By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 6, 2023 |
By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 6, 2023 |
Chris Rock performed his first stand-up special since last year’s Oscar ceremony on Saturday, and if you checked the Internet over the weekend, you couldn’t get away from his jokes about The Slap:
“I love Will Smith, my whole life… he makes great movies. I have rooted for Will Smith my whole life. I root for this motherfucker.” Rock said. “And now I watch Emancipation just to see him get whooped.”
Why didn’t he do anything after the slap? “Because I got parents,” Rock explained. “I was raised. And you know what my parents taught me? Don’t fight in front of white people.”
I don’t have much to say about Rock’s special because, far be it for me to suggest that I know better than Chris Rock how he should have reacted to being slapped by Will Smith, although I maybe would have left Jada Pinkett Smith out of it since that’s what pissed Smith off in the first place. “She f**king said [I] should quit [as host of the 2016 Oscars] because Will didn’t get nominated for Concussion. What the f**k? So then I do some jokes about it. Who gives a f**k? That’s how it is. She started it. I finished it. Nobody’s picking on this bitch. She started this sh*t. Nobody was picking on her.”
(I do know someone who hated Rock’s special).
Meanwhile, as Chris Rock was performing for his live Netflix special, where he only devoted seven or eight minutes to The Slap at the end of the hour, Marlon Wayans released a stand-up special on HBO Max at the same time where he devoted the entire hour to The Slap. If you want to hear a few jokes from the recipient of The Slap, watch the Chris Rock special. If you want to understand The Slap, watch the Wayans special.
I won’t spoil the entire set, except to say that Wayans has a uniquely objective perspective on it as someone who knows all the participants. At one point, he’d done five minutes on The Slap during his set, and that five minutes grew to 15, and before he knew it, he’d quickly worked up an entire hour on it. It’s good. It’s good because he can brutally and honestly drag all three participants — Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith — because it all comes from a place of love.
The premise of the show, which is called God Loves Me, is that The Slap was God’s way of rewarding Marlon Wayans. Why? Because when he was younger, Chris Rock — “my evil older stepbrother in stand-up comedy” — heckled him so mercilessly during a stand-up set that Wayans quit doing stand-up for 20 years. Meanwhile, because — Wayans jokes — Hollywood only allows one Black guy to succeed at a time, and after Eddie Murphy, and Denzel, and then Will Smith, it was Wayans’ turn, but Will Smith held on to that role for so long that Wayans was skipped.
The jokes that Wayans makes at their expense are so ruthless that, as a white guy, I can’t repeat most of them in print. But he can make those jokes without coming off as spiteful or petty because has a tremendous affection for them, because — he says — Chris Rock made him a better comedian, and because, in Wayans’ opinion, Will Smith earned and deserved all 30 years of his success. He and Jada have also been models for marriage to Black people because they have been through so much and remained together. Wayans is funny and savage, but it still feels very kumbaya, like this is the special that Rock and Smith (and the rest of the world) need to watch in order to heal from The Slap. Wayans doesn’t just make jokes. He processes the entire debacle from the perspective of Rock, Smith, Jada, the Black community, and white people (“this is the first time in history they minded their own business. White people didn’t know what to think about this sh*t.”)
Ultimately, what’s so remarkable about God Loves Me is that as much as the set is about The Slap, Wayans is using it as an excuse to honor Chris Rock’s contributions to stand-up, Will Smith’s contributions to cinema, and the strength of Will and Jada’s marriage. It’s a ferocious but hilarious love letter to two men who hopefully will not spend the rest of their careers defined by The Slap.
He also does some incredible impressions of his brothers, Keenen and Damon.