Comedian Chris Tucker finds humor in hard times


LAS VEGAS, Nev. — So just what is the deal is with Chris Tucker, anyway? He says he plans to tell you at his show.

“I told (audiences) what I was dealing with, I told them they were helping out paying my taxes,” he says. “Come into my world and I’m going to bring them all the way in.”

The comedian who reportedly scored $25 million for “Rush Hour 3” hasn’t been in another movie since it came out in 2007. It was later reported that he owed the Internal Revenue Service a tax bill totaling almost half that paycheck.

Tucker returned to his stand-up roots last year. It may have been a reversal of fortune that pushed him back out on the road, but “now that I’m back I’ll never stop doing it,” he says.

“I knew I had something to talk about, learning from Richard Pryor and people like that who talk about the truth. You make it funny and people like to hear about that.”

The 41-year-old says he is “at that age where it all came together. … When I was young I was doing it off the cuff.” But now, “I think I’m better than I’ve ever been.”

It took a while to get back in the groove, because he couldn’t reconnect with much of the material his younger self performed on the Def Comedy Jam circuit in the early 1990s, before “Friday” made him a movie star.

“My problems may be bigger than the average person, but everybody’s got problems. Everybody’s got bills and taxes in their own way. Mine might be a little bit more because I made more money,” he adds with a laugh, “but everybody’s got the same problems.”

He plans to film a stand-up show in Atlanta for a film project that would combine the concert footage with a narrative movie premise.

“My experience is in movies, too, so why not make it a movie and stand-up?” he explains. “I always wanted to take it to the next level (from) Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy’s ‘Raw.’ And the only way to do that is make it a motion-picture movie,” as opposed to a premium cable special.

Tucker had previously explained his absence from the movies as a desire to move away from action comedies and diversify. He says he still hopes to play Frank Sinatra’s chauffeur in a stalled movie adaptation of the book “Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra.”

But for now he’s happy to be in David O. Russell’s “The Silver Linings Playbook,” a drama due Nov. 21 with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro. It’s a prestige flick generating Oscar buzz, validating Tucker’s choosiness with everyone but the IRS.

“I wasn’t really waiting (for a good script),” he explains. “I was hoping that something would come out of nowhere, but I was living my life man. I started in this business pretty young,” and enjoyed taking time out to raise his son.

“I wanted to do a little bit more living because I started so young. I guess that’s what I’ve done, and now I’m developing a lot of stuff, got a lot of stuff that’s coming to me that I like. So it’s a good time for me.”

Mike Weatherford is an entertainment writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com .