It’s been almost a year since Chris Rock was slapped at the Oscars by Will Smith. During Netflix’s first-ever global live streaming event, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, it felt at times as if Rock was making viewers wait another year to hear his side of the story. But when he finally spoke candidly about the slap, he didn’t hold back.
Before Rock’s historic live streaming comedy special began, Netflix presented a live comedy event, The Show Before The Show, hosted by Ronny Chieng at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles featuring comedians and personalities, including Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s J.B. Smoove, basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabar, and Insecure‘s Yvonne Orji, as well as Arsenio Hall, David Spade, Dana Carvey, and Leslie Jones. The vibe felt like the exact opposite of a roast of Rock, with many of the guests gassing Rock up before he took the stage. ““You are the shit. You are an icon. You are the goat. You are everything,” said Jones.
Moments later—across the country in Baltimore, Maryland—Rock, decked out in all white and rocking a necklace with Prince’s logo, took the stage and received a rapturous standing ovation. After basking in the glow, Rock screamed, “Nigga, sit down” at an apparently overly enthusiastic audience member, proving that what we were watching was, in fact, live.
“Anybody who says that words hurt has never been punched in the face,” said Rock at the top of his set. “Words hurt when you write them on a brick.” While he began with that allusion to Will Smith, it would be over an hour before Rock would really dive into Smith material, instead choosing to tell wide variety of jokes on the subject of “selective outrage” from the political to the personal.
“I have no problem with wokeness. I have no problem with it at all. I’m all for social justice. I’m all for marginalized people getting their rights,” he said. “The thing I have a problem with is the selective outrage.” He then gave a definition of the phenomenon: ”One person does something they get canceled. Somebody else does the exact same thing… nothing. The kind of people that play Michael Jackson songs but won’t play R. Kelly. Same crime, but one of them just got better songs.”
In front of a background that resembled a cracked mirror (perhaps an allusion to the old adage “those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”), Rock riffed on selective outrage for an hour, telling funny jokes about Lulu Lemon, the January 6th capitol rioters, and Meghan Markle. His second and third references to the Oscar slap occurred in two separate bits about rappers Snoop Dogg and Jay Z. “The last thing I need is another mad rapper,” Rock said as the punch lines to both jokes, foreshadowing what was to come with Smith. But rather than dive straight into the juiciest material of the night, the comedian saved the best for last, and instead regaled the audience with personal stories. Rock joked about how he had a hand in getting his daughter, Lola Rock, getting expelled from her private high school. “I need you to kick her black ass out of this school,” he said. “I need my daughter to learn her lesson before so she doesn’t end up on only fans.” He also opened up about his recent exploits as a single man post-divorce from his wife of 18 years, Malaak Compton-Rock. “Ladies I will lick your ass and never call you again,” he said. “But if we hold hands, you my girl.”
Eventually, Rock spoke candidly about all things Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. For anyone who’s been keeping abreast of Rock’s comedy, it was clear that he’s been workshopping material for this show, with many of the jokes that he’s reportedly told about the Slap making their way into his set tonight. “Did it hurt? It still hurts. I got ‘Summertim’ ringing in my ears,” he said, retelling a joke he recently tried out at The Comedy Cellar. “I know you can’t tell on camera, but Will Smith is significantly bigger than me,” said Rock, another joke he tested at The Cellar. “Will Smith does movies with his shirt off. You never seen me do a move with my shirt off. If I’m in a movie getting open heart surgery I have on a sweater.”