Chris Rock is a widely beloved comic; he’s also a savvy entrepreneur. Though Rock might have talked with media outlets about being assaulted by actor-producer Will Smith last March during the Academy Awards — he could have also chosen to sue Smith — he instead stayed mum, turning “the slap” into material for his first tour in five years.
Now, Rock is taking that material to a much broader audience courtesy of Netflix, which is airing Rock’s newest set live from the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore this coming Saturday, March 4, at 10 pm Eastern time.
It’s a big deal for both Rock and Netflix. Netflix, which began experimenting with an ad-supported tier in November and began cracking down on shared password use earlier this month, has a lot riding on the evening, given it will be the first livestreaming event in its 25-year history. (As reported by TC’s Lauren Forristal, Netflix confirmed in May of last year that it would roll out a livestreaming capability that centers on unscripted content, competition shows, reality reunion specials, live comedy shows and a future “Netflix is a Joke” festival.)
Little surprise that in addition to Rock, the streaming giant also just announced live pre-and post-shows to bookend his performance. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the plan is to kick off the evening with live commentary from Rock’s comedian friends, including Amy Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld. Later in the evening, Rock’s fellow SNL alums David Spade and Dana Carvey will emcee a post-show — “The Show After the Show” — with guests that include actor and comedian JB Smoove and basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
A new Variety report may also assuage Rock fans who don’t want to miss the special. It notes that Netflix will enable members to rewind and pause, as well as watch the show live. If a subscriber joins late, he or she can also opt to “play from the beginning,” and if there isn’t time to watch it all, the title will remain under the “continue watching” row.
Though the live aspect of the show was agreed upon back in September, “Selective Outrage” represents the second of two comedy specials that Rock committed to create for Netflix in a $40 million deal back in 2016. (The widely seen first special, “Tamborine,” aired in February 2018.)
As for Rock, a four-time Emmy Award winner (he has received 19 nominations altogether), the show seems likely to cement his status as one of the most beloved comics of his era — not that audiences needed another reason, seemingly.
Indeed, though Rock’s tour was announced almost exactly one month before the Academy Awards show last year, ticket sales shot through the roof in the aftermath of “the slap,” as did their price, as did the number of shows Rock performed. Days after the show, this editor paid a small fortune to see Rock perform in San Francisco on a date that was added after the tour was announced.
During that SF performance, Rock spent less than five minutes of his roughly 90-minute set on what happened with Smith. Though the audience thrilled to hear it, they seemed just as enthralled with Rock’s other material, some of which touched on what his parents endured as young Black Americans in the early 60s, along with Rock’s hilarious observations about raising two very privileged daughters as someone who — to this day, Rock said of himself — still identifies as “poor.”
Whether Rock has expanded on the Oscars-related part of the show, only his camp will know until Saturday. But if the prospect of addressing that shocking smack in the face drives viewership, all the better for Netflix, which has been on an upswing of late. Last month, it said it added 7.66 million paid subscribers during the fourth quarter of last year, far more than the 4.57 million Wall Street expected.
In the meantime, though Rock might prefer it never happened, getting socked has been good for Rock’s business. He reportedly performed more than 100 shows last year, up from the 38 shows he originally planned to perform, including in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. According to data submitted to the concert trade publication Pollstar, as first reported in The Wall Street Journal, the shows grossed about $700,000 per night in ticket sales on average.