Comedian Chris Tucker wonders why people keep asking him where he’s been for the last few years.

Comedian Chris Tucker wonders why people keep asking him where he’s been for the last few years.

Funny thing, he swears he hasn’t purposefully been on hiatus, or anything like that. The father of one teen son has just been “living and traveling and doing different things.”

The last anyone saw of the Def Comedy Jam prodigy he was enjoying a third round of box office success with the 2007 release of the Rush Hour 3 movie.

“To me, I’ve never left,” he told the Defender.

But to be sure, he’ll back in the mix Saturday as he brings his stand up comedy tour to the Chicago Theatre. The Atlanta native said he loves coming to Chicago, and is aware of how to treat his Chi-Town fans.

He’s prepared for no shucking and jiving, realizing that this is home to a former king of comedy and is the stomping grounds for many more making a mark on the industry.

“Chicago is just a sophisticated city,” Tucker said. “And the fans … they love to laugh.”

The 39-year-old comedian enjoyed a string of big screen successes after his 1995 breakout role as the marijuana-smoking Smokey in the first installment of gangsta rapper-turned-actor and producer Ice Cube’s film, Friday. Tucker’s character in the movie catapulted the funny man’s career. He then stepped into roles in Dead Presidents and Jackie Brown before accepting his first role as the loud-mouth Det. James Carter in Rush Hour.

Not too shabby for the southern boy who was “passionate” about his dreams of being a comedian but was laughed at when he took his country accent west.

His career and life experience with Hollywood spans over two decades and fans can expect to laugh about some of it on his current comedy tour.

“Man, 20 years went by like that,” he said. “So much has happened in that 20 years.”

Using his less high-pitched, more reserved voice, Tucker said he loves standup. He explained that he has some projects in the works – of course he was all tight-lipped about what they were – but standup preps him for everything else.

It helps him get ready for the big screen, he said, because “it’s in the moment, it’s always evolving, being creative.”

“Right now I want to do a lot of my own stuff, stand out on my own and let people know that I can get out there on my own,” he said.

“I was fortunate enough early in my career to show different sides to me,” he explained.

And he has an eclectic mix of big screen co-workers to show for it, including: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Bruce Willis, Charlie Sheen, and, of course, Jackie Chan.

He said he had great chemistry with Chan and Ice Cube, though not discounting the others.

“I was really blessed to work with those guys. We created something that’s still lasting and around,” he said.

Blessed and paid.

The Rush Hour movies collectively raked in nearly $1 billion and put over $48 million in Tucker’s pocket. The money was hardly a joke and helped solidify his place as one of the top grossing comedians in Hollywood.

Unlike some in his industry who have cracked up a bit, Tucker has avoided major gaffes and has pretty much steered clear of trouble and public relations quagmires – never mind his 2005 arrest for reckless driving and fleeing to elude police after he didn’t immediately pull over. Sheriffs said he was driving 109 mph in his Bentley. Tucker said he was running late for church.

“Even anything that people may consider would be challenging, things like that, that’s always a learning process, too,” he said.

He did have a brush with the Internal Revenue Service in the last couple of years, with the tax agency reportedly saying Tucker owed millions in back taxes. The IRS has stung the likes of singer Ron Isley and actor Wesley Snipes, but Tucker repeated and even created his own verb in assuring that he’s not in the crosshairs of the IRS.

“Everything is great, it’s token (sic) care of; it’s great,” he said.

He’s focused on getting back in the groove, pretty happy about his previous gigs.

“I think I really did it right. I didn’t overdo the fame stuff and overdo all the other stuff for the fast buck. I think that’s what kept me here now so long,” Tucker said.

To borrow from Smokey: “And you know this, MAN!”

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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