Almost a year after the infamous Oscars slap, comedian Chris Rock finally addressed what happened in his live Netflix special, “Selective Outrage.”
After an hour of new material that only alluded to Slapgate — “They say, ‘words hurt.’ Anybody who says ‘words hurt’ has never been punched in the face,” he joked earlier in the night — the comedian finally broke down the aftermath of the on-stage smack from Oscar-winner Will Smith.
“You all know what happened to me, getting smacked by Suge Smith. Everybody knows. Everybody fucking knows,” Rock said. “I got smacked like a year ago… and people are like, ‘Did it hurt?’ It still hurts. I got ‘Summertime’ ringing in my ears.”
Despite the pressure from the press to open up about what happened, Rock is adamant that he won’t be dissecting it on a talk show.
“I’m not a victim baby. You will never see me on Oprah or Gayle [King] crying. You will never see it… It’s never going to happen. Fuck that shit, I took that shit like [Manny] Pacquiao.”
As for whether the slap hurt, Rock was direct. “Will Smith is significantly bigger than me. We are not the same size. Will Smith does movies with his shirt off. You’ve never seen me do a movie with my shirt off. Will Smith played Muhammad Ali in a movie. You think I auditioned for that part? I played Pookie in ‘New Jack City.’ I played a piece of corn in ‘Pootie Tang.’”
The comedian went on to reveal that the title of his show was also inspired by the slap, “Will Smith practices ‘Selective Outrage,'” Rock explained. “Everybody who really knows, knows I had nothing to do with that shit. I didn’t have any ‘entanglements.'”
For viewers that might not have understood, Rock was referring to the infamous “Red Table Talk” episode featuring Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, where she admitted to having an affair with another man.
“His wife was fucking her son’s friend. I normally would not talk about this shit… I have no idea why two talented people would do something that fucking lowdown. We’ve all been cheated on. Everybody in here been cheated on. None of us has ever been interviewed by the person that cheated on us… on television. She hurt him way more than he hurt me.”
Rock revealed he tried to get in contact with Smith after the episode aired.
“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.” The comedian then went on to list off all the people in Hollywood who called Smith a “bitch” after the “Red Table Talk,” including “The View,” “The Talk,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Drink Champs” and so on. “Everybody called him a bitch and who does he hit? Me.”
Rock also insinuated that the bad blood between him and the Smith family related to the 2016 Oscars, which he hosted. That year, Pinkett Smith called for a boycott due to the lack of diversity in nominations. “She fucking said [I] should quit because Will didn’t get nominated for ‘Concussion.’ What the fuck? So then I do some jokes about it. Who gives a fuck? That’s how it is. She started it. I finished it. Nobody’s picking on this bitch. She started this shit. Nobody was picking on her.”
He then switched tone, sharing his admiration for the actor. “I love Will Smith, my whole life… he makes great movies. I have rooted for Will Smith my whole life. I root for this motherfucker.” Rock said. “And now I watch ‘Emancipation’ just to see him get whooped.”
Why didn’t he do anything after the slap? “Because I got parents,” Rock explained. “I was raised. And you know what my parents taught me? Don’t fight in front of white people.”
Dressed all in white wearing a Prince necklace, Rock kicked off his set talking about woke culture. The comedian said he was for “wokeness” and supporting marginalized communities, but he’s tired of “selective outrage.”
“One person does something, they get canceled. Somebody else does the exact same thing, nothing,” he said. “You know what I’m talking about… the kind of people who play Michael Jackson songs but won’t play R. Kelly. Same crime, one of them just got better songs.”
The comedian touched on a range of topics, including attention “the biggest addiction in America,” abortion, Beyoncé, the Kardashians and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.
Rock questioned Markle’s shock during her “Oprah” interview about racism in the royal family. “You didn’t google these motherfuckers?” he asked. “What the fuck is she talking about she didn’t know? It’s the royal family. They’re the original racists. They invented colonialism. They are the OG’s of racism. They’re the Sugarhill Gang of racism.”
Broadcasting live from Baltimore at the Hippodrome Theatre, Rock’s presentation was bolstered by a live pre-show hosted by comedian Ronny Chieng, who emceed from the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. The lineup included comics like Leslie Jones, J.B. Smoove, David Spade and Dana Carvey, who used the time to share touching stories about working with Rock… and to dunk on Smith.
“I bet Will Smith slaps the fuck out of a TV tonight,” Arsenio Hall said. (Hall, Spade, Carvey and Smoove returned after Rock’s set for a post-show discussion, which also featured Yvonne Orji and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.)
The Netflix livestream is Rock’s biggest public performance since last year’s Oscars scandal in which Smith, who would go on to win best actor, slapped the comedian in the middle of the broadcast after he joked about Pinkett Smith’s bald head, which she shaves due to alopecia (a subject Pinkett Smith also addressed at length on “Red Table Talk“). After yelling at Rock from the audience, Smith took to the stage and smacked him.
Days after the incident, Rock appeared at a previously planned stand-up stop in Boston. However, Rock did not fully address the slap then, saying: “I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point I’ll talk about that shit. And it will be serious and funny.” After that, Rock spent several months on the road workshopping his new show, which culminated in this live broadcast. It also marks the first comedy special to be broadcast in such a manner by the streamer.
Smith publicly atoned for his actions against Rock the day after the Oscars (via a post on Instagram), writing, “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.” Months later, Smith posted an additional apology, this time on camera, and revealed that he had reached out to Rock. “The message that came back is he’s not ready to talk, and when he is, he will reach out,” Smith said.