By JAKE COYLE
AP | A year after Will Smith smacked him on the Academy Awards stage, Chris Rock is poised to finally have his say.
The 58-year-old comedian on Saturday night will perform his first stand-up special since last year’s Oscars. He’s doing it in “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage,” streaming live on Netflix at 10 p.m. EST. Not only will Rock present about an hour of stand-up from the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore, but Netflix — in its first ever live show — will bookend the special with star-studded commentary.
The pre-show, beginning at 9:30 p.m., will feature Paul McCartney, Jerry Seinfeld, Matthew McConaughey, Cedric the Entertainer, Ice-T and two hosts from last year’s Oscars: Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer. Afterward Rock’s set, Dana Carvey and David Spade will host guests including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Arsenio Hall and JB Smoove.
While Smith has apologized and repeatedly spoken about the incident since last March, Rock has avoided all the usual platforms where celebrities often go to air their feelings. He never sat down with Oprah Winfrey, and turned away the many media outlets that would have loved to land an exclusive in-depth interview.
Instead, Rock has for much of the past year been touring new material in a long string of performances as part of his Ego Death tour. The shows, which had been announced before the 2022 Oscars, have featured performances with Dave Chappelle and Kevin Hart.
On the road, Rock has often worked in jokes and reflections on the slap, though it’s never been more than an element of his shows. There’s no guarantee that he will talk it about Saturday night, but he’s widely expected to and has long suggested this would be his chosen forum.
Rock first broke his public silence about the slap three nights after the Oscar ceremony, last year in Boston. “How was your weekend?” he asked the crowd. He added that he was “still kind of processing what happened.”
Now, after plenty of processing, Rock will be taking the cultural spotlight just a week before the March 12 Oscars, where the slap is sure to revisited by this year’s host, Jimmy Kimmel. In the aftermath of last year’s events, Smith resigned his membership to the film academy. The academy board of governors banned Smith from the Oscars and all other academy events for a decade.
At the annual luncheon for nominees held last month, motion picture academy president Janet Yang voiced regret about how the incident was handled, calling the academy’s response “inadequate.” Bill Kramer, the academy’s chief executive, has said the academy has since instituted a crisis communications team to prepare for and more rapidly respond to the unexpected.
“Selective Outrage” is Rock’s second special for Netflix, following 2018’s “Tamborine.” They’re part of a two-special $40 million deal Rock signed with the streamer in 2016.
While rivals have gotten into live streaming and sports, “Selective Outrage” marks Netflix’s first foray into live programming. Netflix, with 231 million global subscribers, also recently signed on to stream next year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, signaling that “Selective Outrage” may be just the start of a new trend.
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