Chris Rock knows you want to hear that slap, and with his stand-up special Selective Outrage, the comedy legend is finally ready to talk It’s over.
The first-ever Netflix live event aired on Saturday night gets a lot of hype as Rock rebuts Will Smith’s 2022 Oscars Award crash. Nearly a year ago, Smith interrupted a presentation of Rock’s best documentary by storming the stage and punching Smith in the face in response to a joke directed at his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The spat overshadowed the night’s winners, stunned the broadcast’s viewers and completely shattered the semblance of awards season camaraderie. Smith’s aftermath of the slap is well documented — the actor has since issued a public apology, been formally investigated by the Academy, and banned from award shows for a decade for his actions — but The Rock, a comeback Master, has remained silent. On his most recent Ego Death Tour, he addressed the incident by assuring viewers that he would open it all up later. “I’m still processing what happened, so, at some point, I’m going to talk about it,” Rock said on stage at Boston’s Wilbur Theater a few days after the Oscars. “It’s going to be serious and it’s going to be funny, but for now, I’m going to tell some jokes.”
On his Netflix special, Rock poked fun at his rebuttal. “The last thing I need is another crazy rapper,” he said, pondering Snoop Dogg’s plethora of endorsement deals and poking fun at Jay-Z’s ability to attract a remarkable woman like Beyoncé. Smith was the main event, but he was far from the only person on the Rock’s blacklist: Meghan Markle, wealthy private school parents, Lululemon and the Jan. 6 rioters were all heavily criticized within an hour. The severity of their actions may vary—blindly marrying into the royal family is far less damaging than trying to overthrow the government—but Locke’s goals are all united by what he sees as hypocrisy. Selective rage has allowed luxury brands to promote their anti-racist stance while using exploitative labor practices, and has allowed bad actors to protect themselves by choosing the language of social justice.
Like many comedians his age, Rock bemoaned the “woke up” culture, especially the seemingly arbitrary rules about who qualifies for cancellation. Still, the threat of backlash hasn’t stopped him from incorporating a healthy dose of misogyny into his writing. The show’s segment about dating younger women due to lack of expectations and imagining if Rock’s father is about to transition seems like a mid-term excerpt. Questionable information aside, jokes about the Kardashian sisters’ sexual partners and Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity are lazy relics unworthy of Rock’s talent, like the dusty GI Jane crack that resulted in a slap. Even more interesting are the moments when Rock gets personal, sharing stories about his relationship with his ex-wife, his mother’s experience living under Jim Crow, and how he was a parent.