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March 01, 2023

Will Chris Rock joke about Will Smith's Oscars slap during his live Netflix comedy special?

'Selective Outrage' can be streamed on Saturday, March 4, at 10 p.m. It's the streaming platform's first-ever live event

About a year after Will Smith infamously stepped on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock during the Academy Awards, Rock will clap back with comedy.

"Chris Rock: Selective Outrage," the first livestreaming event ever offered to Netflix subscribers, airs at 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 4. During the special, the comedian is expected to break his silence on the events that occurred at the 2022 Oscars.

Over the last year in interviews and on social media, Rock has largely refrained from discussing his live-TV encounter with Smith, which started with Rock making a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pickett Smith, and escalated when Smith walked onto the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, struck the comedian and then returned to his seat where he shouted expletives at Rock.

Instead, Rock has spent his time touring nonstop, doing shows with fellow comedians Dave Chappelle and Kevin Hart — who, like Smith, is a Philadelphia native – as well as embarking on his Ego Death World Tour, which included stops in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

Rock reportedly has been rolling out jokes about being assaulted by Smith during the tour, explaining why he did not retaliate after the slap, musing on what actually triggered the incident and describing how it felt.

"The thing people wanna know … did it hurt? Hell yeah it hurt," Rock said during a show in Charleston, South Carolina, a source told CNN. "He played Muhammad Ali! I played Pookie (in ‘New Jack City’). Even in animated movies I’m a zebra, he’s a f***ing shark. I got hit so hard, I heard ‘Summertime’ ringing in my ears."

While no one except for Rock knows how much Smith-related content will make it into the Netflix special, the show's title, "Selective Outrage," is a phrase he has used when discussing Smith during recent performances, the Wall Street Journal reported.

All of Rock's workshopping and practicing during the last year culminates in his performance on Saturday, which will be livestreamed from the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore and will be blasted to Netflix's 231 million subscribers worldwide.

"Chris Rock is one of the most iconic and important comedic voices of our generation," Robbie Praw, Netflix's vice president of stand-up and comedy formats, said when the special was announced in November. “We're thrilled the entire world will be able to experience a live Chris Rock comedy event and be a part of Netflix history.”

For those who somehow missed the Oscars slap and the onslaught of jokes and hot takes that then dominated social media and late night TV, what happened on March 27, 2022 was as follows: 

Rock was on stage presenting the award for best feature documentary, which eventually was awarded to another Philadelphian, Questlove for "Summer of Soul." Before giving out the award, Rock made a few jokes, including one aimed toward Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head. Rock quipped to Pinkett Smith, "Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see it." It was a reference to Demi Moore's character's shaved head in the 1997 movie "G.I. Jane."

Pinkett Smith, who has publicly revealed she has alopecia, and autoimmune disease that can cause a person's hair to fall out or become patchy, did not enjoy the remark, and while her husband initially laughed at the joke, his opinion seemed to quickly change.

Smith got up from his seat in the front section of the audience, walked on stage, wound up and smacked Rock in the face. Then returned to his seat as the stunned crown looked on.

"Keep my wife's name out your f***ing mouth!," Smith yelled at Rock from his seat more than once.

Shortly after, Smith won Best Actor — his first Academy Award — for his role as Serena and Venus Williams' father Richard Williams in "King Richard," but the evening was overshadowed by the incident with Rock.

The fallout from the incident was intense, with Smith getting banned from the Academy Awards, as well as any other event hosted by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, for 10 years. By the time that punishment came down, he had already resigned from the academy, and said he would "accept and respect" the organization's decision.

For his part, Smith posted public apologies on social media and Youtube, as well as expressing his remorse in interviews.

"I was going through something that night – not that that justifies my behavior at all," Smith told Trevor Noah, former host of "The Daily Show," in November

Rock's live special will air eight days before this year's Oscars ceremony and, with Jimmy Kimmel hosting the awards show for the third time, it already seems there will be references to the 2022 incident. A "Top Gun: Maverick" themed promo jokes that ABC was searching for an "unslappable" host.

“Chris Rock: Selective Outrage” can be streamed live on Netflix on Saturday, March 4, at 10 p.m. The 95th Academy Awards air on Sunday, March 12 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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