I don’t know much about comedy. To be honest, I don’t have a very sophisticated sense of humor. Don’t get me wrong — I like sophisticated, witty humor. It’s a great moment when someone comes around to the end of the joke and it feels like a full circle moment. You can tell someone really thought out the joke when it almost feels like they laid out an introduction, arguments and a conclusion, making you feel like a smarter person for just having listened to them.
So yes, clever wordplay is funny, but if you show me Looney Tunes or any kind of physical comedy, I will laugh every time. I still unironically think animated children’s movies are hilarious. Sometimes, I really just don’t want to be smart. I want to laugh at the sheer stupidity of talking animals falling into holes and getting hit by projectile objects and then miraculously bouncing back.
Because of this, I don’t normally watch stand-up. It takes a lot for me to sit still for an hour and listen to someone make jokes about their lives and the people they observe. They’re typically meant to be thought-provoking jokes that act like a sort of social commentary or societal critique, or they point out something wrong with a specific group of people that’s kind of funny but also kind of not.
However, I decided to watch Chris Rock’s Netflix show Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, released March 4, for two reasons: first, because his title seemed to promise scandalous gossip or at least some kind of dirt soon to be unearthed. The title Selective Outrage to me felt angry or at least disgusted with the current state of the world, and I was ready to hear Chris Rock rant. And second, because Chris Rock voices the zebra in Madagascar and is therefore iconic.
The overall premise and underlying theme throughout Rock’s show is the hypocrisy of wokeness and the shallowness of fame. Rock questions the double standards behind cancel culture and the definition of racism. He attacks and skewers celebrities and entertainers that preen and pose for likes and vapid recognition over social media. It’s bold and feels bold, almost confessional, in his delivery.
However, I honestly don’t know whether I would recommend this show because I personally didn’t think it was very funny. A lot of Rock’s jokes fell flat to me, and I had difficulty putting my finger on what it was that kept me from laughing. Rock’s ideas were promising, and it’s normally fun to mock the elite and poke fun at celebrities so removed from reality.
I ultimately concluded that while his jokes were witty, they were too biting, too negative. I know I just wrote that I was drawn to the title’s anger, but I thought it would be lighter, less accusatory. I thought Rock would tease, not rant in what almost felt like bitterness.
I thought “Selective Outrage” was a message to stop getting outraged, but I guess I keyed in on the wrong word. Rock seemed fine with outrage as he screeched into the microphone, accusing celebrities of playing the victim and making cheap plays for attention. It was the word “selective” that I should have taken note of because selective was one thing Rock was not. In fact, he seemed to be encouraging general outrage.
I do have to say, though, that Rock’s take that companies like Lululemon, who market themselves as being antidiscrimination only to sell $100 leggings — discriminating against the poor — was pretty funny. Little, clever one-liners like that kept me somewhat entertained throughout the set.
All in all, though, I was a bit disappointed by the set, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you enjoy inflammatory comedy.