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The world waited, and waited, for comedian Chris Rock to address “The Slap” following last year’s Oscars ceremony.
Rock, attacked on-stage by Will Smith for telling a barbed joke at the actor’s wife’s expense, could have made millions from an Oprah Winfrey-style interview. Instead, Rock mentioned it briefly on his comedy tour, waiting for the right time to respond.
The time is now, and press reports indicate that’s exactly what he’ll do during his Netflix live comedy special, “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage,” debuting March 4.
And yet Rock’s fuller thoughts on “The Slap” are less important than what else he might say about the times we live in today.
Will Rock take the baton from Dave Chappelle, Joe Rogan, Bill Maher and Bill Burr and smite woke overreach?
The special’s title suggests that’s on the table. Why are we outraged, still, over Roseanne Barr’s awful, racially charged Tweet yet look the other way when “Flash” star Ezra Miller racks up a ghastly rap sheet?
Comedy specials are the perfect venue for personal statements on the world around us. They’re less about the latest headlines and more concerned with the culture du jour.
The “Saturday Night Live” alum, whose fame exploded after leaving the show, knows better than most how comedy crumbled under the woke revolution.
Rock came to fame in the 1990s, a time when comedians had carte blanche to do or say what they pleased. The ‘80s era Moral Majority had faded by then, and political correctness was still a cultural curiosity with little punitive might.
The 1994 Film “PCU” torched the latter, but the timing wasn’t ripe for the critique. The film earned just $4 million at U.S. theaters.
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Rock hasn’t avoided what a certain Twitter guru calls the woke mind virus. He once agreed with Jerry Seinfeld about performing in front of college audiences. Too sensitive, too easily offended, he said of the modern university student.
He also defended fellow comic Jimmy Fallon who got torched for a 20-year-old imitation of Rock complete with blackface makeup.
Yet Rock’s defense came months after the kerfuffle, and Rock let Fallon undergo a public struggle session rather than rush to his side when it mattered.
In ways, Rock is too much like his current comedy peers, wary of attacking the status quo or sticking his neck out too far. He stood down, for the most part, during the Obama presidency. Comedians struggled with how to approach the first black president. Some understandably feared being called a “racist” for poking fun at President Obama.
Others worried they might derail Obama’s progressive agenda with well-orchestrated punch lines. Jay Pharoah, who played the president on “Saturday Night Live,” later told the press the show “gave up” on Obama material.
As a black comedian, Rock could have paved the way for his peers, showing how to speak truth to power while acknowledging Obama’s historical significance.
Instead, he laid low, focusing on his inconsistent film career.
Rock understands the cultural moment his special arrives in. Classic literature is getting “updated” for modern readers. Social media users find themselves silenced by Big Tech by sharing inconvenient appearances.
Netflix Special Premiers Saturday, March 4th
The “Head of State” star must have winced watching how Cancel Culture nearly sank Chappelle’s career, despite many considering the “Chappelle Show” star as a comedy GOAT.
Surely a comedian of Rock’s stature, and talent, knows how to skewer this reality while avoiding partisan labels.
Then again, Rock might play it safe, throwing out a few Trump jokes to appease Hollywood and the press. No matter how rich, famous or influential a comedian might be, it’s always best for their careers to kiss up to the right people.
A few jabs at Tucker Carlson, not Karine Jean-Pierre or AOC, will do the trick.
Rock stood tall after the Chappelle attack, uniting the country with his professional pose following a humiliating incident.
Let’s see what he has in mind for the encore.