Netflix’s first global streaming event went live Saturday at 10 p.m. Its choice for this historical event? Chris Rock’s live standup special.
Rock performed Chris Rock: Selective Outrage at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore. He stuck to what he does best: jokes that ring true and make people upset.
Obviously, Rock addresses the infamous Oscars slap from a year ago. If you don’t remember what happened, Will Smith went onstage and slapped Rock after he made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock used this live comedy special to tell his side of the story. During the bit, he profusely explains how he admires and appreciates Smith and how they had no beef. Instead, he illustrates how Smith had “selective outrage,” saying Smith slapped Rock as a result of the many other things entangling him. However, Rock also emphasizes he no longer has the same respect for Smith and didn’t show up on The Oprah Winfrey Show or spoke out after the Oscars because he said he is “not a victim” — a reference to another bit in the performance.
What I loved most about this set was how he threaded his bits together. Many other standup comedians I’ve watched make references from bit to bit a little more obviously by repeating their lines and sometimes over-explaining things. But Rock subtly references past bits, which added to the laughter and felt more real.
He also excelled at styling his set as if he were teaching the audience something. There were poetic lines sprinkled throughout that you didn’t realize were poetic until three lines later. As Rock transitioned into a bit about how the U.S. is in a bad place right now, he said, “Ukraine is united, and America is clearly divided.”
There were also many points in the show where I honestly couldn’t tell how people were receiving the jokes; there wasn’t a uniform laugh in the audience. There were even moments I felt myself cringe more than laugh — at one point, Rock talks about how he tries to date women significantly younger than him.
“I’m trying to date women my age, which is 10 to 15 years younger than me,” Rock said. “Don’t hate the player, hate the game. I didn’t get rich and stay in shape to talk about Anita Baker. I’m trying to fuck Doja Cat.”
What made the special all the more impressive was the pre and post-show cameos. Ronny Chieng hosted the Los Angeles pre-show and featured Paul McCartney, Jerry Seinfeld, Ice-T, Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and more. Dana Carvey and David Spade hosted the aftershow panel and also featured guests such as Arsenio Hall, JB Smoove and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Despite over-killing the fact that the main show was live during the pre-show, there were definitely moments where you could tell it was live. In the last, arguably most important bit of the show, Rock fumbled an essential line and didn’t realize it until he got to the first punchline, causing him to backtrack and start the joke over.
If you missed the live show, you can still watch the special at any time on Netflix, but the pre- and post-shows were only available live.