Chris Rock on the eve of his Netflix special: his movie roles, Oscars scandal and other stand-up specials
Chris Rock is one of the world’s most famous comedians.
He’s an award-winning Saturday Night Live alumnus, has performed six stand-up specials since 1994, acted in stage plays, appeared in music videos, and starred in over 30 films including 1998’s Dr. Dolittle, 2005’s Madagascar and 2022’s Amsterdam.
He’s also hosted the Oscars – the biggest night in Hollywood – three times, and was part of one of the award ceremony’s biggest scandals. Will Smith’s Oscar slap last year drew so much attention that Smith became the second most googled person in the world, while Rock (who was slapped after making a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett-Smith) became the fifth most googled person.
Now Rock is releasing a brand new stand-up special and it’s going to be streamed live on Netflix.
It’s exciting news for multiple reasons: not only is it the first time Rock has performed a stand-up special since 2018, but according to the Wall Street Journal, Rock will be addressing the Oscar slap in the routine.
On top of this, it’s Netflix’s first-ever “live event”. “Chris Rock is one of the most iconic and important comedic voices of our generation,” said Robbie Praw, one of Netflix’s Vice Presidents. “We’re thrilled the entire world will be able to experience a live Chris Rock comedy event and be a part of Netflix history.”
So on the eve of this major event, which airs just over one week before the Oscars, we break down everything there is to know about the upcoming routine and Rock’s starry career.
What do we know about the new Chris Rock stand-up comedy special?
The new special is going to be called Chris Rock: Selective Outrage. The Wall Street Journal reportedly said that this phrase has been used by Rock to describe the Smith slap.
The show will be performed in the Hippodrome Theatre in Maryland, Baltimore, and will be streamed live to 190 countries around the world.
There will be pre and post shows that will begin at 6:30pm PT/9:30pm ET (2.30am in the UK) and then as soon as the special ends. While the special will immediately be available for streaming, these support shows will not be available to watch at a later date.
Comedian and actor Ronny Chieng will be hosting the Before the Show event and will be joined by comedians Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones and Deon Cole. Actor David Spade and comedian Dana Carvey will co-host The Show After the Show. They will be joined by friends including actor JB Smoove and former professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Netflix teased: “Expect to see live commentary and special messages from Amy Schumer, Cedric the Entertainer, George Lopez, Ice-T, Jerry Seinfeld, Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Hart, Matthew McConaughey, Sir Paul McCartney, Sarah Silverman, Tracy Morgan, Wanda Sykes, Woody Harrelson and more.” It’s not entirely clear how this live commentary will be presented as part of the show.
Viewers will be able to watch the special live, but will also be able to rewind and watch it from the beginning if they join later.
Will you be able to stream the performance afterwards?
Yes, the special will be available to stream as soon as it finishes, meaning that Brits won’t need to wake up at 3am to watch it unless they want to.
What has Rock said about the Oscar slap so far?
Even though Chris Rock: Selective Outrage is being billed as the first time Rock is properly addressing the Oscar slap, he has already said quite a lot about the incident.
A week after the slap, while performing at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre he said: “How was YOUR weekend?
“I’m still processing what happened, so at some point I’ll talk about that shit,” he said. “It’ll be serious. It’ll be funny, but right now I’m going to tell some jokes.”
Shortly after the slap, Smith resigned from the Academy, and received a 10-year ban from attending the award ceremony. Smith released a six-minute apology video in July last year, and also wrote a public letter apologising for his actions.
“The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home,” said Smith in the letter.
Rock has been on his Ego Death World Tour over the past year and at some of the shows he has briefly spoken about the slap. During one UK performance, he said: “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face... Will did the impression of a perfect person for 30 years, and he ripped his mask off and showed us he was as ugly as the rest of us.”
Rock has reportedly recently been trying out some of his material to smaller audiences in anticipation of the upcoming Netflix special. At the Comedy Cellar in New York, he said: “Will Smith is a big dude. I am not. Will Smith is shirtless in his movies. If you see me in a movie getting open-heart surgery, I’m gonna have a sweater on.”
He also reportedly said: “The thing people wanna know…did it hurt? Hell yeah, it hurt. He played Muhammad Ali! I played Pookie [in 1991 action film New Jack City]. Even in animated movies, I’m a zebra; he’s a f**king shark. I got hit so hard, I heard [the 1991 Will Smith song] Summertime ringing in my ears.”
A source told Page Six this week that the comedian is now going to address the incident head-on: “If you were waiting to see Rock on tour address the infamous Will Smith slap situation . . . the comedian is waiting to spill his humorous take on it on his live Netflix stand-up special,” they said.
What’s Rock’s background?
Rock was born in South Carolina and grew up in Brooklyn. The son of a teacher and a truck driver, and the eldest of seven children, he was bullied at school and targeted for the colour of his skin. He dropped out of high school and worked at fast-food restaurants instead.
His career in comedy began in 1984 when he was just 19 years old. When he was performing at Catch a Rising Star, a chain of comedy clubs, he was spotted by Eddie Murphy who took the young comedian under his wing, and mentored him.
He was a cast member of Saturday Night Live for three years in the early Nineties and also started to get roles in some big TV and film productions, including in Miami Vice and in Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). His first comedy album, Born Suspect, was released in 1991 and his first comedy special was Chris Rock: Big Ass Jokes, which was released by HBO in 1994.
How have his previous specials been received?
By 1994, Rock explained in a 2001 Guardian interview, his career was in a bit of a rut. “I was a has-been,” he said. “ So I figured if I’m not going to be famous, I can at least get really good, and get back to being the way I was before I met Eddie Murphy and saw the big houses and the girls.”
Rock managed to turn things around with his 1996 special Bring the Pain. Still heralded today as one of the greatest stand-up routines of all time, it made Rock famous on a global scale. In 1997 he won two Emmys for the routine.
Speaking to The Observer’s Life Magazine in 2000, Rock said: “I thought, hopefully this will be better than other HBO specials, and I’ll get whatever rewards come with that. Maybe somebody will want me to do a sitcom – if I’m lucky. Next thing they were talking about it on C-SPAN, and I’m, Huh? My only goal was to do a show that was good enough that when I played a club, I wouldn’t have to promote it on radio.”
Rock has now made six comedy specials: Big Ass Jokes (1994), Bring the Pain (1996), Bigger & Blacker (1999), Never Scared (2004), Kill the Messenger (2008) and Tamborine (2018). All but Netflix’s Tamborine were released by HBO.
He went on to win three Grammys: one for his 1997 comedy album Roll with the New, one for Bigger & Blacker and one for Never Scared.
What have been his most famous movie roles?
Although Rock’s probably best known for his stand-up, he’s had a stellar career in Hollywood too. As well as starring in Dr. Dolittle, Madagascar and Amsterdam, he’s had roles in 2002’s action comedy Bad Company opposite Anthony Hopkins, the 2010 black comedy Death at a Funeral, and 2012’s 2 Days in New York, which was directed by and starred Julie Delpy.
He’s also featured in several films alongside Adam Sandler including Grown Ups (2010), Sandy Wexler (2017) and The Week Of (2018).
More recently he’s played the voice of the older hero mouse in Robert Zemeckis’ The Witches (2020) and he starred in the 2021 Saw franchise spin-off film Spiral.
Chris Rock: Selective Outrage will stream on Netflix on March 4, 7pm PT/10pm ET (which is 3am in the UK)