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Chris Rock Refuses to Let a Dead Joke Rest

By Reggie Goudeau

Features Editor

Illustration by Molly Chapin

One of the most exhausting but potent discourses that happened within the past year occurred on March 27, 2022, nearly a year ago, when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock silly at the Oscars. For those who do not remember, Smith did so after Rock opened the show with some jokes about his wife, specifically about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair. He referred to her as “G.I. Jane,” despite her alopecia, in an attempt to get cheap laughs before Will Smith gave him an expensive reality check.

To be fair, the two days following the incident (and the day of the Oscars) were more hilarious than those to follow. One of my favorite memes based on the situation featured Smith cartoonishly smacking Rock several feet through the air in a short animated clip. This already funny scenario was elevated since this video was animated in the style of the popular anime Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Anyways, this was cool, but the joke got beaten into the ground quickly.

This news was inescapable no matter what social media platform one would traverse at the time and grew extremely tiresome as more supporters of respectability politics began treating Will Smith as a criminal. While many average Twitter users and a fair amount of Black celebrities simply laughed at the situation and moved on, many were disappointed in Smith or even angry.

For instance, comedian Judd Apatow did not seem to find the humor in this situation and chose to instead lambast him with many laughable statements in a series of now-deleted tweets. Some of my favorite quotes from his thread included: “He could have killed him,” along with,“That’s pure out of control rage and violence,” and the simple but effective, “He lost his mind.” If I were Apatow and posted this, I wouldn’t be shocked if every Black friend of mine was scared I’d call the police on them for existing.

Even with many takes similar to and combatting this one floating around for months after the incident, I assumed this “beef” would never resurface. After all, Chris Rock had most of white America on his side already, and Will Smith lost enough business and personal opportunities from public scrutiny following the slap. Unfortunately, Rock simply couldn’t help himself and has recently gone off on both Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, in his newest Netflix special, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage. In all fairness, he only alluded to the incident once at the show’s beginning and then dropped it until the last ten minutes. Still, the rest was mainly about cancel culture and selective anger, which is always a fantastic sign that comedians are on an upward trajectory for their careers. Look at Dave Chapelle; evidently, he’s only gotten funnier with his transphobia, and hasn’t completely lost any respect he once had.

The pettiness of this special’s existence aside, I at least hoped some of the comedy would be solid, before checking out the material via Twitter (because he’s not getting my money). Unfortunately, that was not the case, and even the special’s least horrendous jokes were simply lukewarm. One of the first tasteless jokes about the situation was about how he apparently watches Emancipation, a new film featuring Will Smith as an enslaved person, to see him get whipped. I refuse to explain the hypocrisy of a Black man spitting material like this to a primarily non-Black audience. All while simultaneously critiquing Will’s decision to smack him in a room full of white people. Oh, and of course, he had to take some shots at Will’s notably rocky public relationship with Jada. It’s not like the entanglement material was getting old, either.

I’ll simply let the evidence of why everybody hates Chris speak for itself. In just 2011, a video went viral in which Chris speaks to Louis C.K. while C.K. repeatedly uses the n-word in jest. While Chris had all of the opportunity in the world to say something, he instead laughed right along with “massa.” Jerry Seinfeld, a white man, had to be the one to check C.K., and even then, Chris defended him. It’s hilarious that this is the man trying to have authority, over Will Smith no less, on how Black people should act in white spaces.

In short, this special doesn’t need to exist, this beef shouldn’t still exist, and Chris Rock’s career might do the same if he keeps fucking around and inevitably finds out once again. This entire saga has been a mess between joking about Jada’s condition during one of the most significant events of last year and gaslighting Will into apologizing before reviving the beef the moment it seemed convenient for his career.

It’s funny that he repeatedly calls Will a bitch throughout the special’s last ten minutes as if he didn’t make the most bitch-made move possible on that Oscar’s stage. He ate the slap, didn’t fight back, and chose to be mad once Will wasn’t around to recheck him. I think I speak for all of us when I say that Rock needs to get some more sense smacked into him because otherwise, we’ll never hear the end of his terrible material about the incident.

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