Review: Chris Rock becomes a sad old man yelling at clouds in live Netflix special
Category: EntertainmentVia: john-russell • 7 months ago • 2 comments
Perhaps Chris Rock should have titled his new Netflix standup special, "Get Off My Lawn."
That's the tone Rock presented in "Selective Outrage," his latest standup special, performed from Baltimore in Netflix's first live global event (now streaming).
He's crotchety. He's mean. He's predictable and boring.
The comedian isn't the young kid he once was, working his way up through "Saturday Night Live" and HBO comedy specials, but at 58, he's not exactly an old man, either. However, Rock, like many of the biggest comedians of Generation X , started sounding like the guy at the end of the block screaming about kids these days in "Outrage," a flimsy, flaccid special that gained nothing from being live, other than providing publicity for Netflix with his long-awaited comments about Will Smith slapping him at last year's Oscars .
It was embarrassing to watch Rock complain about the kids with their wokeness and their social media and their feelings. Boo hoo for them, Rock says, they don't have real problems. Not like Rock, who was slapped on the Oscars last year. He may have millions of dollars, you see, but he "identifies as poor."
The problem is not that Rock made jokes about young people or transgender people or women or Duchess Meghan. It's that he made bad jokes about them. He doesn't have to like the people he talks about. Heck, he doesn't have to like anyone. But if he is going to spend five minutes on a bit about what might happen if one of his parents was transgender, the punchline has to be better than "wouldn't that be insane." If he's going to joke about abortion and killing babies, the punchline has to be better than "children are annoying." If he is going to joke about Jada Pinkett Smith and extensively address the Oscars slap , the punchline has to be better than calling her a gendered slur over and over again.
Rock seemed woefully unprepared for the realities of 2023. His material was oddly outdated from start to finish, with jokes that felt 5 years old, covering such targets as Blac Chyna, the Kardashians and the time when people used to post sushi pictures on Instagram (he's clearly not been on that app in a while). Even personal material about dating in his 50s after a divorce is so similar to his 2018 special "Tambourine," it feels a bit like self-plagiarism.
Rock's comedic prowess was not just in his writing, but his delivery, but his performance was off on Saturday. Clad in all white and wearing Prince's love symbol around his neck, Rock did not get into his rhythm until the show was practically over, when he began a blazing rant about Smith and adamantly denied being a victim. But then he sure reached for sympathy like one.
For Rock, like very successful peers Dave Chappelle and Ellen DeGeneres, the more money and power he accrues, the harder it is for him to be funny. Comedy has a long tradition of speaking truth to power, of giving the little guy a microphone and highlighting the collective woes of the everyman. But Rock is the power now. He is so embedded in the world of the rich and famous that he spent a full two minutes actively praising Elon Musk's sperm count (there was a joke in there somewhere). Musk is the richest man in the world, and Rock made sure to stoke his ego.
Rock may dislike the "Selective Outrage" he sees in the world around him, but perhaps he should look inward at his own selective view of that world before he starts complaining again.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Review: Chris Rock becomes a sad old man yelling at clouds in live Netflix special