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Chris Tucker: Five reasons why we love him

Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element.
Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element.

If it weren't for his recent, surprisingly tender performance in the Oscarific Silver Linings Playbook, Chris Tucker would be in danger of only being known for his massive IRS debt. But now he's back, not only in his first film in years but on the road performing standup, which was what first brought him to our attention on Def Comedy Jam back in 1992. With Tucker coming to the Paramount Theatre this Saturday, we thought we'd take a look back at why we fell in love with this squeaky-voiced, hyper-active man-child in the first place.

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5) He parodies Americans better than almost anyone (Rush Hour)

Arrogant, xenophobic, loud and constantly performing, Chris Tucker's role as James Carter in the Rush Hour series gave us the opportunity to laugh at ourselves long before Michael Moore and Sacha Baron Cohen made it trendy.

4) Who else can make whining sound so delightful? (Jackie Brown)

Rarely do you respect a character that Chris Tucker plays. For much of his career, he's been the obnoxious, hyper, self-serving dunce who will most likely get you into trouble -- and then leave you to clean up the mess. And yet there's always something so charming about the way he complains. While Tucker might not be the most intellectual Hollywood celebrity (though the bar isn't too high on that one), he has an amazing understanding of linguistics, employing all the right pops and pauses to make even the most grating tone sound angelic.

3) He has legitimate comedy credentials (Def Comedy Jam)

For anyone who sees Chris Tucker as just another predictable golden-goose celebrity who got famous, then fat, then in trouble with the IRS, now making a comeback with an indie film...well, you're half-right. But throughout the '90s, Chris Tucker was not only one of the most captivating presences on screen, he was also blowing up on the standup circuit, particularly on the now-legendary Def Comedy Jam.

2) He's the ultimate showman (The Fifth Element)

If his Michael Jackson impersonation in Rush Hour 2 is anything to go by, Chris Tucker can't sing. Which is a shame, because it would be amazing to see him in a musical. He'd probably need to trim down a bit to fit back into his Ruby Rhod outfit from The Fifth Element, but if he could tap back into that same ADHD mania that made him famous, it would blow our freakin' minds to see him in Cats.

1) He helped make laziness trendy (Friday)

The mid-'90s were a great time to be lazy. And while we lived in our flannels and napped on our dumpstered sofas, it was comforting to laugh at someone even more lethargic and irresponsible than ourselves. Chris Tucker's Smokey has gone down in history as one of the great cinematic slackers of the decade, drifting from house to house looking to smoke as much weed (that he's supposed to be selling) as possible, and avoiding any task that required critical thinking. He was our hero.

Chris Tucker will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 23 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place. Tickets are $39.50 to $65; for more information visit the Paramount's website.