In an article about Chris Rock, a marquis advertising one of his stand up shows.

Chris Rock Bounces Back with “Selective Outrage”

Could the comedian possibly redeem himself after the infamous Academy Awards situation?

Chris Rock has finally responded to Will Smith’s deliberate slap on the Academy Awards stage a year later in a mighty stand-up special live-streamed on Netflix. The comedian boasted that he “took that hit like Pacquiao.”

On March 4, 2023, 58-year-old comedian Chris Rock made his much-anticipated return to stand-up comedy with a performance that was likened to a Manny Pacquaio prize fight. Netflix live-streamed the show, titled “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage,” from Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre. This show was a much-needed response to the infamous incident at the Academy Awards, and it did not disappoint. Rock appeared on stage dressed entirely in white and wearing a Prince pendant around his neck. He made references to the Oscars from the previous year while poking fun at “wokeness,” “hypersensitivity” and what he termed “selective outrage.”

During his performance, Rock also shared his thoughts on what happened on the night he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair. He placed much of the blame on her for what occurred at the Academy Awards, a statement that is sure to spark controversy. Rock’s special had a tone of comedic payback. He professed his love for Will Smith, who he has been a fan of for many years. In one part of the show, he paused before mentioning Smith’s latest film, “Emancipation,” in which Smith portrays a slave. He quipped that he watched the movie “just to see him get whooped.”

In his recent stand-up performance, Chris Rock took a different approach than he had during his tour, where he made only a few jokes about the Oscars, all of which were widely covered by the media. It seems that Rock wanted to maintain an element of surprise in this special, which was aired live. In his earlier performances, Rock always sought to personalize his humor to make each special unique. For instance, he explored his divorce in “Tamborine,” a personal masterpiece that was filmed at the BAM Harvey Theater. The special filmed in Baltimore, however, had a more traditional vibe and a larger audience.

The theme of Rock’s performance was “selective outrage,” or people selectively “canceling” public figures for specific offenses while ignoring similar offenses committed by others. He cited the example of people listening to Michael Jackson’s music but not R. Kelly’s, even though both men faced allegations of sexual abuse. Rock’s jokes about this phenomenon were thought-provoking and amusing, and they provided a great deal of comedic material for the performance.

During his performance, Chris Rock addressed a range of topics, including the hypocrisy of “woke” businesses, the Capitol riot, Meghan Markle, the Kardashians, abortion and Elon Musk. However, the main event of the night was his reflection on the Will Smith incident. Rock was adamant that he had nothing to do with Jada Pinkett Smith’s relationship with her son’s friend, which had become public knowledge. He criticized the couple for making their affair public and pointed out that everyone has been cheated on, but none of them had ever had the cheater interview them on national television.

Furthermore, Rock argued that Smith was more affected by the revelation of Pinkett Smith’s relationship than he was by the slap because it led to people calling him derogatory names. According to Rock, Smith chose to hit him after failing to reach him when he attempted to offer his condolences. Rock also made fun of the absurdity of ads featuring interracial couples and poked fun at Snoop Dogg’s recent commercial appearances, although he made it clear that he still admires the rapper.

Chris Rock finally addressed the reason why he didn’t react immediately to Will Smith’s smack and ended his show by criticizing Smith’s upbringing. “I have parents. I was brought up. What my parents taught me, do you know?” Rock asked the audience. He also advised, “Don’t fight in front of white people,” before bowing to the audience.

During the show, Rock emphasized that he had no personal issues with Will Smith and related a story about Jada Pinkett Smith. He mentioned that she suggested he resign from his duty as the Oscar presenter after Will Smith’s performance in “Concussion” was not recognized. Rock clarified that he did not target Jada and only made some jokes about her in response to her initial comments. He even praised Will Smith, whom he has always admired. Overall, Chris Rock’s stand-up performance was an excellent response to the controversial Academy Awards ceremony, which showcased his comedic brilliance.

Joshua Shweiki, University of Maryland, College Park

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Joshua Shweiki

University of Maryland, College Park
Government and Politics

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