Chris Rock Stand-Up Special Will Stream Live On Netflix

It's been six years since Netflix shelled out $40 million to Chris Rock for the rights to stream two stand-up specials, but we've only seen one, 2018's scathingly self-reflective "Tamborine," thus far. Just when you were worried he might be receding from view (particularly in the aftermath of getting slapped across the face by Will Smith at the 2022 Academy Awards), Netflix has announced that the trailblazing comic is roaring back to become the first artist to perform live on the streaming platform.

According to a press release issued by the company today, Rock will wield his microphone on a special that will stream live in early 2023. According to Robbie Praw, Netflix's Vice President of Stand-Up and Comedy Formats, "Chris Rock is one of the most iconic and important comedic voices of our generation. We're thrilled the entire world will be able to experience a live Chris Rock comedy event and be a part of Netflix history. This will be an unforgettable moment and we're so honored that Chris is carrying this torch."

The return of an uncomfortable truth teller

I can remember watching a 22-year-old Rock on HBO's "Uptown Comedy Express" hosted by Uncle Ray Murphy and howling at his painfully perceptive bit about boxers being more dangerous based on their racial background. He wasn't just out for yuks. He had something to say and didn't care who he ticked off.

Rock struggled through the early 1990s, washing out at "Saturday Night Live" and treading water on the nearing-cancellation "In Living Color," before he went scorched earth with his landmark 1996 HBO special "Bring the Pain." In terms of impact, this was probably the most uproariously controversial hour of stand-up since Bill Hicks at his peak. Suddenly, "salad tossing" entered the vernacular.

Rock was a comedy superstar, which meant Hollywood wanted a piece of him. Anyone this explosively funny should be able to effortlessly segue into filmmaking like Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, or Eddie Murphy (Rock's mentor). It wasn't that easy, partially because Rock was ambitious. He tried to remake Harry Segall's "Heaven Can Wait," which had been done brilliantly by Alexander Hall and Warren Beatty, and rolled snake eyes. To his credit, he never wrote or directed a phoned-in film. "Head of State," "I Think I Love My Wife," and "Top Five" are all thoughtful comedies that miss the mark for varying reasons.

When Rock stumbled in movies, he could always return to the stage to remind us how incisive he is as an observer of social behavior and racial injustice. He's never succumbed to the meanness of Dave Chappelle's TERF material, so as we navigate a bizarre world where prominent artists and athletes like Kanye West and Kyrie Irving espouse antisemitic, Black Israelite nonsense, I'm curious to get his perspective. It's possible we need Chris Rock now more than ever.