Chris Rock was slapped by Will Smith almost exactly one year ago and, Saturday night, the comedian slapped back, metaphorically speaking. But critics are also wondering if Rock’s choice of Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre for his standup special “Selective Outrage” was more calculated than it first appears – because it’s Jada Pinkett Smith’s hometown.
The Baltimore Banner’s Leslie Gray Streeter called Rock out in a column posted Sunday, saying that Rock “contradicted himself when he ended his show last night saying that he hadn’t hit Smith back last year because he was raised ‘not to fight in front of white people.’”
“Isn’t that what you’re doing, my dude, while also joking about rooting for Massa to beat Smith’s character in ‘Emancipation’?” Streeter said, referring to Smith’s 2022 historical slave drama from director Antoine Fuqua. “Didn’t you come to a Black woman’s city to call her out of her name to extend a fight and collect a check in front of a paying audience in the theater and across the world?”
It wasn’t until the end of the one-hour Netflix special that Rock addressed the elephant in the room and finally lashed out with a year’s worth of resentment.
“She started that s—-,” he said of Pinkett Smith’s comments that he should quit hosting the Oscars after he joked in 2016 about the Smith’s boycott of the ceremony when Will Smith wasn’t nominated for his performance in “Concussion.”
Rock said that the slap heard around the world had nothing to do with him, noting that it erupted from Smith’s frustration over his own relationship with his wife. He made fun of their “entanglement” situation, saying, “Everybody in the world called him a bitch” for putting up with Jada’s affair, “but I’m the one he hit.” Rock was referring to Smith and Pinkett Smith’s open marriage and particularly her relationship with a younger man, August Alsina, which was the subject of widespread gossip.
“Will Smith practices selective outrage,” Rock said, also giving context for the title of the special. “Everybody that really knows knows I had nothing to do with that. I didn’t have any entanglements. I normally would not talk about this s—, but for some reason these n–—s put that s— on the internet. She hurt him way more than he hurt me.”
Although Rock was undoubtedly talking about Pinkett Smith, not once did he mention her by name. “He did, however, say the words ‘bitch’ and ‘predator.’ In her hometown. But at least he didn’t say her name!” Streeter wrote.
“Jada Pinkett Smith didn’t hit Chris Rock. Her husband did. And I can’t help but notice that this special wasn’t filmed in Philadelphia, or in Bel Air, even. It was filmed in Baltimore, and as a taxpayer I appreciate the spotlight on the city’s tourism and business interests. I hope everybody does a special here! But for Rock to do so, the week before the first anniversary of The Slap, is nastily strategic. And once again, a woman catches brutally comedic strays. It’s depressingly predictable.”
And The Baltimore Banner writer wasn’t alone in the thinking. Here are a few others on social media who agreed: