Chris Rock does seven hours of therapy a week & learned how to swim in his 50s

THR chris rock

Maybe I’m misremembering, but didn’t Fargo Season 3 kind of suck? That was the season starring Ewan McGregor. I honestly don’t even think I finished watching it. But seasons 1& 2 were amazing, and I have high hopes for season 4, starring Chris Rock. Rock covers the latest issue of the Hollywood Reporter to promote the new season, which he calls “the best part I’ve ever had.” Rock is 55 years old now – still creative, still making all kinds of deals, still striving for excellence, but now he’s a bit battered and bruised. His divorce took a massive toll and he’s in intensive therapy to deal with a lot of different things. You can read the Hollywood Reporter piece here. Some highlights:

On Fargo: Great parts “are like great loves,” he tells me, “you get two, three if you’re lucky… This is the best part I’ve ever had. Sometimes you get a great love and you’re just not ready for it,” he says, citing one of his early roles opposite Morgan Freeman in the 2000 dark comedy Nurse Betty. “Great part, and I wasn’t f–king ready. Now, Don Cheadle would’ve been. You ever seen Don Cheadle in Devil in a Blue Dress? That motherf–ker was ready.”

His career in his 20s: “I had this great combination of big ego and low self-esteem.And the ego gets you out onstage, but the low self-esteem is the thing that makes you practice so much because you don’t believe in yourself at all. You think you’re a total f–king fraud — and you don’t think anybody could love you for being you, so you have to be good at this thing.”

He was driven by fear for decades: “It just depletes you. I had to let it go. I was just dying, dude.”

The pain of his childhood: “I’m not belittling today’s youth, but I wish somebody had sent me a bad text when I was a kid. These motherf–kers were trying to kill me.”

He loved the “reset” aspect of the pandemic: “What people don’t realize is that athletes get that time. and you can’t obtain greatness without the time to rest and work on yourself and your faults.”

He recently learned how to swim: “Do you know how f–king hard it is for a grown-up to learn how to swim? You’ve got to not be scared to die. The other day, this guy says to me, ‘OK, you’re going to dive into the deep end and swim to the other side,’ and I’m like, ‘Are you f–king crazy?’ But then I dove into the deep end and I swam to the other side, and it’s a metaphor for what I’ve been trying to do during this time.”

He does seven hours of therapy a week: His decision to seek meaningful help for the first time in his life was precipitated by a friend’s suggestion that he may have Asperger’s. It prompted a nine-hour battery of cognitive tests earlier this year, from which doctors diagnosed Rock with a condition called nonverbal learning disorder, or NVLD. As he’s come to understand it, he has tremendous difficulty with non-verbal signals — which doesn’t sound too drastic until, as he explains, you consider that some 80 percent of communication is nonverbal. “And all I understand are the words… By the way, all of those things are really great for writing jokes — they’re just not great for one-on-one relationships,” he says. Until now, it’s made much of Rock’s life uncomfortable. “And I’d always just chalked it up to being famous. Any time someone would respond to me in a negative way, I’d think, ‘Whatever, they’re responding to something that has to do with who they think I am.’ Now, I’m realizing it was me. A lot of it was me.”

On his friend Jimmy Fallon doing blackface in a 2000 skit: Rock says he doesn’t remember seeing it at the time and writes it off as just “bad comedy.” Fallon “doesn’t have a racist bone in his body,” he says, adding that he called his old friend after he issued a public apology to tell him that he loves him. In a matter of weeks, he’ll appear on Fallon’s Tonight Show to promote the new series.

[From THR]

Rock comes across really well throughout the piece, and it’s interesting that he was diagnosed with NVLD, which I didn’t know much about before now. I don’t think Rock comes across like he’s on the spectrum, but I can see how he has trouble reading or understanding the non-verbal communication. He’s always been very literal, and now we know why. It’s also amazing that he’s in therapy and he learned how to swim as a 50-something man. That’s awesome!

Here’s the trailer for Fargo season 4:

Cover courtesy of THR.

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24 Responses to “Chris Rock does seven hours of therapy a week & learned how to swim in his 50s”

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  1. nic says:

    A lot of great comedy and compassion comes from people who are “passing” as “normal”. Those people have an outsider perspective and an insider familiarity with the culture.

  2. M.S. says:

    It’s interesting to see him talk about NVLD. I have it too and it’s really negatively affected my life.

    • Noodle says:

      @M.S., I’ve never met anyone with NVLD, but I’ve met plenty of people with symptoms of it who are diagnosed with Aspergers. How has it affected you and your relationships? Is there difficulty explaining it to others given that it’s an uncommon diagnosis (although maybe it will become more well known because of Chris Rock)?

  3. Ariel says:

    Fargo season one was so damn good- I rewatched it and had forgotten.
    And you’re right, season 3 was awful. They had mcgregor going dual roles with the woman he left his wife for, and I found both the real life yuck and the unnecessary dual roles distracting. I gave up on it after a few episodes.

    I have always enjoyed Mr Rock’s specials and movie roles (all the way back to New Jack City).
    I hope Fargo returns to form. I bet he’s great in it.

    And, as an aside, learning to swim at 50, seems like an incredibly brave thing to do. Kudos to him.

    • Edna says:

      I learned to swim when I turned 56. I got tired of always sitting on the beach watching my family have fun swimming and snorkeling whenever we went on vacation. Because of a childhood incident, I was always terrified of the water. But I finally got the courage to get over it. I’m not the best swimmer but I can at least now enjoy the water with my family.

  4. Lori says:

    The third season was garbage.

  5. Mac says:

    I’m over him. He blamed Nancy Pelosi for the coronavirus outbreak because heaven forfend a man should be held responsible.

  6. Carol says:

    Gee, I wish I could have 7 hours of therapy a week. God knows I need it!

