Good, Not His Best: Chris Rock's Live Netflix Special More Than Just Will Smith, Meghan Markle Jokes

Nick Kangadis | March 6, 2023
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Stand-up comedy isn’t dead, there just aren’t too many comics willing to “go there” anymore. Being “edgy” is part of what people want in their comedy, because if the comedy is too sanitized, it’s just not that funny. Sure, there are “clean” comedians who do rather well, but those are the exception, not the rule.

Stand-up comedy legend Chris Rock made another career statement Saturday during the first-ever live performance on the Netflix streaming platform titled, “Selective Outrage.” Netflix probably had an idea what Rock might be talking about, but in a live environment things can go from known to unscripted very quickly.

I typically don’t like to give away too much in a review, but I will say that despite this special being funnier than his previous effort, it was not his funniest entry into his catalog. That distinction, if you’re a stand-up aficionado, is probably reserved for one of three specials: “Bring the Pain” (1996), “Bigger & Blacker” (1999) and “Never Scared” (2004).

Much like a recent successful effort by fellow comedy legend Dave Chappelle, it felt as if Rock paid too much attention to those that might be offended by his comedy rather than paying them no mind and doing his set whether anyone liked it or not.

Rock spoke about many controversial things, including outrage culture, abortion, hypocritical attention seeker Meghan Markle and even decided it was finally time to tear apart disgraced actor/rapper Will Smith for infamously slapping him at last year’s Oscars.

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And while Markle and Smith seem to be getting all the attention from media, because it’s easier to write about, perhaps the most profound parts of Rock’s special were when he was basically calling out all of society for losing their minds. People are focusing so much on Rock’s comments on Smith that it’s quite difficult to find YouTube videos talking about any other portion of the special besides Markle.

I have no problem with the wokeness. I have no problem with it at all. I'm all for social justice. I'm all for marginalized people getting their rights. The thing I have a problem with is the selective outrage. You know what i'm talking about. One person does something, they get canceled. Somebody else does the exact same thing, nothing. You know what I'm talking about ... the kind of people who play Michael Jackson songs but won't play R. Kelly. Same crime, one of them just has better songs.

And while, sure, conservatives won’t agree with his stance on “wokeness,” most people can probably agree that “selective outrage” is a problem in our society.

Rock also made one very concrete point to the people that were critical of him not retaliating against Smith for slapping him.

“How come you didn't do nothing back that night?'" Rock said. "Because I got parents. You know what my parents taught me? Don't fight in front of white people.”

Of course, Rock included the racial aspect of his point, because without making most of his jokes have that component in them, he would have trouble filling an hour. And that’s not a knock against him. Race is part of his schtick. It’s what he does well. He can make people of all races laugh, even when telling a joke about them. It’s because he gives it to everyone.

But, Rock made a great point. He said that he has “parents,” plural. He had both a mother and father teaching him right from wrong, even if they weren’t right all the time. If they’re decent people, a person’s parents will never intentionally do them wrong. There’s a moral teaching in most things that are profound enough that a person carries it with them the rest of their life.

If you want a review focusing on what Rock JUSTIFIABLY said about Will Smith, or a review about his criticisms of Meghan Markle, you can read almost any other review and that’s all they’ll talk about.

This review is about the comedy itself and the profundity of what Rock was trying to say, perhaps nothing more accurate than what he said early on in the special.

“I'm going to try to do a show tonight without offending nobody,” Rock said. “I'm going to try my best, because you never know who might get triggered. People always say words hurt ... anybody who says words hurt has never been punched in the face.”

And he’s absolutely right.

Overall rating: 3.5/5. Good, but not his best.


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