‘Chris Rock: Selective Outrage’ Review on Netflix – Nothing special
Netflix’s first live stand-up event gave fans the one thing they knew – a first-hand response to Will Smith’s Oscar slap – and not much else.
To say that Chris Rock didn’t work for his $20 million Netflix salary would be an understatement. The stand-up legend performed live for the streaming giant for 68 booming minutes, grunting and shouting into the microphone as he has for the past four decades. In addition to booing a packed Baltimore auditorium and an unknown number of Netflix subscribers, the physical and mental strain involved Rock carefully tweaking the main draw of “Selective Outrage” without spoiling the closer. “They say ‘words hurt,'” Rock said in the opening moments of his set, “but anyone who says ‘words hurt’ has never been punched in the face.” Okay, he didn’t say slapped him in the face. but he didn’t need it—the connection was clear enough, and if not, he’d insert a more pronounced runner soon after. “I’m not putting Snoop down,” Rock said after wondering why Snoop Dogg is in so many commercials these days. “The last thing I need is another crazy rapper.”
Forty minutes and countless predictable jokes later, Rock was back on the punch line — “That’s not a Jay-Z pig,” he said after making a vaguely sexist comment about Beyoncé’s hotness surpassing her talent. “I don’t need another rapper mad at me.” The angry rapper he was referring to is, of course, Will Smith, who infamously attacked the stand-up at the 2022 Oscars. The Rock has since spoken publicly about “The Slap” at various shows on the following tour, but “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage” offered a wide audience a chance to hear about the comedian firsthand. (As well as giving Netflix the opportunity to take cash from its aforementioned investment.)
Rock seemed outraged—at least more so than at any other point during his all-too-familiar, often recycled or otherwise dated material. “People say, ‘Does it hurt?’ – He told. “It still hurts. I got it ‘Summer time’ ringing in my ears.” He referred to the Smith family drama surrounding his comments, without mentioning the comments themselves. Their decision to go “on television” (aka Facebook Watch) and talk about their marital struggles is “low down”- before stating repeatedly and emphatically that “everybody” called Will Smith a “bitch” except him — “And who’s a hit? To me. A (man) who knows he can beat,” Rock said. “That’s a crap. Rock was so worked up that he botched his own joke, mistaking “Emancipation” when he meant “Concussion,” before returning to the little-seen slave drama 2022 soon after. (“Now for I’m watching Emancipation to see it quiet down.”)
But while Rock tossed the mic to the ground before walking off stage, his set wasn’t really about outrage. It was about attention. A longtime stand-up, film and television star like many of us, Rock knows all about attention. He got it when he needed it and put up with it when it was the last thing he wanted. He’s seen stand-up comedy evolve from an art form that can be kept — practiced in bars and clubs before recording your special show or playing to thousands of people — to one that can be randomly recorded and shared in an instant. with the world. an eye. He knows how to draw attention to himself and use it to his advantage, and the finest craft on display in “Selective Outrage” comes from recognizing and executing this tool.
In short, he spewed out broadly current keywords for an hour, betting that Elon Musk, Steph Curry, one of the Kardashians, one of the royals, or, of course, Jada Pinkett Smith would respond and extend the cultural life cycle of his special. Their tweets will be retweeted, headlines will be written about those tweets, and maybe even more tweets will be written about those headlines, and it all goes back to “selective outrage.” Maybe an organization would release a statement condemning his outrage and say nothing about abortion, transgender people, or the war in Ukraine. Maybe Fox News will do a segment. The Rock’s set is designed to touch on as many divisive topics as possible, and given Netflix’s broad platform, there’s an extremely good chance people will be talking about it, at least a little. (There are already reports of his response to Will Smith.)
And while courting outrage using catchphrases is common, it certainly isn’t all Rock did, “Selective Outrage” was by no means durable. Half the jokes were out of date before he finished. Five minutes on OJ Simpson? In this economy? And why does everyone over 40 still feel the need to talk about pronouns? Not enough TV shows, movies, stand-up comics, dads, uncles and granddads doing all the “jokes” including The Rock? (“Yeah, I’m rich, but I call myself poor,” Rock said. “My nickname is Broke.”
Courtesy of Kirill Bichutsky/Netflix
But beyond the light obscurity, it gave Meghan Markle, Rock’s specialty watched horrible. Audiences are used to the polished direction of pre-recorded stand-up specials—so much so that they’re enthusiastic about comics like Bo Burnham and Jerrod Carmichael experimenting with the form. Shooting live puts a lot of limits on what’s visually possible, but director Joel Gallen and his team couldn’t find beauty, balance, or a cohesive rhythm. At one point the camera zoomed in on Rock, expecting him to catch the punchline, but he awkwardly held on second by second until he finally got there. The shaky frame and the extra beats actively hurt him, which was considered a pretty average joke anyway. Tossing and turning in a crowd that seemed more bored than concerned — and certainly not loud enough to give the impression of a triumphant stand-up routine — “Selective Outrage” fell flat in more ways than one. (I’ll be wondering if they’ll amp up the mix in post-production, for the vast majority of viewers who didn’t tune in live.)
However, I have to give Rock credit for the investment he put into building the special. After a 10-minute warm-up, the Four Easiest Ways to Get Attention gave an outline of the evening: First: “Show your ass.” (Rock seems to take this literally, as the main point of the enlightenment was that this move can be accomplished “even if you have no ass.”) 2. “Be infamous. Do some fucking shit,” Rock said. “Shoot up a school or try to stab Dave Chappelle at a show.” Okay, that’s pretty clear. #3 is the hardest way to get noticed: “Be excellent.” Rock then quoted Serena Williams, the world’s greatest tennis player, and warned that it takes work to be great, so maybe it’s not that easy after all. And last but not least, “Be a victim.” Rock then lamented a world “where emergency rooms are full of paper clippings” and mocked white men for trying to overthrow the very government “that they run.”
During the special performance, Rock returned to these talking points without mentioning them. He joked about showing off your ass when he entered your dating life. It has brought up many infamous figures including OJ and Elon Musk. He admired his own daughter’s excellence in a strange story about teaching her a life lesson no he sued his school when they rightfully wanted to expel him. (“It’s amazing now,” she said, noting that she taught at a culinary school in Paris.) And she’s blunt about not being a victim when it comes to a Will Smith slap. “You’re never going to see me cry on Oprah or Gail,” he said as he launched into his closing monologue.
In “Selective Outrage,” Rock was talking to himself. Sometimes it was intentional—he knew he was teasing Will Smith’s story at the very end, just as he knew he would get a lot of attention for each example he made of raising awareness in America. . More often than not, however, it wasn’t. I doubt Rock wanted to leave out most of the jokes because they weren’t thought through enough, weren’t well-executed enough, or weren’t shocking enough. (Though I think his language was chosen precisely to feign controversy without actually saying anything really infuriating.) The “selective outrage” seemed like top-of-the-mind observations, uninterested in deeper examination or even general coherence. . Here’s a guy who says — or “jokes” — that “America’s biggest addiction is attention,” as he performs for more than 231 million subscribers in 190 countries on a separate show that has its own pre-shows and post-shows. You can technically argue its focus, its structure, and the existence of its specials, and it’s aware of the unprecedented attention it’s getting. But it’s just as easy to argue that by not looking for him, he’s just showing his bum.
“Chris Rock: Selective Outrage” is live on Netflix on Saturday, March 4 at 10 p.m. The special is now available to stream on demand.
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