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The debut date: Feb. 7, 1997
The host: Chris Rock

Budding comedy superstar Chris Rock came out firing in the launch of his five-week HBO series that combines sketch comedy, rock ‘n’ roll and a take-no-prisoners sensibility. It wakes you like a jolt of espresso at 12:30 a.m. What “The Chris Rock Show” doesn’t have a lot of is talk, further distancing it from the broadcast competition. Then again, Rock isn’t exactly going for the white and well-heeled demo of Tom Snyder and Conan O’Brien. Nor is he the second coming of Arsenio Hall. His half-hour is more like a “Saturday Night Live” homage shrink-wrapped to 25 minutes. Heavy on sketches and shtick, the energetic Chris Rock starts off with a taped bit showing Rock rummaging through his new studio that he notes is steeped in tradition (including White and Colored drinking fountains). He also recalls O.J. Simpson dropping by to plug his new instructional video, “I Didn’t Kill My Wife, But If I Did, Heres How I Did It.”

There is also a smattering of the pointed, race-based humor that marked Rocks enormously well-received HBO standup special Bring the Pain last summer. Ebonics teaches us that there are two ways to talk, Rock says, one way if you want a job and that other way. A mock commercial advertises Million Man March Action Figures (If you act now, you’ll get the brother in the lime-green suit absolutely free).