Chris Rock took to the airwaves Saturday night for “Selective Outrage,” the second of two stand-up specials for which Netflix paid $40 million: an event whose specialness, without being expensive, was emphasized by its inner bracket of a pre-show. and post-show, and by putting it out live.
(West Coast Rock audiences got a little on the early side, at 7 p.m.; back East – where the show was held, at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theater – a little on the late side; the rest of the world – the show streamed to 90 countries – – he made his own accommodation.)
If “Selective Outrage” had not gone live, which Netflix could not emphasize too much, it would have been news – because in fact it was successfully sold as such for weeks before its arrival – since it was expected that Rock would face the Slap. , whose first anniversary is near. (If you’re the only one who somehow doesn’t know, at last year’s Oscar ceremony, Rock was attacked by Will Smith over a bad rumor about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith – although he has his own theory at Rock about that, see below.) This contretemps he refused to evaporate, perhaps just because the world was waiting for Rock to face him.
Outside of news and sport and award ceremonies, live television has been a concern since the 1950s: a stunt, a gimmick, an occasional aesthetic experiment. This is Rock’s sixth special, and his career was not hampered by the production of the previous five in the usual way.
And as in a sporting event, there was an element of unpredictability to “Selective Outrage,” even the danger, the possibility that the comedian would have to be carried off the field, figuratively speaking. (The potential for bombast is so much part of the fabric of “Saturday Night Live,” created to put a countercultural spin on various 50s comedy shows, that it lasted nearly 60 years with an extremely high percentage of dud bits; fans show up how they might miss your team often.)
The sports metaphor was emphasized in the pre- and post-game analysis, such as; with a credit sequence in which the star appeared to be bracing himself for battle, not only with the expectations of the audience and the joy of his assailant Oscar, but, as he slowly walked towards the echoes of the specials stage before, alone as well – and at the victorious state he met at the end, a stern face, looking not happy but to protect.
At 58, an age at which many comedians have reached their sell-by date, Rock is no old lion – he always looks dashing – but he hasn’t been the new kid for nearly four decades, and even if . The question is whether he will keep the crown, better his personal best, say something new, keep up, change with the changing times or control them through the force of his art and his own personality.
Formally, the special, directed by Joel Gallen (credited with Rock’s “Never Scared” in 2004 and numerous live music events and awards shows) was a throwback to old-fashioned television compared to the first Rock’s Netflix special, 2018’s “Tamborine,” which was spotlighted by director Bo Burnham, and his final HBO special, 2008’s “Kill the Messenger,” directed by Marty Callner, cut between performances in New -York, London and Johannesburg, often in the middle of a sentence, which gives you an idea of how strict Rock’s routines are. Where “Tamborine” found the comedy in a relatively intimate setting with the audience almost on their feet, engaging in a more moderated, contemplative style of delivery, “Selective Outrage” came across as a crude attempt to recapture the old flame; he raised the volume, advanced on the stage, loading his text with repeated words and phrases like a revival sermon, to make a point and to make music.
“I’m going to try to do a show tonight without offending anybody,” Rock said at the hour (and eight minute) mark, as if announcing that much would be certain. “You never know who might be motivated,” he said, before targeting a mix of hard, easy and sometimes confusing targets. (There’s a lot to say about Elon Musk, but the last tack you’d imagine is his sperm.)
Although he likes to downplay his intelligence and cite his lack of education, Rock is no dummy; he clearly thinks a lot — a pharmacist’s job, really — and his routine on Saturday covered a familiar range of topics: race, sex, the state of the nation, hypocrisy, his own childhood and his children, and the more recent themes of being single and going slightly younger compared to much younger women. Personal responsibility has been a theme throughout Rock’s career – he can be surprisingly conservative at times, as when he discusses ensuring that his older daughter was expelled from school for bad behavior – but at the this is life, a bit of Get Off My Lawn, You Kids These days are definitely swinging in.
Some of her goals were incredibly unnecessary: Going after Meghan Markle without realizing that she would lead to racism among the royal family, she felt mean and like a waste of breath, and the Kardashians, even if she was steeped in culture the community, the day before yesterday’s news. (Although Caitlyn Jenner brought up the opportunity for Rock to present himself as non-transphobic, which somehow vaguely came across as a distant reference to his friend Dave Chappelle’s own controversial special.) “Wokeness” is already a tired topic. own, but in public approx. -sensitivity is a bug on the composer, after all, and, in fact, anyone over a certain age is bound to have a conversation about how the world has grown sensitive.
“Everybody’s scared,” Rock said, noting, “No one who says hurtful words has ever been hurt. Words hurt when you write them on a brick.”
The highlight of the evening – stretching through the evening as he cracked jokes about Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z while saying he didn’t need another rapper out of his mind – was something very important about being at expected, as the noisy battle at the end of the Marvel film, and many of his best jokes, worked out on other stages, having already been published.
When Rock finally got to the Slap, in the final minutes of the special, he definitely leaned into it. He found it funnier comparing his own physical disadvantages, but the theory of the less effective case, if brutally delivered, was the result of self-deprecation, which would have been quite confusing if not you spot the Jada Pinkett Smith-Will Smith backstory — that Smith’s attack on him had more to do with public humiliation over his wife’s extramarital affair than with Rock’s poor joke about her — which he tied back to the opening theme of selective anger . (He has an essay understanding of structure.)
The generalization and exaggeration necessary to humor (as when it takes its abortion rights to stand to absurd logical ends) is balanced by common sense and fresh insights. Whether or not you buy his theories about how men are, or women, or what makes a good relationship, or what the country is about, or even accept the premises from which he draws his conclusions, and whether whether or not this was his finest hour. (and eight minutes) TV, Rock is worth listening to, because there is nothing casual about what he does, and most importantly, he knows how to craft and sell his joke. You can laugh even after being offended.
‘Chris Rock: selective outrage’
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Rated: TV-MA (may not be suitable for children under 17 with rough language advisor)