The Slap was a year ago. In this corner, actor Will Smith. Standing center stage, comedian Chris Rock. Was it entirely possible an underlying current of tension wafted in the air between Rock and Smith? The audience couldn’t feel it. There was nothing obvious brewing behind the scenes that would expose friction between Smith and his wife, Baltimore’s own, actress Jada Pinkett Smith.
Anything resembling professionalism on Will Smith’s part went out the window. As for Rock, he maintained his cool composure. Fast-forward about a year later. Rock hadn’t mentioned the incident much, until now. He did it live at Baltimore’s, grand old and beautifully restored Hippodrome theater. A novel approach, he delivered what everybody’s been waiting to see. The new Netflix Chris Rock comedy special is Selective Outrage. As he said on numerous occasions, he was waiting for a big payday to speak out publicly about The Slap. Rock had time to let his anger and resentment boil while the money offers grew larger. It finally bubbled over into the public eye, and it was time to cash in his chips.
I never was a Will Smith fan. That corny rapper from the hood, Fresh Prince of Bel Air tripe was just as arrogant, silly and phony as his dumb rapper persona. As for his acting ability, he’s no Denzel Washington. What about Will Smith’s life of privilege? He has a pampered lifestyle. It only serves up more of his self-righteous indignation. As for Rock, he was carrying around this pent-up anger for almost a year now, and suddenly opened up. The more you vent, the angrier you get. His set seemed stifled, stilted and often trifling. There were some good moments, but his repeating every line twice in mock defiance fell flat. He let his emotions run amok and by the end of the set, so flustered, he messed up his big finale by saying the wrong name to a movie in the punchline.
His outrage got the best of him. After all, these guys are merely performing and without an audience who cares what they do, they’re nothing. Yet, if choosing sides, I tend to always stick with the underdog. Chris Rock certainly played the part well. As for Will Smith, there’s no empathy; most people see through the artifice. I’ll take Dave Chappelle over Chris Rock, joke for joke. Chappelle is funnier than most but like Rock, that tired cliché fucker, motherfucker, shit bitch, bitch ass is passé. The ghetto, bad motherfucker rhetoric coming from the mouths of millionaires is threadbare.
There were some highlights in Rock's favor for Selective Outrage. The Meghan Markle routine about not knowing the royal family are racists was pure gold. Quipping that she won the light skin lottery, and the Royal family are the original Sugar Hill Gang of racism. They perfected colonialism and slavery. Is it any wonder why there are members of Congress refusing to sign off on denouncing white supremacy for the simple fact that they’re also white supremacists and nationalists? It will bring tears to the eye. As hysterical as hypocrites decrying truth to power. It just isn’t that funny. It’s demeaning to comedians everywhere. You can’t put down the establishment, or poke fun at the system, if you take their money and run with it.
The once respectable low art of comedy is now tainted with a shitload of negative energy and bad publicity. A novelty sight gag blood stain on cultural society that will never disappear. It’s like The Gong Show of cancel culture, only worse. It’s about as funny as Andrew Dice Clay in a series of video vignettes, walking around NYC asking strangers if they want to take his picture because he’s “famous.” It was amusing for a minute, but surreal forever. Everyone’s a comedian and/or critic. It’s getting too personal. Johnny Rotten’s funny most of the time, but no comedian. He’s more a court jester, and said it better, “Anger is an energy.” It’s outrageous and negative, but it just ain’t that funny.