Talking movie roles and comedy in Las Vegas with Chris Tucker

Chris Tucker is back at Encore Theater this weekend.

Las Vegas got a couple of rare stand-up shows from Chris Tucker in January and it must have worked out at Wynn’s Encore Theater because the inimitable comedian we all know so well from Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam, Friday and the Rush Hour movies is back for one more night and two more shows this weekend. I jumped on the phone with Tucker yesterday to find out why he likes Las Vegas so much and if he wants to come back for more.

What is it about Wynn or about Las Vegas that is attractive to you? That room, let me tell you, it’s a great room. It’s a tight room and it’s great for comedy, and it’s just a great hotel. I love the vibe of the hotel so it makes me feel good when I get there and that makes the shows extra good because of that ambiance. On top of all that, the energy in Vegas is always great because there are so many people that just want to come out and have a good time.

Do you think you’ll be back later this year? It seems like Wynn or maybe another venue should lock you down for a comedy residency. I hope so and we’re talking about it. I’d love to be doing more shows there and get something going a little more frequently. I just love that room.

Do you get any downtime for Vegas fun? When I’m there for some shows I’m definitely focused on those shows and I’m saving my energy for those shows, but when I’m done I try to do something after. But I’m all about showtime. I take it very seriously. You’ve got to be ready because there are a lot of shows going on in Vegas every night and people could choose to see any of them.

At this point in your career, would you rather spend more time on the stand-up stage or doing movies? I want to do both and I can do both and that’s my goal, to stay onstage having fun but also developing new projects, producing, working on movies and developing TV shows, doing it all. I’ll never stop doing stand-up because that’s what got me where I am today and got me to the movies. And it keeps me sharp, for sure, and it rolls into other stuff like writing scripts and coming up with ideas. I have to do stand-up because I’ll always be ready for whatever comes up.

You’re still best known for Rush Hour and maybe Friday but you’ve played a lot of different roles in wildly different films. Which movie experiences were most memorable for you as a performer? I might say The Fifth Element because it was so different from what I had done before and I was working with such a great director in Luc Besson. It was a character I could go all the way with and I had so much fun doing it. At first it was kind of scary because the character, Ruby Rhod, had all these different, wild clothes and other stuff, but once I got into it I realized it was fun and that I could really stretch it out all the way. I was out of my element and I did something no one expected me to do.

You kind of stole that movie. Thank you. That’s what I think happened because people got upset with me. [Laughs.] But later on in life, it did [change] me because I felt like I could do some different stuff. It proved to me that I had range and I could adapt and go there.

You are in the early stages of working on Rush Hour 4. Have you and Jackie Chan kept in touch over the years since you were working on those movies together? Oh yeah, we did. We became good friends while we were filming those movies and every time he’s over in the states we try to get together and I’ve visited him over the years, too. We love working with each other and I think we became a great team. It was a blessing.

Fans have been calling for another one of those but I’m sure you and Jackie had to work out how you wanted to do it. Exactly. That’s what we’ve been working on. When we started the first one, we didn’t want to have a lot of CGI and stuff like that, we wanted real action and for the fight scenes to be real and to just do everything naturally. That was our formula and we’re trying to get back to that, do it just like we did the first one.

There’s been talk of another Friday movie, too, and whether you’d be in it. Is it strange for you to think that there are these blockbuster roles that the audience wants to see you jump into again? You know what, you could never plan for something like this. You don’t see it coming. People love the Friday movies and that one became a cult classic so people want to see another one. I love that movie because it really took on a life of its own and that’s still going on today, and I would revisit it if it came together right. Who knows? But it’s funny how you just do the best you can and you can never plan it working out that way.

CHRIS TUCKER April 6, 7:30 and 10 p.m., $65-$129. Encore Theater, 702-770-9966.

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An award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers entertainment ...

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