I became a fan of comedian Chris Rock after realizing that the hit comedy TV series “Everybody Hates Chris” is littered with breadcrumbs from his humble beginning in a Black neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Although many say his best years are now behind him, his legacy as a stand-up is already bulletproof. And while I somewhat agree with them, I will never pass up the opportunity of witnessing his ingenuity live anywhere, even on TV.
Thanks to Netflix, I didn’t have to sit in one of the comfy sofas at the Hippodrome Theatre, Baltimore, to see his latest live special, themed “Selective Outrage.” In the buildup to “Selective Outrage,” just like many spectators, I wondered where the magic man would put his mouth.
The infamous 2021 Oscars highlight– whether he would finally address the smack he got from Will Smith on live TV for cracking a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith — occupied the center of my thoughts, however. Well, guess what– I was spot on with the anticipation. Rock didn’t only address the “slap,” he also ripped into America.
In an era where comedy has become frustratingly pigeonholed because of cancel culture, he opened the show with an apology beforehand to the people that may get offended by his jokes. But his follow-up statement, “…anybody that says words hurt has never punched in the face,” set the tone for the night. It assured me I was in for a spectacle, and with a smile as wide as the Joker’s grin, I immediately burst my popcorn open, eyes fixated on my laptop screen, earphones tightly plugged, ready for Rock to take me away.
Next, he delved deeper into cancel culture, finally aligning with the theme of the night “Selective Outrage:” How certain people react differently to the same issues when it involves different people. The late Michael Jackson’s and R. Kelly’s music were practical examples: How people still play Jackson’s songs, but Kelly’s has been canceled.
Before he died in 2009, Jackson was the subject of various charges of sexual abuse and molestation of a minor. It’s the same reason R. Kelly is in jail, although he’s been found guilty on several charges while Jackson didn’t. That didn’t crack me up too much, though. However, I could feel Rock brimming with energy, rawness, and a certain dauntlessness that showed he was up for the night.
“Selective Outrage” touched on the subjects of woke culture and capitalism, with the yoga pants brand Lululemon getting name dropped. He seamlessly transitioned from one satire to the other, joking about Elon Musk’s accomplishments at Tesla and how it drives his sex appeal and “weird” albescent appearance. The piece on social media usage was refreshing despite the topic being over-flogged. His short piece on the Capitol Riot was hilarious. Having followed the incident closely as Trump was eventually evicted from the White House, it was easy for me to relate to it.
“Selective Outrage” also took a bold swipe at Meghan Markle’s admissions about the Royal Family of Britain, referring to it as some “in-law sh*t” and the Crown as the “Sugarhill Gang of racism.” The special was now starting to feel special, and the feeling that something grand was building up on the night was palpable. I was stoked for whatever was coming. After the Royal Family squabble, the Kardashians and their affinity for Black men took centerstage. It was the first time I laughed until I felt tears build up inside my eyes. Come to think of it, the Kardashians have had a lot of Black in-laws, haven’t they?
It then got familial, with Rock spending a long time talking about his relationship with his daughter and the troubles that come with parenting, especially when you’re Black and stinkingly rich. His use of rhetoric was remarkable as it let him discuss more sensitive topics, including the abolition of abortion in some states and transgender people. Nonetheless, “Selective Outrage” caught fire in the last 10 minutes; finally, Rock was going to return Will Smith’s slap, though with words, and he held nothing back.
Rock tore into the subject, starting with Smith’s physical strength and size advantage before moving on to the scrutiny that Smith and his wife, Jada, faced due to their openness about their marital troubles. Call me old fashioned, but I always felt Will and Jada washed their dirty linens outside when they recorded that interview.
Yeah. Rock implied that this scrutiny was the real cause of Smith’s outburst at the Academy Awards, not any joke he had made. Rock raged as he spoke, even making a mistake during the set, saying that concussion was the subject of Smith’s 2022 movie “Emancipation,” which only added to the vulnerability of the moment.
“She hurt him way more than he hurt me,” he said of Pinkett Smith, who admitted to a sexual relationship with her friend’s son, musician August Alsina. “Everybody in the world called him a b*tch … Everybody. And who’s he hit? Me … That is some b*tch-a** sh*t.” Responding to the rhetorical question of why he didn’t fight back, he roared, “I got parents, and you know what my parents taught me: Don’t fight in front of White people,” before dropping his mic to the floor—his signature exit move from the stage for 30 years now. Wow!
Overall, “Selective Outrage” is far from Chris Rock’s magnum opus, but it was hugely refreshing, entertaining and therapeutic. Laughter will always be therapeutic. Hopefully, this didn’t come at the expense of people’s beliefs and personal feelings. Otherwise, I hope his opening apology suffices. It’s a delightful watch for anyone looking for satirical hot takes on modern America.