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March 9, 2023

Chris Rock Is a Genius

He turned Will Smith’s infamous slap into a comedy gold mine.

Chris Rock has finally addressed the infamous “slap” incident involving himself and Will Smith from the 2022 Oscars. During a nearly hour-long new Netflix comedy special called “Selective Outrage,” Rock spoke about various current-event-style issues, including everything from January 6 to Meghan Markle. Toward the end, he spoke about “the slap.” Before diving into the renewed controversy, it’s important to first take a look back at how the original incident unfolded.

The “Everybody Hates Chris” voice actor was hosting the Oscars, as he has done before. Part of a comedian hosting any sort of show like this is … comedy. Sometimes, people in the crowd become the butt of jokes. Not disrespectfully, but in a playful manner. Apparently, Will Smith did not like one of Chris Rock’s jokes about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock likened Jada to G.I. Jane, a ‘90s film starring Demi Moore with a male-style buzzcut hairdo. Jada is well known for sporting a bald head due to having alopecia, a condition that creates patchy and/or bald hair. The joke angered Smith so much that he decided to walk up on the stage and slap Rock in retaliation.

There are different schools of thought on how Chris should have handled the situation. There was an idea out there that Chris should have physically fought Will on stage. Some said he should have joked “harder.” Some people, like world-famous comedian Jim Carrey, suggested that Chris simply sue Will and/or press criminal charges. That would have been appropriate, considering how the Los Angeles Police Department investigated the incident. There was certainly room for criminal and civil charges. Assaulting a man on stage is most certainly not the appropriate action to take against “offensive” comedy.

Instead of creating a ton of drama around the situation, Rock decided to simply do what he does best … comedy. He turned the slap incident into a comedy gold mine. This was absolutely the best decision to make for both Chris Rock and Will Smith.

Any court action whatsoever, whether it be criminal, civil, or both, would have resulted in a huge financial loss for Smith. Jail time for Smith may have been warranted here, but it would probably not be appropriate, especially considering how Rock and Smith have been friends for over 20 years. Civil penalties (and legal feels even without a lawsuit) would have reached into the millions. Rock could have benefited from that money. Instead of making Smith continue to suffer over his reckless actions, Rock simply went to the free market and decided to monetize this now-infamous incident.

Netflix signed Rock to a $40 million deal to produce two specials, with “Selective Outrage” being one of them. The deal was signed (and has now been fulfilled) back in 2016, so the money on the table wasn’t necessarily a result of the recent incident. The first of two specials, “Tamborine,” was released back in February 2018. However, Netflix is surely happy that such an incident happened to give it a great return on its initial investment. This turn of events may inspire the streaming giant to hand out an even more lucrative contract now that Rock has fulfilled his obligation.

There are, of course, critics of Rock. Some of the jokes in the nearly one-hour special were deemed “offensive” (going back full circle here). He spoke about the January 6 incident in a negative way, and some conservative influencers found that abhorrent. “Cancel culture” got spoken about in a negative way (although still comedic, of course), and far-leftists found that offensive. Politics should be siloed off into its own space while comedy should be afforded the same luxury. Comedy is under attack because it is probably the last bastion of truly free speech. Chris Rock, and many others, are able to express their viewpoints about the world in a way that people enjoy … even if some people don’t necessarily like it. Love it or hate it, this is the American way.

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