, man, you’re a legend.’ At first, I thought they was trying to say I was old or something. I’m like, ‘Waitaminute, I’m still young.” And then I just accepted it because people really, it’s like the way I looked up to Eddie and Richard, people are looking up to me and other comedians in my era. So it’s just a blessing, man. But you know what? That just encouraged you to keep going and then keep trying to reach those levels that Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor reached all those years.”
The 1992 HBO’s Def Comedy Jam marked Tucker’s television debut, and the classic 1995 movie Friday immortalized his role as Smokey. He immediately became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars with legendary films such as Money Talks, Dead President, and, of course, the Rush Hour franchise. Like Pee-Wee Kirkland, Tucker has become renowned for his catchphrases and lead roles as a stand-up comedian and actor in the 1990s and early 2000s.
He explained that Pryor and Murphy’s careers showed him the unlimited possibilities of comedy:
“Like I said, watching Richard Pryor and Eddie as a kid just opened up my eyes to reach for the stars. Man, those guys did it better than anybody and I knew it was possible, and yeah, to do both is really a blessing, man, because you’ve got a strike going on right now, but still, I can get on the road and still be working, being creative and still using my mind and my comedy muscle. So that’s a blessing because that gets me ready for all the movies. My standup is the reason why the Fridays and the Rush Hours are what they were, because I was in that comedy club working for years, and then Def Jam did Def Jam and then all that stuff, and then went from that to the movies, so it’s great.”
Besides his comedic performances, Tucker contributed to pop culture’s most memorable moments alongside budding icons like Jackie Chan, Prince, and Michael Jackson, who was one of the late King of Pop’s closest friends. As Tucker reflected on the time he spent with the legends, he said:
“I feel blessed, man, to have known so many greats, man, and they’d befriended me. Michael Jackson, Sir Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Cicely Tyson. I bumped into these people when they were here and told them how much I loved them and gave them their flowers while they were here, and then got advice from them and wisdom from them, so I’m glad I was able to do that. I would feel bad if I didn’t sit down with them and hang out with them and talk with them, go to lunch with them. And Quincy Jones, he’s still here, thank God, but so many greats that I picked their brains and spent time with them and told them I love them, and so I feel good about that. I’m glad I didn’t miss those opportunities before they got up in age or they’re no longer with us.”
The making of a legend takes various attributes like excellence, dedication, creativity, consistency, and resilience. Being a black man in today’s society can take a toll on one’s mental health, especially someone with Tucker’s longevity which has seen its peaks and valleys throughout his career. When asked about his mental health, he said:
“It’s great, man. I make sure I take good vacations before I get out on the road because I want to make sure I have all those good memories in my head of having fun. But when it’s time to work, it’s time to work, and the dopamines get to going and all the good fun stuff. The challenges, all of it is good for me because I’m used to it as coming from Def Comedy Jam, trying to get out of the pack of all the other comedians. I got out of the pack by working hard in the clubs and being ready for my shot. Then when I did Fridays, I worked hard, got out of the pack and did a hit movie, and made it classic. And of course, Rush Hour, same thing, and Dead Presidents, all the other ones. So this is just another challenge that I love, and I loved it because it only brings the best out of me, so it’s great.”
No legendary journey is the same. Aspiring comics study Tucker’s iconic career closely in hopes of achieving legendary careers themselves. Whenever inquired about the blueprint, he always advises that you make every moment your own, however long you have it.
“Make it your own,” said Tucker. “Do the research, do the work, and then it’ll come out right. You have a great team around you. Hopefully, you’ve got a great director and great other actors that’ll bring out things out of you. I’ll always try to make stuff my own and make it a little bit more than what’s on the page and try to make it special. Try to make it as great as I can.”
About stand-up, he offered the following advice to aspiring comedians:
“You’ve got to keep growing, always keep growing,” advises Tucker. “I would say put God first because he’ll give you creativity, he’ll open those doors for you. Because I started as a young guy, young kid and just knowing what I knew at that age, but now I’m a man and you’ve got to make choices and decisions to get you to where you want to be creatively.”