Chris Rock Finally Responds To Will Smith's Slap – And It's A Bunch Of Petty Nonsense

It's been close to a year since Chris Rock made a joke about Will Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, at the Oscars and Smith slapped Rock on live TV in response. It was the slap heard 'round the world, leading to Smith's banning from the Academy Awards for a decade and launching a million think-pieces. The shocking event was not the first time Rock targeted the pair with his jokes, as he has been making comments about Pinkett-Smith since the 1990s, but things escalated after Pinkett-Smith suggested he shouldn't host the Oscars in 2016 as a part of the "#OscarsSoWhite" movement. There's a lot of bad blood between the comedian and the married actors that came to a head when Smith's hand connected with Rock's face on the Oscars stage. 

Netflix debuted its first live-streaming stand-up special with "Chris Rock: Selective Outrage," promoting the special as the moment when Rock would finally respond to "The Slap." Rock clearly ascribes to the Klingon proverb, "revenge is a dish best served cold," but is revenge really the answer? After a roller-coaster of a set that tries to tackle transphobia, class division, and Elon Musk's semen output, the final 10 minutes of Rock's set are devoted entirely to Jada and Will. Instead of jokes, he mostly fired off rumors about the couple's extramarital affairs, attacked their personal character, and went for the lowest of blows whenever possible. It wasn't funny, it was just a man trying to work out his demons in front of millions of people and turning everyone's living room into a game of "he said/she said." 

A whole lot of anger

There were jokes about Smith before the special even started, with pre-show guest Arsenio Hall making a crack that "Smith might slap a TV tonight," but there were refreshingly few references to him for most of Rock's set until his concluding diatribe. This was his chance to put an end to the entire beef, but instead he went scorched earth, making fun of the fact that Smith was a much larger and stronger man who plays athletes and heroes, insinuating that Smith might not have slapped him if he weren't such a weak, easy target. That's relatively tame compared to what comes next, which is Rock going on at length about the pair's open marriage, alleging that Pinkett-Smith was having an affair with one of her son's friends. He then comments on how that must hurt Will, and that "she hurt him way more than he hurt me." Even if he's angry about being hit on national television, airing all of the couple's dirty laundry during a Netflix special feels exceptionally petty. 

That's not the end of it, either, as Rock goes on to list everyone who called Smith a "b****" in response to the slap, reiterating the difference in size, social status, and power between them. It feels like a kid on the playground listing everyone who thinks his nemesis is a loser, which is honestly kind of sad coming from a grown man in his 50s who used to be one of comedy's sharpest minds. 

Just plain petty

Rock, usually never the type to mince words, actually confused two of Smith's movies during his set, anxious to make a joke about "Emancipation" while talking about "Concussion." He continued to rail against Jada, calling her vulgar names and saying "she started this s***," and it's a shame that he couldn't be the adult and end it instead of turning this feud into a five-alarm fire. His joke about "Emancipation" had already made the rounds online, with Rock saying that he watched "Emancipation" just to see Smith get whipped. He took it a step further in the stand-up special, making "hit him again, massa" jokes that are well beyond this white writer's ability to comment on. It felt truly vitriolic, with seething rage from Rock as he encouraged Smith's fictional but brutal beating. 

For a comedian who opened the bit by saying, "I'm not a victim baby, you will never see me on Oprah or Gayle [King] crying," Rock's tirade and the selective decision to exclude his over 20-year pattern of throwing jabs at Jada Pinkett-Smith certainly felt like someone desperate to be seen as the one deserving of sympathy.

The final dig came with his last sentiment, about how Rock had parents and they raised him right. Smith has a well-documented tumultuous childhood with an abusive father, and making comments about his upbringing is about as low as you can go. It doesn't matter if you're a Smith fan or a Rock fan, that's just not a good look. He also held the special in Jada's hometown of Baltimore, instead of his own, which feels like another childish, petty move. Most people probably tuned in just to see what he had to say about the slap and the Smiths, and all I have to say is — was it worth it?