Chris Rock shows everyone how to deal with personal setbacks

It's been almost a year since Will Smith walked up the stage at the 94th Oscar Awards and slapped comedian Chris Rock in the face in response to an innocuous joke that Rock had made about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith. 

After subjecting Rock to violence, Smith returned to his seat, where he began bellowing obscenities at an understandably shaken Rock.

It was a disgraceful display by Smith and a much worse display by the luminaries of Hollywood, who cannot stop telling others how to lead their lives.

The "stars" remained, looking befuddled and unsure how to react.  Perhaps they feared being called racist if they immediately condemned Smith.

Perhaps they felt that confronting Smith, who is rich, powerful, and connected, would hurt their careers.  Hollywood had also remained silent over Harvey Weinstein's predatory behavior when he was a powerful presence in Hollywood.

Perhaps they are so accustomed to following diktats about the latest groupthink or acting in their self-interest that they have forgotten how to react like humans.

Smith should have been forced to leave by the security team, but instead, many of Smith's colleagues in the auditorium surrounded him and appeared to console him.  Yes, they were consoling the perpetrator.

Smith ended up winning the Oscar for Best Actor.

During his acceptance speech, Smith tried to portray himself as a victim. 

Smith claimed that he had unknowingly emulated the title character of King Richard (2021) for which he won the award, by being a fierce defender of his family.  He used everyone from his family to his young costars as crutches to peddle his narrative.  He concluded by claiming that "love will make you do crazy things" and proceed to apologize to everyone but the actual victim, Chris Rock.

Smith should have been stripped of his Oscar and banned from the Academy and all future ceremonies.  He should have faced consequences from the law for his violence.  But nothing of the kind happened.

The Academy issued a perfunctory condemnation of violence without actually naming him.

Since then, few in Hollywood have condemned Smith.

This was damaging for Rock, through no fault of his own.

He was a target of violence that was broadcast all over the world.  Millions saw him being slapped, many more than those who saw him being funny on stage.  Rock will probably be remembered by many as the "gent who was struck by Will Smith."  The slap has become an instant meme, which once again ensures that nobody forgets about it.

Apart from physically hurting Rock, Smith had attempted to humiliate Rock.

Considering the current climate, where victimhood sells more than achievement, Rock could have used his situation to his advantage.

He could have appeared on every available forum and claimed to have been irrevocably traumatized.  He could have shed tears and invoked his children.  He could have written a book about the incident or aligned himself with groups that advocate against violence.  He could have made it about race.  He could have been sanctimonious, whiny, and preachy.

There were myriad ways for Rock to use the incident to gain pecuniarily.

But that didn't happen.

Rock was praised for maintaining his composure immediately after the incident.  He remained dignified in his silence for almost a year and continued doing what he does best: being funny in his act.

It is said that when the right words are expressed at the right time and in the right place, things work like magic.

Chris Rock's moment of magic was during Netflix's first live stand-up special, called Selective Outrage, which was also his first major special since the incident occurred.

It is also said that repressed angst fuels great comedy.  That is exactly what happened at Rock's comedy special that streamed a few days back.

Rock began by saying he was "going to try to do the show without offending anyone" but, in a nod to Will Smith, added, "because you never know who might get triggered."

In the next hour, Rock went on to tackle a number of different topics, such as Meghan and Harry Markle, addiction, abortion, racism, and wokery. 

Rock also delivered what people were waiting for.

He hilariously — and occasionally furiously — reflected on the assault and roasted Smith.  It was like Rock undergoing personal catharsis occurring on stage.

Rock reminded his audience how Will and Jada publicly shared that she had cheated on him with one of their son's friends.  Rock enumerated all those who ridiculed Smith for airing his dirty laundry, from the hosts of The View to well known rappers.

Warning: The following clip contains strong language:

Rock acknowledged that Smith has "made some great movies" and added that he had "rooted for Will Smith" all his life.  He then quipped that "he was rooting for the slavemaster who beats Smith's character in his latest movie 'Emancipation.'"

Expect some to be "outraged" over this comment.

Rock joked that those who claim that "words hurt" "have never been punched in the face."

In the concluding moments of the special, he said, "You all know what happened to me, getting smacked ... and people are like, 'Did it hurt?'  It still hurts!  I got 'Summertime' ringing in my ear!"  ( "Summertime" is the1991 hit track that featured Smith.)

In a nod to the show's title, Rock opined that Smith practiced "selective outrage" and that the slap had more to do with Smith's and Jada's relationship struggles than his joke.

But the comedian made it amply clear that he isn't the victim, quipping, "You'll never see me on Oprah or Gayle crying."

Social media lit up with reactions to the event.

Chris Rock showed everyone how to deal with setbacks.  You do not react with your gut when you are upset, and you don't wallow in self-pity or claim victimhood after that.  You wait for the right moment, then strike back and do it with humor.

What about those who claim that Rock is profiting via his Netflix special, and hence he is not at all different from those who use victimhood for profitable gain?

If Rock suddenly became an activist to profit from his assault, that would merit ridicule. 

But instead, he continued to do what he always does, finding humor in his life experiences.  Only this time, his experience was viewed by millions globally.

Stand-up comedians are known to base their acts on their life experiences, particularly moments of personal embarrassment and humiliation.

Rock has frequently reflected on his life and his family.  His latest special is not different. 

Rock's reflections on his assault may be the focus of his show, but the assault is just one of the topics he deals with in his special.

If Rock happens to reap higher profits than usual from this venture because of the unwanted attention after the assault, well, he deserves it.  It may serve as some small form of compensation.

Rock deserves to be celebrated for showing everyone how to deal with setbacks with grace.

Chris Rock commendably chose to be identified as a comedian rather than profit from victimhood.

Image: Twitter video screen shot with minor editing.

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