The Margin: Chris Rock just explained why he didn’t hit Will Smith back
““Ya’ll know what happened to me, getting slapped by Suge Smith … People are like, ‘Did it hurt?’ It still hurts! I got ‘Summertime’ ringing in my ears.” ”
That was Chris Rock addressing The Slap.
It’s been almost a year since the Oscar slap that shocked the world, and Rock came back swinging at Will Smith during his live Netflix special. (Verbally, that is.)
Netflix NFLX, +1.06% streamed its first-ever live event, “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage,” on Saturday night. Rock, 58, has largely kept quiet about the incident at last year’s Oscars ceremony, when Smith responded to a joke Rock cracked about the “Ali” actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, by walking onstage and slapping Rock across the face. But Rock’s hotly anticipated live special didn’t pull any punches.
He took his time, seeming to reference “the slap” a few times early in the set — such as a bit about people getting too offended by things that other people say.
“Anyone who says ‘words hurt’ has never been punched in the face,” he said — drawing a big laugh. “Words hurt when you write ’em on a brick, OK?”
And after he cracked jokes about artists Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z, he was quick to add that he meant no offense. “The last thing I need is another mad rapper,” he said more than once during the set.
And a little later, when doing a joke about the four easiest ways to get attention, he listed being a victim as the fourth one. He broke the fourth wall, adding “Ooh, where is he going with this?” as the audience tittered, likely expecting him to segue into the Oscar slap next.
Look back: What just happened?!? Will Smith slaps Chris Rock over Oscars joke about his wife
They had to wait a bit, as Rock saved the Smith stuff for the end of his set. He spent the last 10 minutes or so discussing the slap, and using some of the material that he has been test-driving on the road. The title of the standup special, “Selective Outrage,” harks back to a Smith bit Rock has done on his recent Ego Death world tour, including during a Feb. 17 show at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre — where, coincidentally, the live Netflix event was also held. A Baltimore Sun reporter who attended the Feb. 17 show said that Rock riffed, “Will Smith practices selective outrage,” before adding, “People who are in the know, know that s— had nothing to do with me.” And he repeated this during Saturday night’s special.
He took dig at Smith’s marriage, and how they’ve shared Pinkett Smith’s infidelity publicly. “She hurt him waaayyy more than he ever hurt me,” Rock said. But while “everybody in the world called him a bitch,” Rock said he tried offering condolences — but Smith slapped him anyway, because Rock is smaller than him, and Smith “knows he can beat” me.
And it seems like he’s been holding a grudge. Rock said that he had previously loved Will Smith. “I rooted for him my whole life,” he said. “And now I watch ‘Emancipation’ [the Apple TV+ AAPL, +3.51% film in which Smith plays a slave] just to see him getting whupped.”
But Rock credited himself for not doing a sitdown with Oprah Winfrey or doing the expected public-relations tour after the incident, noting, “I’m not a victim.”
“You will never see it. Never gonna happen,” he said. “I took that hit like [fighting legend Manny] Pacquiao.”
So why didn’t he hit back? “‘Cause I got parents. That’s right. Because I was raised,” he said. “You know what my parents taught me? Don’t fight in front of white people!”
And with that, he ended his set and dropped the mic.
Rock and Netflix had committed to doing the live special back in September 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported. The show is the second of two Netflix comedy specials that Rock committed to when he signed a $40 million deal with the streaming service in 2016.
Smith has been banned from the Oscars and all Academy Award events for the next 10 years. He released a public apology video last July, saying, “I’ve reached out to Chris, and the message that came back is that he is not ready to talk. But when he is, he will reach out.”
Related: Will Smith admits ‘I lost it’ when slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars
He continued, “So I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk. I’m human and I made a mistake and I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of s—.”
“Chris Rock: Selective Outrage” began at 10 p.m. Eastern (7 p.m. Pacific) on Saturday, and viewers could pause and rewind throughout the special, and also jump to exactly where Rock was currently at in his live set. The special will also be available for streaming on Netflix immediately following the live event.