Oprah: I'd say that's pretty domestic. What excites you in life?

Chris: Art—I love music and painting. Seeing black people do well when they're trying to do the right thing also excites me. I was watching a sports show on HBO, and a lot of the reporters were black. They weren't reporting on "We Shall Overcome" stuff, just regular sports stories. As I was watching these guys, I had a big grin on my face. I love seeing black people do normal things, being judged as normal people.

Oprah: Is race always a part of how you think?

Chris: Yes. Just last week there were two football play-off games, and there were two black quarterbacks. I'm old enough to remember when there were no black quarterbacks—there were no blacks on TV. I hope my son or daughter doesn't have to be as fixated on race as I am, because he or she will grow up in freer times. In 1972 I got bussed to a school where I was still one of the first black kids.

Oprah: In 1972?

Chris: There were pickets with NIGGER, GO HOME signs. Even as late as 1982, there were race riots at my school.

Oprah: In just a few years, you've already raised our expectations of comedy. Is there another accomplishment you're striving for now?

Chris: I want to build what you have: a brand. You have a brand in the uplift business—I'm going to get you a little badge that says UPLIFTER. In that same way, I want my name to be a brand in comedy. I hope my name stands for comedic excellence.

Oprah: That's solid. How does the hierarchy in comedy compare with other areas of entertainment?

Chris: Being a comedian is a lot like being an athlete. If you're Carl Lewis and you're the fastest, then no matter what you're the fastest. Someone would really have to cheat in order to take that away from you. You can't fake comedy—it's not like a movie, where a director can just cast a pretty face. No one wanted to give me my own show—they would much rather give a show to some stocky, handsome guy. No one wanted to give Roseanne a show, either. But only in comedy can people like me and Roseanne win. For the most part, comedy is the only fair part of show business.