    • Sunnydaze says:

      You don’t. I’m a licensed therapist and there’s no way I would see someone every day of the week, if only for the sole fact a lot of evidence based therapy rests in you as the client putting in the work. Having days off is extremely beneficial in terms of taking the information and applying it in real world time, then discussing it. Granted there is extensive therapy in rehab centers but that’s for a population that is likely in crisis, not the average person going through a traumatic event. A brilliant therapist I’ve work with used to say be very wary of the therapist that wants daily sessions – there’s no added benefit and it can actually be detrimental in terms of retraumatization outside of rehabilitation (and even that’s debatable considering relapse rates once that structure is removed). It’s awesome he’s getting therapy but I cringe at these stories because of how many clients will come back toe saying they think I should see them everyday because so and so does (this happened with howard stern who talks about his sessions with his psychiatrist – awesome to destigmatize therapy but also hard to tell clients that’s not what your average psychiatrist does…more often than not it’s mostly med management in 15-20 minute increments with licensed therapists doing the actual counseling part. I know dozens of great psychiatrists and not a single one does therapy)

      • Sasha says:

        This isn’t quite right. I’m a clinical psychologist in the UK and the frequency of therapy is completely dependent on the model. Most types of therapy would involve once weekly sessions, but if you’re in psychoanalysis then it’s completely appropriate for someone to go far more frequently. All of the psychotherapists I work with in the NHS are in 5x weekly analysis as part of their training for the role.

  7. Edna says:

    Never been a Chris Rock fan. And that incident with him silently sitting there laughing while his white friends had fun using the n-word made me dislike him even more.

    • melissa says:

      Not sure if you’ve grown up as a sole POC surrounded by people who don’t look like you or share similar experiences of how the world treats you or are even harassed berated and/or harassed by them.
      It plays a toll so would be careful to not judge behaviour unless you have been in that situation (and given every human is unique that’s impossible).
      I totally get it. It’s very complex and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the kind of stuff he’s working through in therapy. He even mentions how disappointed he has been in himself for being complacent.
      These things have layers and are kind of like a huge tangled ball of yarn…years of tangling that are very challenge to unravel. Compassion is waranted. And also why not hold all the other white people to the same regard? WHy do POC have to do all the work all the time? (seriouly asking, not accusing).

    • HeatherC says:

      In 1998 HBO made a movie called “The Rat Pack.” It was an okay movie except (IMO) for Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis Jr (who won a Golden Globe for it). I remember a scene of the rat pack on stage doing their shtick that included some racially insensitive language. Cheadle as SDJr laughed uproarious and spun in a circle, when his face was away from the crowd, it just fell and in that brief moment (because Cheadle is awesome) you could see sadness, shame, resignation and a bit of rage flash across his face before turning around and continuing on with the act.

  8. GrnieWnie says:

    omg I bet so many academics have NVLD. I’m…not great at non-verbal cues. But sometimes I do really catch on, so I probably don’t have that. But my God, I could see soooooo many academics–where all of your communication is tied up in the precise use of language–having this.

    Btw, you might never think of being able to swim as class or race-based. But it is. Whether or not you can swim has a lot to do with the society you’re in.

  9. LidiaJara says:

    So happy he started therapy! My mom just started therapy in her 60s and I’m so proud of her for being open-minded enough to try and being interested in learning and growing and healing. It’s already made such a huge difference for my mom and it’s only been a year.

  10. Thirtynine says:

    Kudos to him for persevering with new things and striving to grow. And the story of him learning to swim and getting to the other side as a metaphor for his life was thoughtful. He sounds far more refective and self aware than I appreciated or gave him credit for before. I’m glad to learn I was wrong.

  11. Lori says:

    What he’s calling therapy may include much more than talk therapy, but also behavioural therapy, and occupational therapy etc. When my sons were first diagnosed with autism they recieved about 20 hrs of therapy a week to help them learn life skills. Dont picture him lying on a couch somewhere talking. He’s probably doing a lot of work.

  12. Kamala says:

    7 hours a week of therapy sounds self indulgent.

  13. SamC says:

    As a former swim instructor I loved that he took lessons as an adult. It’s not easy for the student or instructor and whenever I taught an adult I was so grateful I learned to swim as a kid. And his analogy was wonderful.

    As someone else wrote, access to swim lessons is just one more area with significant racial and income inequalities.

  14. Mariane says:

    My brother likes him but I never warmed up to him! His recent anti Nancy Pelosi & Biden comments are problematic and might affect black voters voting in this election.
    Good for him for learning to swim. I always envied people who went to the bea h or had swimming pools growing up but even now as an adult I didnt bother to learn or use the pool! I guess its something to look forward to when I’m 50

  15. Anna says:

    I’m curious what the opposite of NVLD is, if anyone trained in that area might want to weigh in…I feel as if, growing up in a home with limited verbal communication, I became hyper-aware of every minute non-verbal cue to the point where decades later, it still torments me. I can hardly engage with people anymore because of being so hyper-attuned to the non-verbal communications which is a problem because you can’t usually make good assessments based on that. I get migraines in part from this…so in a way, quarantine has helped because I’m not able to deal with people directly so much anymore.

  16. wanderingBy says:

    In general (I say mildly but sincerely): if you catch yourself saying “I don’t think ______ comes across like he’s on the spectrum”… then actually just choose not to say it. It isn’t helpful, and you’re probably wrong.

    Autism is immense, it presents so differently in different people, many highly verbal/highly intelligent people can “mask” parts of it (at great emotional cost). Best not to speculate who has it and who’s “faking it”, just more compassion.

  17. jferber says:

    I always liked Chris until he said in a comedy routine that he “understood” why O.J. killed his ex-wife. Not funny and horribly offensive. Butchery is never okay.