Chris Tucker has spent a lot more time making jokes on stage than he’s spent making movies over the past several years.
On Saturday, the star of three “Rush Hour” flicks will perform stand-up comedy at Ovens Auditorium, marking his third visit to Charlotte since playing uptown’s Belk Theater in 2006. (He also headlined Time Warner Cable Arena in 2011.)
In that same time period, Tucker has appeared in just two films: “Rush Hour 3” with Jackie Chan, and in a supporting role in the Oscar-nominated 2012 drama “Silver Linings Playbook.”
“I’m a little picky with the roles that I pick,” Tucker said during a recent call from his hometown of Atlanta. “I read a lot of scripts, and I have a team that reads a lot of scripts for me, and a lot of it is not that good.”
Tucker has hardly lost faith in Hollywood; he loves a great movie as much as the next guy. Two of his recent favorites: “Captain Phillips” and “12 Years a Slave,” which he saw in October – the day after visiting a former slave plantation during a tour stop in Charleston.
But he hasn’t been offered any projects that have appealed to him, so he’s started working on some of his own as a writer and producer.
Most are secrets that Tucker isn’t ready to reveal yet. The two he will talk about? A long-gestating concert movie (a la “Eddie Murphy Raw”), filmed in Atlanta and due in theaters next year; and a fourth installment of “Rush Hour,” the blockbuster buddy-cop saga he started with Chan in 1998.
“Sometimes people don’t see me, they think I’m not working,” Tucker said. “But I am.”
In addition to developing movies and trying to get them into the pipeline, he continues to support humanitarian efforts both in the U.S. and in Africa through his foundation, and is of course constantly fine-tuning his stand-up.
Reviews from other cities report that the current show recycles some of the funniest material from the routine he brought here in 2011, while mining his widely publicized financial woes for more humor than ever before. (He at one point owed the Internal Revenue Service roughly $12 million in back taxes and began paying off the debt this year.)
At 42, he remains a bug-eyed, squealy-voiced master of physical comedy, with a wit that seems to come at you at light speed. It’s a fast and furious pace that Tucker can keep up for quite a while.
“Sometimes (the show) is 90 minutes, and sometimes it runs a little longer,” he said. “I’m not just up there for an hour. I tried it, but it’s just – I’ve just got a lot to talk about.”