While Netflix has been making bank with many Netflix specials featuring comedians talking about how they’ve been canceled (i.e. Dave Chappelle), it seemed inevitable they’d lure Chris Rock away from HBO (which used to be the go-to place). Originally airing as a live special in the early part of March, Rock, now 58, seems almost a different person from his groundbreaking Bring the Pain special when he seemed almost forgotten after being let go from Saturday Night Live and having to guest star on In Living Color which had since gone off the air.
Maybe, it was the fact that Rock, finally on the wrong side of 30, just didn’t give a shit anymore and let it all out. Bring the Pain showed that Rock could touch on the topics that Bill Hicks never reached mainstream on. George Carlin was almost 60. Richard Pryor didn’t do stand-up anymore due to his declining health. It was like he was channeling all three of them with the vulgarity genius of Pryor, the social criticsm of Carlin and don’t give a fuck attitude of Hicks.
Naturally, Hollywood which had dismissed him a few years earlier with CB4 and reducing him to a small role in Sgt. Bilko came calling. Rock also found some new fans as he called about the difference between “black people” and people he called the “N-word.” It was like he was speaking a language to people but he wasn’t agreeing with him. He was saying that black people are fed up with people who perpetuate their negative stereotypes. Yet, he didn’t say it the way Bill Cosby said it.
But you could notice by the time Bigger & Blacker came out, Rock was watching where he stepped now since Hollywood was paying attention more in the late 1990s. He touched on the hot topic of school shootings with a brutal honesty that seems a different world away from 2000. Selective Outrage comes about a year after the infamous Oscar slap, which you can tell Rock is sick and fucking tired of discussing. Whether or not there is a lot of bad blood between Rock and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith is undetermined. What is determined is how Will acted like a bully by targeting Rock and not 50 Cent. I almost think Rock did the special to put everything at rest over it. This part of the specials comes more appealing if you feel Rock was unfairly attacked for making the joke. But if you think he shouldn’t have said it, you may not care.
But I think that’s the irony of the special. Rock doesn’t go after other comedians, mainly Chappelle, who seem to whine about comedy. He focuses more of his attention on regular people out there who claim to be “victims.” He does make a good distinquishing fact that people will not listen to R. Kelly but still listen to Michael Jackson, even though they were both accused of doing the same thing.
The special falters during a moment in which Rock talks about an incident with his daughter at a private school. You can definitely tell that Rock is going more on the Cosby trail here by dragging a segment out too long to talk about something personal. And maybe it’s because Rock has never been a good comic to talk about his personal experiences that this part of the stand-up drags a little more than it should.
The special runs about an hour long and Rock has probably been saying this material while on the road for a while now so you can tell there’s a certain cadence to his delivery that he’s honed. USA Today equated the show to Rock yelling at clouds. I don’t think he’s at that moment now. But you wonder if his best days are behind him. In 2008, he did Kill the Messenger during the highly volatile Presidential election that would see Barack Obama become the 44th President. There was some intensity and rawness there. Is Rock going to follow in Carlin’s footsteps and find some true viciousness as he nears his autumn years or is he going to be the next Cosby spending an hour to tell a story that can be told in 10 minutes and nowhere near as funny nor good as it used to be.
Time will tell. I just hope Netflix didn’t have any restrictions. It might be time for Rock to return to HBO for his next special.
What do you think? Please comment.