Just because Head of State (opening tomorrow) is an escapist comedy, don't underestimate the political savvy of its star, co-writer and first-time director Chris Rock. The idea to poke fun at the presidential campaign process has been germinating in his mind since long before his Saturday Night Live days, back when he was just your typical, New York Daily News-readin' tyke.

"My dad drove a newspaper truck when I was a kid," Rock explains to TV Guide Online. "So, I just read the paper a lot, as a young, 6-year-old boy. I knew all about Watergate.

"The first time I got this idea [for the movie] was [when] Geraldine Ferraro [ran for vice president in 1984]," continues the 37-year-old comedian, who plays an alderman tapped to run for commander-in-chief when the original candidate is killed in a plane crash. "The whole scenario of 'Hmm, we're gonna probably lose here, so let's try something that may help us down the line.'"

Though Rock has no interest in entering the political arena in real life, he did have to do some heavy campaigning to sit in State's director's chair. "A couple of studios were like, 'We'll make the movie, but we don't want you to direct,'" he recalls, "which is like saying, 'We think you're funny but we don't think you're competent.'"

When Dreamworks finally gave him its vote of confidence, Rock felt he had nothing to lose. "I haven't really made a great movie yet," he reasons, "so I couldn't let anybody down. This is much better than Bad Company — or even Down to Earth."