On Saturday, Chris Rock’s much-hyped stand-up special aired live on Netflix to a significant amount of backlash. In the show, which is now available to watch on the platform in an edited form, he held forth on abortion, gender dynamics, his kids, Meghan Markle, and, of course, being slapped onstage during last year’s Oscars ceremony.
The show has drawn criticism for being laced with misogynoir, between Rock’s accusation that Markle was “complaining” about becoming a royal and his joke that the royal family’s concern about the skin color of her child was not racist but just interracial-relationship drama. “Some of that shit she went through was not racism — it was just some in-law shit,” he said, arguing that “even Black people wanna know how brown the baby’s gonna be. ” He did, however, acknowledge that the Windsors are the “OGs of racism.”
Others took issue with Rock’s flip jokes about abortion, which he repeatedly likened to murdering children. “I believe women should have the right to kill babies,” he said. “But let’s not get it twisted: It is killing a baby. Whenever I pay for an abortion, I request a dead baby.” Even though he claimed he’s pro-choice thanks to his “unconditional” love for his daughters and their reproductive rights, reiterating dangerously common pro-life rhetoric did not do much to help his case.
During the last ten minutes of the show, Rock aired out what sounds like a good deal of lingering resentment about last year’s Oscars, where, as you may already be aware, Will Smith slapped him onstage after Rock cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head. Over the past year, while Smith has apologized publicly several times for his behavior and Pinkett Smith has diplomatically said that she hopes they reconcile, Rock has been working his thoughts about the incident into sets — none of which, as far as we know, have included expressing remorse over making a Black woman’s hair the butt of his joke.
First, Rock criticized Smith and Pinkett Smith for publicizing the messy details of her affair with musician August Alsina, who is 21 years younger than her and friends with her son, Jaden. “I didn’t have any entanglements,” Rock said, seeming to suggest Smith took out his own anger at his wife for cheating on him by slapping Rock at the Oscars six years after the affair. “Everybody in the world called him a bitch,” he said, referencing the fallout from the 2020 interview in which Alsina confirmed he and Pinkett Smith had a relationship. “They called his wife a predator. And who does he hit? Me.”
Rock also claimed Pinkett Smith had started a feud with him in 2016 when she boycotted the Oscars, which Rock hosted, over the lack of diversity in its nominations (Smith was among the many people of color left off the slate after his widely praised lead role in Concussion). Several major Hollywood figures, including the Smiths, Spike Lee, and Michael Moore, boycotted the Oscars that year over its largely white list of nominees, and many celebrities publicly asked Rock to step down as host. For some reason, Rock targeted Pinkett Smith specifically at the time — his opening monologue that year included the joke “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”
And he’s not done. “Will Smith practices selective outrage,” he said on Saturday night, referencing the name of the special. “Years ago, his wife said I should quit the Oscars ’cause her man didn’t get nominated for Concussion. And then her husband fucking gives me a concussion.” He essentially argued that Pinkett Smith criticizing his choice to host in 2016 justified cracking a joke about her hair last year, adding, “She starts it, I finish it. Nobody’s picking on this bitch.”
Needless to say, Rock’s choice to make a jab at Pinkett Smith yet again, without ever acknowledging why his joke about her alopecia might have come across as insensitive in the first place, was not well received. Eight months ago, she called Rock an “intelligent, capable” man who she hoped would settle things with her husband. Last weekend, he called her a bitch.