The Reel Review
Comedian and 2022 Oscars host Chris Rock finally speaks out publicly about the slap heard around the world – when actor Will Smith slapped him in the face during that live telecast a year ago – in this first ever live comedy special on Netflix.
Performing Saturday, March 4th to a packed audience in Baltimore, the comedian doesn’t get to the topic until the last ten minutes of the show. But when he does, Rock rips both Smith and his wife Jada to shreds, calling out their hypocritical, selective outrage – Will, for physically lashing out at him when he says the Oscar-winning actor’s true anger should be at his philandering wife who was boasting about having sex with the friend of one of the couple’s adult children, and Jada, who Rock says called on him to step down as Oscars host in 2016 because Will didn’t get a Best Actor nomination for the film Concussion.
The vulgarity-laced comedy special is certainly not for everyone, but the recurring theme of Rock’s show – highlighting the hypocrisy of cancelling one celebrity but allowing a pass for another for the same abhorrent behavior – is timely. Much of his show’s earlier material – on transgender rights, abortion, O.J. Simpson and Megan Markle – is a rehash of prior tour performances, but his impassioned Will Smith bit – even with a flubbed joke proving that it truly was live – makes this biting and thought-provoking comedy special worth seeing.
• Chris Rock turned down The Academy’s invitation to host the 2023 Oscars. Smith stormed the stage and slapped Rock during the 2022 ceremony after the comedian cracked a joke about Jada’s hairstyle. Smith later resigned from the Academy, which banned him from attending the Oscars for ten years.
• Immediately after the infamous slap, Smith was allowed to remain seated on the front row of the Kodak Theater for a full 30 minutes before winning his Best Actor Oscar for King Richard, giving a rambling, self-justifying speech. Had Rock pursued assault charges, Smith could have faced up to six months in jail and a $100,000 fine.
• Netflix agreed to pay Chris Rock $40 million in 2016 for his two Netflix comedy specials, outbidding Amazon, Hulu and HBO.