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Thursday, June 1, 2023

A year after the slap, Chris Rock fights back in new special

A year after Will Smith pummeled him at the Oscars, Chris Rock finally countered in a stand-up special live on Netflix, where the comedian bragged he ‘takes it like Pacquiao struck.”

On Saturday night, the 58-year-old comedian performed his first stand-up special since last year’s Oscars. “Chris Rock: Selective Rage” aired live from the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore, marking Netflix’s first foray into live streaming.

what you need to know

  • Rock immediately addressed last year’s Oscars, while riffing on “sobriety,” hypersensitivity, and what he called “selective rage.”
  • “You never know who’s going to get triggered,” Locke said. “Anyone who says hurtful words has never been slapped in the face”
  • An hour into the opening, Rock wraps up the special with plenty of material about the infamous Academy Awards moment
  • Streaming ‘Selective Rage’ is so new to Netflix, it’s hard not to notice something familiar

Performing in white with a Prince medal around his neck, The Rock immediately spoke of last year’s Oscars while riffing on “sobriety,” hypersensitivity and what he called “selective rage.”

“You never know who’s going to get triggered,” Locke said. “Anyone who says hurtful words has not been slapped in the face.”

But Locke then launched a wide range of topics to examine contemporary issues, including virtue signaling, overpriced yoga pants, the Duchess of Sussex, the Kardashians, abortion rights, the Capitol riots, and what he called America’s greatest increase: attention.

“We used to want love, now we just want likes,” Locke said.

Rock also teased how he would respond if his father transitioned to a woman (he would stand by him, Rock said), making it clear that “Selective Rage” won’t just be a Will Smith show. Rock’s material only occasionally dovetails with the 2022 Oscars, like when Rock joked about the oddities of Snoop Dogg being such a revered salesman for advertisers.

“I’m not disparaging Snoopy,” Rock said. “The last thing I need is another crazy rapper.”

But an hour into his scene, Rock wraps up the special with plenty of material about the infamous Academy Awards moment.

“You all know what happened to me, getting hit by Suge Smith. Everyone knows that,” Rock said. “It still hurts. ‘Summer Time’ ringing in my ears.”

Smith has apologized and spoken out about the incident several times since last March, while Rock has avoided all the usual platforms that celebrities often go to express their affection. He never sat down with Oprah Winfrey and turned down many media outlets who wanted exclusive in-depth interviews.

“I’m not a victim, baby,” Rock said. “You’ll never see me cry on Oprah or Gale. You’ll never see it. Never happen.”

But Rock did use his encounter with Smith to shape and enliven his second stand-up special for Netflix. Some of his best material is about their physical differences.

“We’re not the same size. This guy would take my shirt off for a movie,” Rock said. “You’ll never see me take my shirt off for a movie. If I had open-heart surgery in a movie, I’d put on a sweater.”

“He played Muhammad Ali,” Rock added. “I played Pookie in New Jack City.”

Ultimately, Rock stated that he was simply caught up in Smith’s relationship with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock tells a joke about Pinkett Smith, which prompts Smith to stride onto the stage and punch Rock. The comedian on Saturday brought up Pinkett Smith’s earlier admission to “tangle” with another man while married.

“I have nothing to do with it,” Locke said. “She hurt him more than he hurt me.”

“I love Will Smith,” Rock added. “Now I watch ‘Liberation’ just to see him being scolded.”

Locke left the crowd with one last roar before dropping the microphone and throwing his arms high in triumph. Rock said he didn’t physically retaliate at the Oscars because “I have parents.”

“You know what my parents taught me?” he said. “Don’t fight in front of white people.”

Netflix adds front and rear bookends to its star-studded live shows, and as host comedian Ronny Chieng puts it, “Every comedy legend owes Netflix one.” Bono made the opening introduction. Dana Carvey and David Spade host the after-show. Paul McCartney, Tracy Morgan, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld and Wanda Sykes, one of last year’s Oscar hosts, all added pre-recorded messages. Arsenio Hall guaranteed that Locke’s set would cause Smith to smash his TV.

For much of the past year, Rock has been touring with new material in a string of shows as part of his Ego Death tour. The shows, which have been announced ahead of the 2022 Oscars, include performances by Dave Chappelle and Kevin Hart.

On the road, Locke is often slapped on jokes and reflections. Rock first broke his public silence on the slaps three nights after last year’s Oscars in Boston. “How was your weekend?” he asked the crowd. He added that he was “still processing what happened.”

After a hefty slap in the face, Rock returned to the cultural spotlight a week before the March 12 Oscars, a slap that this year’s host Jimmy Kimmel is sure to revisit. Smith resigned his membership of the Film Academy following last year’s incident. The Academy Board of Trustees banned Smith from attending the Academy Awards and all other Academy events for ten years.

At the nominees’ annual luncheon last month, Academy of Film president Janet Young lamented the way the incident had been handled, calling the academy’s response “inadequate.” The college’s chief executive, Bill Kramer, said the college had set up a crisis communications team to prepare and respond more quickly to unexpected situations.

“Selective Rage” is Rock’s second special for Netflix, following 2018’s “Tambourine.” They were part of a two-part special that Rock signed with the streaming company in 2016 worth $40 million.

Streaming “Selective Rage” live is new to Netflix, but it’s hard not to notice some familiarity.

“You have to give it to the tech companies for inventing something that’s been around for decades,” Chieng said. “We’re doing a Saturday night comedy show … live. Genius.”

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