Conventional wisdom suggests that standup comedians don’t fare well abroad, but Chris Rock proved them wrong this year, pulling off 2008’s biggest international tour, a $23 million affair with 141 shows in eight countries ranging from England to Australia to South Africa.
“The idea of a whole extreme culture of differences is a myth — a
gigantic myth, an excuse!” insists Rock, who also saw toon sequel “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” earn more than $165 million worldwide. “A good friend of mine, Will Smith, put a lot of this in my head, just explaining to me how important the world market was and that this whole idea — blacks don’t translate overseas — was just propaganda.”
“In America, you work your way up from small venues to concert halls,” says ICM concert division head Steve Levine. “Chris had never performed in London, so we didn’t know what to expect. He ended up selling out 10 Hammersmith’s shows plus two more at The 02 arena for 70,000 tickets just in London.”
To pave the way, Rock tested his material in local clubs and did tons of press. “I got there early, and I really worked it,” he says. “You can’t go and just do a junket and think you’re gonna be a star. You have to spend time. Like campaigning, you gotta go to the orphanage, you gotta kiss the kids.”