Say the name Chris Tucker, and you immediately think of the high-pitched-voiced comedian and actor who has provided many of us with laughter throughout his career. Cue in a more reflective yet (still) funny Tucker as he visited the Prairie View A&M University campus Monday. The occasion: A Conversation with Chris Tucker: Comedian, Actor, and Humanitarian, hosted by the school President (Dr.) Ruth J. Simmons. There he encouraged the students to “Find and seek out the best” in anything regarding their dreams.
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Dressed in all black, Tucker greeted the audience before sitting comfortably in his chair on the auditorium’s stage (the other occupied by Dr. Simmons), who interviewed the star to reflect on his life as a comedian and actor. The Georgia native’s early life, going to L.A. to try his hand at comedy, is that of the proverbial dream of the many before him wanting to attain stardom. He would eventually experience fame with movie successes like Friday, Money Talks, and the Rush Hour franchise that made Tucker a household name. He remembered the days when he put his self-made comedy tapes in the hands of people who could perhaps help him with his career. Some doors closed, but bigger ones opened is how Tucker described how being let go from one comedy club allowed him to get on Def Jam Comedy, the hottest comedy show at the time in the 90s and where many of his lifelong fans met him.
“I didn’t think college was for me,” says Tucker, who knew he wanted to become a comedian by the time he was in high school. Learning that he could make his friends laugh was something that stuck with him, and it’s no surprise that some of his earlier influences were Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, who he considers some of the greats. He gives his respects to comedians today like D.L. Hugely and Dave Chappelle. These days he says, he doesn’t prefer to cuss in his comedy acts like days of the past. A decision that had everything to do with his church upbringing as he shared a memory of laying on his mother’s lap as a young child. Train up a child…he begins reciting the scripture verse.
As much about the conversation was that of his career, Tucker says he feels his best giving back through his foundation, the Chris Tucker Celebrity Golf Tournament. Tucker says having traveled all over the world broadened his sense of focus to wanting to do something more with his life. With the encouragement of his mother, whom he speaks of dearly, he began a life of philanthropy that fills his heart with immense joy as he encouraged everyone in the audience to do the same. Every so humble and gracious, Tucker listened to and gave advice to a few college students that stood up to ask him questions. Even joking in his signature Chris Tucker style that one of the male students holding the mic up for those to speak was taking too long going back and forth between the people (laugh). Before the hour-long talk ended, there was a wonderful surprise. Tucker received the President’s Award from the university. As he stood up to receive the honor, one a medal placed over his neck and the other a framed accolade; audience members gave him a standing ovation for a man whose comedy, movies, and philanthropic efforts have touched us all.
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