‘Friday’: Chris Tucker Explains the Story Behind Smokey’s Funniest Line

The best comedic actors bring their own distinctive spin to the comedy landscape. And love him or hate him, that definition certainly applies to Chris Tucker. The actor started out as a stand-up comedian but owes his movie career to 1995’s Friday. That movie launched several careers but perhaps none more prominently than Tucker. For his part, the actor brought a lot to the role of Smokey, even improvising his character’s funniest line.

Chris Tucker wears a striped jacket and sunglasses as he speaks at a podium
Chris Tucker | Valerie Macon

Was 1995’s ‘Friday’ Chris Tucker’s first movie?

After Friday, Tucker’s career skyrocketed. In the few years after the movie’s release, he played supporting roles in films like Dead Presidents, The Fifth Element, and Jackie Brown. Tucker also starred as the lead in the 1997 action comedy Money Talks, directed by Brett Ratner. The actor would reteam with Ratner the next year for Rush Hour, which made him even more of a household name.

However, contrary to what some fans might think, Friday wasn’t the start of his acting career. Tucker briefly appeared in an episode of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper and was uncredited in the 1993 film The Meteor Man. But it was his role as Johnny Booze in House Party 3 that most directly led to Friday. New Line Cinema produced both movies, giving Ice Cube and company a way in when they suggest Tucker for the role of Smokey.

RELATED: ‘Friday’: The Big Reason Chris Tucker Beat Chris Rock for Smokey

The ‘Friday’ cast, including Chris Tucker, improvised a lot

As fans might assume, Friday is heavy on improvisation. After all, the movie does feature a laid-back naturalistic performance style that captures the experience of living in Southern California. One key example of this occurs during a flashback in which Deebo (Tiny Lister) punches out Red (DJ Pooh) in front of an astonished Smokey. In an interview, Tucker once explained the story behind his character’s iconic line “You got knocked the f–k out!”

“You know in the neighborhood when you get in a fight, get beat up. There’s always somebody that comes over. They don’t ask you if you need help. They be like, ‘Man, god, you got your butt kicked. Man, he knocked you out!’ Like you don’t know what happened. You was right there, you were the one that got knocked out. He’s telling you how you got knocked out. So I was just trying to bring that to the screen, man, let people see that this is what goes down in the neighborhood every day. The good side of South Central, not what they see on the news.”

Likewise, Ice Cube and DJ Pooh — who co-wrote Friday — approached the story in the same way. Their intention was to present a lighter alternative to films like Boyz n the Hood, which ironically also stars Ice Cube. Initially, DJ Pooh was supposed to play Smokey opposite Ice Cube’s Craig. But Tucker’s energy certainly elevates the movie and its playful, familiar tone.

What is Chris Tucker’s net worth after the ‘Rush Hour’ movies?

Tucker only made between $10,000 and $15,000 for Friday. However, what he didn’t receive in compensation, he earned many times over in the following years. In fact, Tucker made $20 million for 2001’s Rush Hour 2, making him one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors. But fans wouldn’t think so based on his current net worth.

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Tucker has faced a variety of financial obstacles over the years, including millions in IRS debt. Still, the actor is worth roughly $5 million now. And with rumors of Rush Hour 4 and Last Friday still floating around, it might be only a matter of time before that number inflates once again.

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