Chris Rock’s zettelkasten output process

In the documentary Kevin Hart & Chris Rock: Headliners Only (Netflix, 2023) while preparing for a portion of their tour, Kevin Hart admires a portion of Chris Rock’s stand up comedy method and calls it “a science”. Chris Rock writes headlines for his jokes on slips of paper and then arranges them on either tables or small bulletin boards to outline his set list for presenting jokes for his performances.

A small bulletin board with about 50 slips of colored paper pinned up on it.

Low level coffee table covered in a grid of about 40 colored slips of paper.

If there are interesting contemporaneous news items which appear, he’ll include a newspaper or other material to represent the related joke for inclusion into his set. This makes a fascinating means of outlining his material and seems to fall within the realm of my search for zettelkasten output processes. Even if Rock doesn’t use index cards to write or store his jokes like comedians in the past have, he’s using a slip-based method for outlining and arranging them as part of his output process.

Chris Rock and Kevin Hart standing up in a green room. Behind them is a small board covered with rainbow colored slips of paper.

Kevin Hart: Chris, I’m so… I’m so, uh blown away by what I’m discovering that is your process.

Chris Rock: My process.

Kevin Hart: This all your shit?

A grid of slips of colored paper with various notes written in black sharpie. Some of the headlines read: Repubs lie/Dems, Fake-Selective Outrage, Black Lives Matter, Biden, Fruit Loops, Addicted to Attention, Neighborhoods.

A grid of slips of colored paper with various notes written in black sharpie. Some of the headlines read: Shortest in Class, Daughter Supreme Court, Hillary, Cops Deliver Babies.

Chris Rock: Well, this here would be, uh, bullet points for tonight. Every card represents a joke or a reference that I choose. I don’t wanna forget. You know what I mean? Like, you can remember all your jokes, but some nights, I’m like, ‘ehhh, I’m not gonna close with this one. I’m gonna close with that one’.

Kevin Hart: You have it down to a science where you can bullet point the time.

Chris Rock: You can. And by the way, sometimes, something happens in the news.

Kevin Hart: You got jokes on the bench.

Chris Rock: I have jokes on the bench.

View of a coffee table covered with slips of paper. Next to them is a broadsheet copy of the New York Post with a big photo of Elon Musk overlaid with the headline "Musk Rat".

Kevin Hart: I’m going to tell you I’m not only impressed by that, but I’m disappointed in myself. Because, uh, whatever I got, got to to fly.

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