LOS ANGELES• From a distance, he looked familiar. The same brash confidence. The fierce energy. And there was something about his measured gait as he walked on the dimly lit stage at Los Globos, a club in Silver Lake, that made you go, "Hey, I know him."
"I'm Jordan Rock. I'm the younger brother of Chris Rock. You guys have probably never heard of me. Because I'm the Solange of my family."
Ah, of course.
Sitting on a red couch tucked away on the side of the stage was another brother, Tony Rock.
Tony, with expressive eyes that widened whenever he seemed enthusiastic, watched Jordan's set the way some parents watch their child perform at a dance competition or Little League. As Jordan wound through 20 minutes of jokes about online dating and Uber drivers, Tony alternated between rubbing his chin thoughtfully and chuckling warmly. There was unmistakable pride in his smile when he found a punch line particularly amusing. He was completely present.
Oh, and he was up next.
Comedy runs in the blood of the Rock family - or the breast milk, as Rose Rock, the matriarch, once suggested. Jordan, 26, and Tony, 42, have followed in the footsteps of their older brother, Chris, 52, the second-born of eight siblings.
When entertainment is a family business, there is often a gruelling process to establish your own identity and, in doing so, to escape the shadow of the most famous sibling.
Sometimes the skin is shed - see Solange, a creative force and Beyonce's sister. Sometimes viewers cannot get enough - see the three handsome Hemsworths. Sometimes the talent is all that matters - see Kate and Rooney Mara. And sometimes there is no overcoming the top dog. Without looking, name all the Baldwin brothers besides Alec.
Professionally, Tony and Jordan have kept a distance from Chris. They described a generational gulf as well as one created by his fame. When Tony started his stand-up career, Chris was already a celebrity in New York City. When Jordan started, Chris was a megastar.
It was important to the younger brothers to create lanes for themselves. The Rock name was both a gift and a burden, but neither felt compelled to lean on Chris or resent his success. Both brothers said Chris never tried to take a heavy hand in their careers - and, indeed, gave them space to succeed or struggle on their own. `
Chris, one of the greatest comedians of his time, is in the midst of his first stand-up tour in nine years. His specials have influenced generations of comics.
Tony is an established stand-up comic in his own right. Last autumn, he hosted All Def Comedy on HBO, a remake of Def Comedy Jam, produced by Russell Simmons. Tony appeared in its 2006 iteration as well. He just taped a pilot for CBS called Living Biblically and is constantly on the road playing comedy clubs. He also recently hosted The Game Of Dating for TV One.
He struggled initially to set himself apart from Chris. When he started performing, he was introduced as Chris' younger brother, raising expectations for him and pigeonholing him. The Tony Rock Project, a sketch show that debuted in 2008 on MyNetworkTV, a Fox- owned network, lasted one season. The Washington Post blasted it, saying: "Chris got the funny genes - making Tony the Dom DiMaggio or Ashlee Simpson, perhaps even the Jim Belushi, of the Rock family."
"Keep in mind, he's arguably the best comic in the country," Tony said, referring to Chris, about his reactions to these comparisons. "It's going to be a minute before they go, 'Oh, he's entirely Tony Rock.'"
But it is different now.
"Every time I go onstage, it's a little less 'Chris Rock's brother'," Tony said.
Jordan is still a relative unknown. Softer spoken than his brothers and with a sly smile, Jordan has one major on-screen credit, a recurring role on the Netflix show, Love. Standing on a sidewalk outside, Jordan and Tony discussed whether this was the big break for Jordan's career after a day of shooting for the third season of Love.
"Everything is a big break," Tony said to Jordan. Referring to a club in New York City, he continued: "When you got into the Comic Strip, that was a big break."
Jordan said: "No, it's all equal."
Tony said: "At that level, getting into the Comic Strip is doing Vegas. When you get to a higher level, something else will take its place."