If you didn’t know already, today’s episode of WTF finds Chris Rock as Marc Maron’s guest. While I highly recommend listening to the entire 80-minute show, I found the chat about Rock leaving Saturday Night Live to work on In Living Color (which only lasted a year for him) especially intriguing. It turns out Rock had plans to leave SNL, so he was “fired” because he was about to exit the sketch show to work on In Living Color. Maron asked Rock why he’d want to leave such a well-established show to work on Keenan Ivory Wayans’ creation, which was only a few years old at the time.
“The culture’s changing, Rock tells Maron about the state of sketch comedy in 1993, when he joined In Living Color. “And I’m not a part of it. This shit is getting hip. This shit is getting blacker. This shit is getting fucking rappier. SNL is still a pretty white show. When I got hired I was the first black guy in like eight years— and In Living Color was just hip. The shit was hot. I wanted to be in an environment where I didn’t have to translate the comedy I wanted to do.”
Rock also explains that were were certain things he was asked to do on SNL that he just flat-out refused to be a part of. Maron asks him for an example. “[Playing] a Ubangi tribesman or whatever… to where, not that I thought they were racist… [but I] was the only black face that was going to be seen for an hour and a half… it feels racist. It’s not racist. But it just feels like it when that’s all you see… If you’re on In Living Color and you’re a Ubangi tribesman there was a black thing before that and one right after it. There’s a context.”
Later in the interview Rock assures listeners that the staff and actors at SNL “were the nicest people ever. I was friends with everybody.” So, personal conflicts had nothing to do with why he left. You can check out this audio clip from the show below. And be sure to head on over to iTunes or wtfpod.com to listen to the entire episode.