Chris “Rocks” Live Comedy Kinda


Image Courtesy of Netflix

Andre Chabra, Arts and Entertainment Editor

On March 4, 2023, Chris Rock released Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, his second Netflix Comedy Special. As Netflix’s first-ever Live Event, and also the first time Chris Rock has publicly joked about Will Smith slapping him, Selective Outrage Had to deliver on a lot of hype.. 

In the roughly one-hour special, Rock talks about everything from wokeness, to cancel culture, to Meghan Markle, his family, and even yoga pants. Not all of his jokes landed, but when they did, they were hysterical.

Live from Baltimore, Rock started off his special by introducing the concept of Selective Outrage. He defines it as people getting mad and trying to cancel someone for something they did, but then not caring when someone else does the exact same thing. He attempted to use this phrase to highlight the hypocrisy and double standards in today’s society. Unfortunately, Chris seemed to forget about that message pretty quickly. He only brought up the concept of selective outrage two more times during the entire special. 

In any sort of performance, there’s always some sort of narrative to follow, or beats to hit. This usually involves a climax in the performance and then a resolution at the end. A really nice resolution would have been if Rock returned to selective outrage for his last joke to bring things full circle. However, he instead ended with a joke about Will Smith, which, while very funny, did not feel like a proper conclusion to his special. Although a comedy special is not a usual movie that follows a traditional story, it should still have its own narrative that weaves the monologuing, jokes, and personal anecdotes into one cohesive piece of entertainment.

So how were Rock’s actual jokes? They clearly fell into 3 categories: no laugh, chuckle, or big laugh. There were a lot more jokes where I either chuckled or didn’t laugh than there were jokes that got a real big laugh out of me. For example, there was an entire segment where he talks about how he helped his daughter get kicked out of school so she could be disciplined and learn a lesson. It felt more like a funny story for the family dinner table than a comedy stage. It was the kind of joke that only friends and family with the proper context and personal connections to Rock would find funny. To myself and other viewers, it only amounted to a few chuckles or no laughter at all. I just didn’t really care, and why should I? It’s not my kid.

That’s enough critiquing of the special. Time to get into the good stuff. When Chris Rock told a joke that did give me a big laugh, it really landed. There were some moments where I was absolutely howling with laughter at some of the stuff he said. The best parts of his show were his jokes about Meghan Markle and the royal family and, of course, his jabs at Will Smith over the slapping incident at last year’s Oscars. To avoid spoiling the jokes, I won’t get into too much detail, but I will say that despite my previous criticisms, I still think people should watch Selective Outrage just for those two segments alone because they really are that funny.

While not quite a smash hit, Rock did try his best. Filled with vigor for the entire performance, he always gives it his all, even when sometimes the jokes just aren’t that funny.