- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

Chris Tucker made his name as a motormouth comic, but his film career is stuck in neutral.

The adenoidal comic swears it’s all good. He’d rather pick the right film than just whatever happens to land on his agent’s desk.

Many celebrities say they want to take things slowly — or promise retirements that last as long as the next news cycle.

Mr. Tucker actually took a breather from films to travel and broaden his mind.

It remains to be seen how much audiences miss him when “Rush Hour 3,” just his third film over the past 10 years, bows next summer.

For now, fans will have to settle for Mr. Tucker live onstage at the Warner Theatre Sunday night. The former stand-up comic is revisiting his roots with a tour of several cities, including the nation’s capital.

“It’s been a little while, but I’ve been traveling a lot with my foundation, looking for new movie ideas,” says Mr. Tucker, who first gained fame on Def Comedy Jam, “but standup is my first love.”

The new show delves into his life, from his days as a wiseacre teen to his time traveling with Bono across Africa. He even touches on a well-publicized speeding ticket from a few years back. He says he was late for church.

“I’ve got a broader field to talk about things,” says Mr. Tucker, who recently created the Chris Tucker Foundation to help stop the spread of AIDS in Africa while bringing clean water to the masses. (The foundation’s Web site, www.christuckerfoundation.org, appears to be a work in progress.)

The Atlanta native’s childhood featured the usual authority figures telling him to cut the nonsense. Only when he started hosting local talent shows did he realize his mouth could do more than get him in trouble.

“People were telling me I was funny. It dawned on me that I could do something with this,” he says.

He became a stand-up comic and, later, Ice Cube’s muse in the stoner hit “Friday” (1995). His frantic delivery helped land him several other films, including “Money Talks” and “The Fifth Element” (both in 1997). He met his comedic match in Jackie Chan a year later in the first “Rush Hour.”

All audiences needed to see was an exasperated Mr. Tucker ask Mr. Chan, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” and they were sold. The stars’ chemistry ignited the box office and catapulted Mr. Tucker into the $20-million-a-film club, rarified air indeed.

The comic actor supposedly wanted to play the first black president in a feature comedy, but Chris Rock’s “Head of State” beat him to it.

To hear Mr. Tucker tell it, he had little interest in stepping before the cameras again.

“I didn’t find anything I was doing interesting; that’s why I started traveling,” he says. “I didn’t want to do anything for money and burn myself out. I was young and had plenty of time.”

Pals in Hollywood cautioned him to reconsider.

“I had a lot of people telling me to do this, do that, but I trusted my instincts,” he says. “I didn’t want to cash out. In the long run, it’s better for me.”

Now, at 34, Mr. Tucker sounds as if he’s itching to go back to work. The current comedy tour is slated to become a feature film, and he says his time spent in 12 African countries refueled him creatively.

Future projects won’t necessarily be comedies, but he isn’t concerned about being typecast as a cutup.

“I laid down a good foundation with ‘Dead Presidents’ and ‘The Fifth Element,’” he says of a rare dramatic role and his mercurial turn as a futuristic deejay, respectively. “I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

WHAT: Chris Tucker live, featuring Terry Hodges

WHERE: The Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets, Northwest

WHEN: 6 p.m.Sunday

TICKETS: $45 to $65

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