Chris Rock is a legend. He’s got more Grammys and Emmys than you can count. He’s hosted the Oscars twice and made millions from movies like Madagascar and Grown Ups. But he’s not some Hollywood sellout. He’s a real comedian who speaks to real people. He doesn’t care about being polite or politically correct. He says what he thinks and makes you laugh at the same time. He rips apart everything that’s wrong with society, from race to relationships to money. He’s not afraid of controversy or criticism. He’s fearless and honest. That’s why he’s Chris Rock.
Some comedians are too chicken or too clueless to do what Chris Rock does. They’re scared of losing their fans or their sponsors. They stick to jokes that are as harmless as a pillow fight. Not only that, but they steer clear of anything that might make people think or feel uncomfortable. They make jokes that are either out of date or out of line. They turn off their audience instead of turning them on.
You see, Chris Rock is a normal person. That’s right, you heard me. He’s not a superstar, he’s not a legend, and he’s not a genius. He’s just a normal person who happens to be funny and successful.
And he proved it last on his New Netflix show Chris Rock: Selective Outrage when he finally addressed the infamous slap that Will Smith gave him at the Oscars last year.
You must remember that slap? That one slap made headlines around the world? The one that sparked memes and jokes and debates? The one that left a red mark on Rock’s cheek for days?
It happened when Rock was presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature at the 94th Academy Awards on March 27, 2022. He made a comment about Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who had shaved her head due to alopecia. He joked: “Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2”.
The audience laughed, but not Will Smith. He was sitting in the front row with Jada, and he looked furious. He got up from his seat, walked up to the stage, and slapped Rock across the face. Hard. The crowd gasped. The cameras zoomed in. The internet absolutely exploded.
What was going on? Was it a prank? A stunt? A private feud? No one knew for sure. But everyone wanted to hear from Rock. What did he think of the slap? How did he feel? What did he say to Smith?
But Rock didn’t say anything, not on Twitter, not on Instagram, not on any media outlet. He stayed silent for 12 months. Until last night.
He opened his Netflix show with this line: “I’m going to try and do a show without offending nobody”. Then he proceeded to talk about everything from politics to race to sex to religion. And yes, he talked about the slap.
He said: “You know what? I took that hit like Pacquiao”. He compared himself to the Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, known for his toughness and resilience in the ring. Rock said: “Will Smith is a great actor, but he ain’t no fighter”. He then mocked Smith’s lack of skills in combat sports.
Rock then said: “I don’t hold any grudge against him. I respect him as an artist and as a human being”. He showed grace and forgiveness towards Will Smith. Rock said: “I’m just glad it wasn’t Denzel Washington who slapped me. That would have hurt more”. He made light of the situation with humour and self-deprecation.
Rock said all this with confidence and charisma. He had the audience in stitches. He had me in awe. Because he showed me something that most celebrities don’t have: humility.
He showed me that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. That he doesn’t let fame or money get to his head. That he doesn’t use his power or influence negatively. He showed me that he is essentially an ordinary person who has made a successful career but doesn’t use being rich or famous negatively. And that’s why I respect him more than ever.