Stars: Chris Rock
Director: Joel Gallen
It is tough to review the latest stand-up special by Chris Rock and not think of the elephant in the room or, shall I say, the slap heard around the world. Though one bleeds into another, I will do my best to focus only on the special.
This is Chris Rock’s first response to the incident at the 2022 Academy Awards when Will Smith went onstage and slapped him in response to a joke Rock made about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
The special was filmed in Baltimore and presented live, a first for Netflix. There was a live pre-show and a post-show that was star-studded — Netflix went all out for this occasion.
Like any other form of art, comedy is subjective. Just because one person likes a comedian doesn’t mean someone else will; the same goes for movies, music, and so on.
Chris Rock’s comedy has always been relevant and timely. He has given us classic lines like, “You mean to tell me they can find Saddam Hussein in a cave, but you can’t tell me who shot Tupac?” and “How you gonna tell kids not to do drugs when the mayor is on crack?” in response to Marion Barry who was convicted of smoking cocaine, incarcerated, then re-elected as mayor.
Has Rock pushed the envelope? Sure, but when an audience laughs, it’s usually because his jokes have a certain level of truth.
Selective Outrage isn’t simply Rock’s opportunity to tell his side of the story from the Oscar incident, which only takes up about eight minutes of the 69-minute show; it’s his opportunity to provide observations on multiple situations.
Rock takes on several recent issues and puts his own spin on them. Not wanting to spoil anything, I won’t provide specific examples, but at one point, he says, “You can’t tell these jokes at work,” and he’s not wrong. The jokes certainly have more of an edge and are a little punchier.
Chris Rock is one of the great comedians of our time, and while I admit that it is open to debate, what isn’t is that no other comedian has received a larger paycheck for a Netflix special. The first and only Black man to host the Academy Awards took the proverbial baton from Eddie Murphy in the stand-up comedy world and hasn’t stopped.
From his self-admitted overacting in Nurse Betty to his fantastic filmmaking in Top 5 and seeing him present the film he wrote, directed, and starred in at the Toronto International Film Festival, there is a certain maturity and growth one can appreciate with Rock’s ascension. He has directed music videos and comedy specials for comedians such as Amy Schumer. As Rock himself has stated, ”Successful Black man.”
Is this his best special? That’s a matter of opinion, but it may be his most important. The world has been waiting for him to break his silence.
The day after this special came out, as I was traveling, I saw multiple people at the airport on their devices watching it. In the terminal, the waiting area, and even the plane. The contents of the special will be discussed and dissected for some time to come.
Chris Rock gave the response in the appropriate place, the stage. A place where he made his career. A place where he has solidified himself as one of the greats to have ever done it.
On March 27, 2022, Chris Rock stood on the stage of the Academy Awards with his hands behind his back and was assaulted. On March 4, 2023, in front of a live global audience, he fought back, not with his fists but with words, and delivered a visceral response.
Many will watch this mainly to hear his reaction, but outside of that, his observations are still accurate and worth discussing. His comedy is still at the top of his game. Chris Rock is one of the best comedians of our time, and it will take more than a slap to change that.