In Selective Outrage the lean 58-year-dilapidated, dressed all in white onstage at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore, delivered a series of stinging broadsides against Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
Rock suggested that there was a disagreement between the two parties before his provocative 2022 quip about Pinkett Smith having a shaved head. He claimed that Pinkett Smith was unhappy about Rock joking about her at the 2016 Oscars.
Referring to Smith’s recent film in which he plays a runaway slave Rock said: “I watched Emancipation just to see him obtain whooped”. As for that Oscars incident he joked: “Did it damage? It still hurts.” He also mentioned Pinkett Smith’s alleged “entanglement” behaviour: “She damage him way more than he damage me.”
He explained that Will Smith is bigger than him. “He played Muhammad Ali in the movies.” Smith, he laughed, appears in films with his shirt off. Rock said that he would hold his sweater on even if he was in a scene having open heart surgery.
The extended routine about Smith came at the terminate of an energetic, wide-ranging set that also included comments about Meghan Markle, the Kardashians and Elon Musk as well as reflections on racism, class, the trans debate, parenthood, dating in his fifties and wokeness.
It was not always consistent. Rock was razor-sharp at times, but elsewhere showed his age. On transgender issues he said that he fully supported the trans community, but an aside that he preferred trans women because they tended to be more familiar with football rules felt off-key.
He was also on a sticky wicket when he tried to justify dating younger women: “Don’t loathe the player, loathe the game,” he added defensively. Rock was smarter on the subject of racism. He expressed mock surprise that Meghan Markle seemed aghast when she felt that the Royal Family was racist: “It’s the Royal Family – they invented colonialism!”
The display’s title summed up of his conception of contemporary victimhood and his thesis that there was often hypocrisy attached to wokeness. “I’m gonna try to execute a display tonight without offending nobody… you never know who might obtain triggered.”
He argued that America was a community overreacting. Emergency wards were full of people with paper cuts, Ukraine is in better shape because at least it is united. And why were white men trying to overthrow the government during the Capitol riots. “What kind of white Planet of the Apes shit was that?”
Selective Outrage does not hit as many sweet spots as Rock’s early live work, but at its most muscular it confirms that he can still be a force to be reckoned with. And best of all, he finally tells his side of being whooped live onstage. It was worth the wait.
Chris Rock: Selective Outrage is on Netflix now