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Oprah: Sitting in for Johnny Carson?

Chris: Yes. Cosby was in rotation with David Brenner and a few others. He'd also come on and do stand-up comedy from time to time.

Oprah: Were you actually studying Cosby or were you just taking in everything?

Chris: Both. But I never had the confidence to say I was going to be in front of the camera as a comedian until I saw Eddie Murphy years later. After I left high school and got my GED, I studied broadcast journalism for a year at a community college. Though part of me had always wanted to be a comedian, another part of me had always wanted to be Bryant Gumbel or Dan Rather.

Oprah: Where is that part of you now?

Chris: It's gone. Broadcast journalism involves presenting other people's words.

Oprah: You're more than just funny—you take difficult subjects and make them entertaining. What gives you the chutzpah to delve into the hard stuff?

Chris: I don't know! I was raised on rap music—the first art form created by black people who were free to say anything they wanted. So the rap on those first NWA and Public Enemy records—the good rap, not the garbage—already contained much of what I've said.

Oprah: One of your funniest routines is about a black woman trying to use a maxed-out credit card that she prays won't be rejected at the department store.

Chris: Every time I see you, you request that story like it's a song or something. You're like, "Hey, Chris, can you do the one about the black woman in the department store?"

Oprah: That's because I have been that woman. Years ago when I first moved to Chicago, I was in a grocery store and the cashier actually took my card away. I left there with my groceries sitting in the aisle. It was one of the most humiliating moments a human being can ever experience.

Chris: The next most humiliating thing is when you don't have enough cash at the checkout and you're trying to decide: Should I buy milk or toilet paper?

Oprah: Right!

Chris: My mother was the woman who had all the credit cards from stores that shouldn't even give credit cards. If a store is already dirt cheap and has all its clothes in bins, why should it even have credit?

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