If the Academy Awards were premeditated, the public would not have seen Will Smith on Chris Rock last year. Certainly, the incident would have been known and reported, but the strange, despicable electricity of that moment came from what happened alive, broadcast worldwide, during a carefully choreographed event. Since then, the question has been how Rock officially responded. Would he hit a talk show and throw Smith’s barbs? Would he take the high road and ignore it? No, Rock is a stand-up comedian by trade, practiced in a world of unplanned moments, so the most natural way for him to slap back was during his own real-time broadcast.
In fact, the most interesting aspect of Rock’s new special, Selective Outrage, was the fact that it aired live on Netflix on a Saturday night – an attempt to capitalize on comedy’s stage presence at a time when audiences can choose their evening’s entertainment from a large menu. A new special from Rock is always an interesting choice, though Selective Outrage He had a much juicier hook: Is he finally going to talk about Will Smith? After months of stand-up shows where Rock had to deny to his audience that the subject wouldn’t come up, and months of rumors that he was finally working on material about the Oscars, he almost kept the audience waiting the whole time before that. unleashing fury in the last 10 minutes.
Rock’s takedown began with how much Smith is stronger than him – “I’m not a victim … I took that beat like Pacquiao” – before moving on to the strange interviews Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith , about their relationship in the years before Smith won an Oscar. To Rock, their marital troubles—and the scrutiny their openness invited—was the biggest reason for Smith’s outburst at the Academy Awards, no joke. “She hurt him a lot more than he hurt me,” he said of Pinkett Smith, who admitted to having an affair with another man. “Everybody in the world called him… everyone. And who has he beaten? I … That’s some ass-shit.” Responding to the rhetorical question of why he didn’t fight back, Rock said, “I got parents, and you know what my parents taught me: Don’t fight in front of white people,” before firing his microphone to the floor – his. signature has stopped moving from the stage for 30 years now.
Rock’s anger about the incident, almost a year later, was especially visible because he was speaking live. At one point, he lashed out online, misnaming Smith’s film (Emancipation) for a joke aimed at someone else (Concussion). Rock admitted the mistake, reset, and repeated the joke, the kind of flub that gets edited out of any stand-up special, but stay in Selective Outrage as a reminder of its rawness. The error only added to the fragility of the moment. Rock has always had such a surgically precise style on stage, using methodical repetition to reinforce the power of his punch lines. The last 10 minutes, in which he accused Smith of “selective outrage,” felt like an organic, angry rant — and was all the more powerful for his departure from Rock’s usual mode.
It’s a shame that most of the night was forgettable. Yes, maybe there was some element of wondering When Rock would “get to the fireworks factory,” to be remembered Simpsons line. But enough of it Selective Outrage hint at the problem that many stand-up comedians of Rock’s stature tend to ruin: It’s hard to remain an astute commentator on everyday life when you’re a world-renowned multi-millionaire. I think this is one reason why so many great comics, like Dave Chappelle, have taken to complaining incessantly about canceling culture and saying things that people “can’t say”—there’s not much else they can think of to mediate. offer an audience.
Rock’s team focused much of their fire on other celebrities. A whole segment about the Kardashians felt a little warmer, and an incredible run about Meghan Markle’s professed surprise at the institutional racism of the British monarchy was much funnier and more inventive (he announced the “Sugarhill Racist Gang” for the royals). The personal content of his relationship with his daughter and his recent dating history had some insight, but it was rarely funny enough to laugh at, and jokes about the expressive awakening of expensive firms, such as Lululemon, could be more poisonous. For much of the special, Rock seemed to be working on the speed bag, building up his energy for his stunning winning blow to Smith.
As live television, it was occasionally interesting, then briefly compelling; as a comedy, it will be a minor entry in Rock’s estimable stand-up catalog (his three specials, Bring the Pain, Bigger & Blacker, and Never panic Three as light as any comedian in history). Rock’s last special, Tamborinealso released on Netflix, a different tone Selective Outrage. Directed by Bo Burnham and filmed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, it was introspective and visceral, exploring the dissolution of his marriage and the mistakes he made as a partner. Selective Outrage, In the meantime, id indulged raging Rock, which was probably the best way to handle “the slap,” even if the other small specific thing to complete.