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It was the moment many had been waiting nearly a year for — a chance to hear Chris Rock finally address Will Smith’s Oscar night smackdown of the comedian on the Academy stage with a slap that will live in infamy.
Perhaps because Rock knew much of the audience who tuned in were waiting for just that moment, he saved it toward near the end of his set Saturday night during Netflix’s much-hyped first live special, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage!
But when the moment finally came, Rock didn’t hold back — taking down Smith, dragging his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and targeting the couple’s marital issues (in which Pinkett Smith acknowledged a relationship with singer August Alsina as the couple addressed their marriage on an episode of Red Table Talk).
“Will Smith practices selective outrage,” Rock told the audience. “Outrage because everybody knows what the fuck happened. Everybody that really knows, knows that I have nothing to do with that shit. I didn’t have any entanglements.”
He continued, “His wife was fucking her son’s friend. OK, now, I normally would not talk about this shit, but for some reason, these n—-s put that shit on the internet. I have no idea why two talented people would do something that lowdown. What the fuck? And we’ve all been cheated on. Everybody in here has been cheated on. None of us have ever been interviewed by the person that cheated on us on television.”
“She hurt him way more than he hurt me. Everybody in the world called him a bitch. I tried to call the motherfucker, I tried to call that man and give him my condolences, he didn’t pick up for me.” He continued by listing all the people who called Smith a “bitch” after that interview on Red Table Talk, including Charlamagne Tha God and The View. “Everybody called him a bitch, and who did he hit? Me — a n—a he knows he could beat. That is some bitch-ass shit.”
While this is not the first time Rock addressed Smith’s slap — much of Saturday’s material was present in his shows as he toured the country over the past year — they were the first comments before a wide audience as Rock headlined Netflix’s first foray into live programming, a global event that featured a pre-show and post-show with guests that included Arsenio Hall, Amy Schumer, J.B. Smoove, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dana Carvey and others.
“I’m gonna try to do a show tonight without offending nobody,” Rock said, kicking off his stand-up special from Baltimore. “I’m gonna try my best because you never know who’s going to get triggered.”
He added he didn’t mind “wokeness” but isn’t a fan of the “selective outrage,” the kind of people who will listen to Michael Jackson but not R. Kelly: “same crime — one of them just got better songs.”
Among the topics Rock covered included the Capitol riots: “White men trying to overthrow the government that they run?” Rock said. “They’re like, ‘Damn, we gotta get them out of office.’ Who? Us?!”
Later, he touched on the idea that white men felt they were being edged out of power, and joked whether commercials featuring interracial couples were partly responsible for their ire.
“There’s no Black couples either,” he said. “Every commercial has a mixed-race couple,” adding that he saw a commercial the other day where a Japanese woman was married to a caterpillar.
“By the way, speaking of commercials, when did Snoop Dogg become Morgan Freeman?” Rock joked. “I saw a commercial the other day where Snoop was selling reverse mortgages.” But he made it a purpose to note that he loves Snoop Dogg. “I’m not dissing Snoop. The last thing I need is another mad rapper,” he added, to cheers from the crowd.
But of course, the rapper who was the main target of the night was Smith, though a good deal of his ire was directed toward Pinkett Smith. Rock recalled when Pinkett Smith had called for Blacks to boycott the Oscars amid the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in 2016; Rock went on to host that year’s show.
“She started this shit. She said that me, a fucking grown-ass man, should quit his job because ‘My husband didn’t get nominated for Concussion,‘ and then this n—-a gives me a fucking concussion.”
Toward the end of the special, Rock changed his tone a bit, saying, “I loved Will Smith. My whole life, I loved Will Smith. I saw him open up for Run-D.M.C. … He makes great movies. I have rooted for Will Smith my whole life,” Rock said. “And now I watch Emancipation just to see him get whooped.”
Rock used the last minute of Selective Outrage to answer the question he’s gotten a lot since The Slap: Why didn’t you do anything back? “‘Cause I got parents,” Rock said. “‘Cause I was raised.’ And you know what my parents taught me? Don’t fight in front of white people.”
The pre-show featured appearances from fellow comics and Rock’s friends, including Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld. The Daily Show’s Ronny Chieng hosted the special, with Hall, Deon Cole and Leslie Jones also appearing.
Chieng kicked off the night live at Los Angeles’ Comedy Store.
“I cannot emphasize how live things are today,” the Daily Show correspondent said. “We are live from two different locations simultaneously, Los Angeles and Baltimore. Why? For absolutely no reason. This is extremely expensive and difficult and irritating.”
The comedian also poked fun at how they’re doing a live comedy show on a Saturday night, a concept that has existed for decades — i.e., Saturday Night Live.
Chieng then introduced Hall, who shared how Rock got him back into stand-up. Toward the end of his brief set at the Comedy Store, Hall said that he hopes everyone enjoys the night “because I know somewhere Will Smith will not.”
“Trust me. We won’t know this, but I bet you Will Smith slaps the fuck out of a TV tonight,” he joked. “He gon’ knock that motherfucker off the wall.”
Matthew McConaughey, Ali Wong, Woody Harrelson, Paul McCartney, Rosie Perez, Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Hart, Sarah Silverman, Ice-T, Adam Sandler and many others wished Rock luck ahead of his live event.
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