Why would Netflix make such a fuss about a new Chris Rock comedy special?
Rock may have underwhelmed during his “Saturday Night Live” tenure, but he emerged as one of stand-up comedy’s essential voices.
Satirical. Smart. Scathing. (Adult language ahead)
Rock brought it all, and then some, to stages across the country following his “SNL” exit. And that was before “The Slap” heard ’round the world.
When Will Smith attacked Rock during last year’s Oscar ceremony we collectively waited, and waited, for Rock’s response. He finally gave it over the weekend, nearly a year after the assault in question.
It’s clear his rage over the attack hasn’t subsided.
When was the last time Rock stepped on his own gag as he does during the Smith roast at the end of “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage?”
The comedian made us wait to the end of the mostly solid hour, broadcast live on Netflix, to share his thoughts on “The Slap.”
And he didn’t hold back. Rock eviscerated Smith, his marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith and their public declarations of infidelity. It wasn’t his funniest material, but it proved cathartic for a performer who took the high road during, and after, Smith’s disgraceful assault.
That only enhanced his already sky-high standing in pop culture. Still, the comedian’s delayed anger often swamped the laughter.
Otherwise, Rock delivered on the title’s promise, mocking the way woke revolutionaries pick and choose their targets. Michael Jackson is still acceptable on radio stations nationwide, but R. Kelly’s music had to go.
His best bit? He said once upon a time you needed talent to get a specific gig. Now, if you see a talented person you can bring him or her down by sharing their most offensive Tweets.
A smart, and necessary, observation.
He didn’t expand on the commentary, though. And when he later targeted Meghan Markle for her victimhood status he focused squarely on race, not her obscene privilege.
Rock avoided beltway politics entirely. He claimed all Republicans lie while Democrats leave out part of the truth. It was his way of pledging allegiance to the latter without doing legwork on the subject.
He name-checked President Joe Biden once and ignored his predecessor. He did wade directly into the abortion debate, taking a cue from Bill Burr by bringing nuance to the matter.
The “SNL” alum is decidedly pro-choice, but he admits that means dead babies. And he said it, over and again, in a way meant to register with viewers.
His best story spun from life as a father. He recalled how his teen daughter behaved badly during a field trip and faced expulsion along with a gaggle of white students. Their parents lawyered up, and fast, and he reluctantly did the same. Except he didn’t feel that served his daughter’s maturation like the punishment might.
Rock peppered the story with laughs along with insights most of his peers couldn’t summon. The bit touched on race, wealth, privilege and parenthood, all delivered with wit and cunning.
How many comics could do all that as well as Rock? Very few.
Rock is 58 even if he appears a decade younger. He’s older, wiser and yet mostly as sharp and insightful as ever. His raspy tone remains, and he stalks the stage with confidence.
He still has his blind spots, like his inability to drill down into woke overreach, for example. And why not touch on the crushing censorship hitting western culture, from his fellow comics to inconvenient headlines buried by Big Tech?
Talk about misplaced priorities.
We don’t need Rock to weigh in on dating after divorce, the differences between men and women and other obvious topics. That material is covered every night at the local comedy club. And Rock clearly embraced the anger he experienced from divorce and dating which gave some gags an unpleasant edge bordering on misogyny.
We look to Rock for more than Men Are From Mars-style banter. At his best, he shares truths too many won’t go near.
On that scale, Rock’s “Selective Outrage” deserves an incomplete grade.
The less said about the Netflix after-show, the better. Mixing legit comic giants like Dana Carvey with woke scolds like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar proved a terrible fit, and when the conversation steered into race both Carvey and co-host David Spade looked terrified to say a syllable.