Saturday gifted us all a deeply weird night of television. Poor Chris Pine and his beautiful pink suit were slimed at the Kids’ Choice Awards. Travis Kelce fronted Saturday Night Live!, and somehow did about twice as well as last week’s host, five-timer Woody Harrelson. Meanwhile, Netflix had its subscribers trapped in a virtual waiting room (!)—waiting to see its first live comedy special, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage.
The experience of trying to watch Selective Outrage was bizarre in and of itself. Netflix treated Rock’s special as if it was a pseudo-comedy Super Bowl, bookending the event with a preshow and an aftershow. The Ronny Chieng-hosted preamble had a New Year’s Rockin’ Eve-esque timer counting down the minutes until Rock stepped on stage. The afterparty featured, inexplicably, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar breaking down the special, saying that if he was on last year’s Oscars stage instead of Chris Rock, Will Smith wouldn’t have dared slap him. As for Selective Outrage itself? In the end, it’s Chris Rock—one of the greatest comedians of all time, as a Netflix-compiled series of celebrity video tributes (including Matthew McConaughey?!) reminded us—so the special was a delight.
Of course, Rock and Netflix surely knew why you would clear your Saturday night for the hullabaloo: the comedian’s first extensive bit about the 2022 Academy Awards, when Smith slapped him for making a joke about his wife, Jada. “I bet you Will Smith slaps the fuck out of a TV tonight!” cracked Arsenio Hall during the preshow.
Even though you could certainly argue that Meghan Markle received more barbs in Selective Outrage than Will and Jada combined, Rock certainly delivered. For context, on Rock’s recent Ego Death tour, he would joke about the slap, but never for more than a minute or two. On Saturday night, he devoted the end of his set to the incident. Early on, he looped Smith into the special’s criticism of selective outrage—Rock’s term for being choosy and inconsistent with who and what you point fingers at. “Will Smith practices selective outrage,” Rock said. “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.”
Rock took aim at Pinkett-Smith and her talk show, Red Table Talk, early on, saying, “His wife was fucking her son’s friend… 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,” Rock added. “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.” Meanwhile, Rock took the high road a little bit more when addressing Smith specifically. “I loved Will Smith,” he said. “My whole life, I loved Will Smith… He makes great movies. I have rooted for Will Smith my whole life. And now I watch Emancipation just to see him get whooped.”
Rock closed Selective Outrage by answering why he didn’t retaliate to the slap. “‘Cause I got parents,” he said. “‘Cause I was raised. And you know what my parents taught me? Don’t fight in front of white people.”
Then, Rock dropped the mic, and we picked up with Kareem, David Spade, and Dana Carvey in the aftershow, all seemingly confused about what they were there to do. Like I said! Weird night.