This article is published in issue 22/23 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until June 7, 2022
“Yes, but are you talking about Will Smith?” It is the question that you ask yourself, that you may have seen Tamborine
on Netflix but Chris Rock was not until a few months ago a name that evoked much:
Very good monologue, but non-existent film career and therefore less fame outside
from the United States. That’s the question I ask myself when I decide to go and see him in Paris,
European stage of a tour that started the day after the slap that Will Smith went up to give him on the stage of the Oscars, for having dared a joke about his wife Jada. The joke, absolutely harmless but especially when compared to Rock’s usual comedy, was: Jada, I love you, I can’t wait to seeand Private Jane 2. Soldier Jane it was the film in which Demi Moore was shaved to zero, Jada too is shaved, due to alopecia; they are both lucky enough to be more beautiful shaved to zero than we mortals would be after two hours of hairdressing.
Since the civilization of conversation has been replaced by opposing indignations (Rock
defines the mechanism on which we are addicted “Attention and punishment”), the public debate in
those days are polarized between “you don’t put your hands on someone for a joke” and “you don’t make jokes about illnesses, words are as violent as gestures”.
In Tamborinewhich is from 2018, Chris Rock said that anyone who talks about cyberbullying has never been spilled a bucket of pee on their heads in the corridors of the school: the good ones you recognize because they respond to the controversy four years before it begins.
For the first few weeks, the debate on the risks of violence that comedians would now run seems abstract: at the Oscars, worldwide, a multimillionaire slapped another multimillionaire; not exactly a format. But then, at a comedy festival in Los Angeles, a madman takes the stage and heads Dave Chappelle. Another hugely successful black comedian, another multimillionaire (Netflix documents procured to newspapers by annoyed employees revealed that Chappelle’s latest monologue was paid for by the platform $ 24 million).
Does social class seem off topic to you? At the Oscars, Rock had gone on to present an award after saying “but it was a joke,” and Smith a few minutes later had won Best Actor. At the festival, the madman is beaten for several minutes by the security service on stage, as Rock enters himself, approaches Chappelle, takes the microphone and says what we expect from a professional: Will Smith, was that you?
When Rock arrives in Paris last week, everyone who asks the same question as me has already rushed to his American and London shows: yes, but does Will Smith talk about it? One evening he said: “Don’t hope, I talk about that story on Netflix when they pay me to talk about it: your tickets aren’t expensive enough.” But she talks about it a lot. She talks about it in parts that you don’t know if she wrote before – it’s plausible: they are the natural continuation of the themes of Tamborine, of the macroteme that most interests every comedian of value: the Great Unspeakable – or if he added later, as a dig at Will. He talks about it right away, when life – a great screenwriter – lifts him a ball that he can’t help but crush. He enters dressed like an ice cream man, to the audience already warmed up by a comedian who for half an hour insulted us one by one (“ah, you’re Chinese, I thought the Chinese were the most racist in the world, then I met the Koreans”), the tiny Parisian theater rumbles like a stadium, and everything on the star goes out: lights, microphone, nothing works anymore. A moment of hesitation, from the front rows we hear Rock say to someone “if you give me a stool I can do it without a microphone”, from a corner of the audience they shout at him “where is Will Smith”, in a couple of minutes they fix the electrical system, and Rock can hit the ball: «Not that I was worried, the whole world has seen how good I am at managing the unexpected. By the way, know that [dopo il ceffone] I have almost completely recovered my hearing ».
He talks about it until the end, when he portrays the man we are close to. He apologizes to the woman who has cuckolded him, and he will also be (like everyone else) talking about himself, but it is impossible not to think of Jada who
he publicly tells the horns he made to Will, and to the English comedian Ricky Gervais who after the Oscars comments that he would never make a joke about Jada’s alopecia: “I would have made a joke about her lover.”
“They are all terrified of reactions, but it is because they are not capable: good artists say things on purpose that they will get in trouble with” is something that surely he was already thinking four years ago, but will he have written the joke before or after the Oscars? AND “They say words hurt: Words only hurt if you’ve never got punched in the face“?
I am pretty sure that when he lists the three ways to participate in the Attention and Punishment mechanism, there is a topical addition: “To stand out you can be excellent, which is difficult; victim, which is within everyone’s reach; or infamous, like the one who goes on stage not of him ». How do you react when you are one with the eighth grade whose father, in segregationist America, had to go to the shops with a tape on which he had measured the sole of his foot because blacks were not allowed to try on shoes in the shops, and now you are one of them. whose daughters “they are rich girls, we have nothing in common, if you take them on a private plane they criticize him because he is not the latest model: I have two very dark rich daughters and they don’t even play tennis” (he is saying that he is not the father of the Williams sisters, played in the cinema by Smith: had he written it before? Maybe yes: the part about the daughters is one of the backbones of the monologue; maybe not: life is a screenwriter).
How do you react when your job is to say the unspeakable, and it is in an age when even a joke about the hair creates a victim? How do you react to America, to a culture whose great repression is social class: let’s not focus on not having welfare or even just maternity leave, let’s get distracted with issues of sexual and racial identity? React with the unspeakable: money as a theme to always return to.
When you talk about who “speaks like a podcast” and continually says “inclusive” and family
Kardashian “with the little removed that the father is the one who got OJ out of jail” (if you are rich
it doesn’t matter if you’re black, whether it’s a slap in the face or two murders). When you mock the anti-racism of whites, “I live in a neighborhood where every white mansion has its own good Black Lives Matter sign: to compensate, I had to put up a proTrump sign.” When you say that “they all constantly throw their good causes in my face, there has never been so much charity and there have never been so many homeless people: some are lying.” When you do what good comedians measure up to: go where the audience doesn’t want to be taken. Yes, now I tell you that I am in favor of voluntary termination of pregnancy, but first I tell you the unspeakable and I let the cold in the room: “We are all for the possibility of having an abortion without risk: without the risk of two of them dying instead than just one. And now you will say that I don’t have to talk about it because I’m not a woman: I paid more abortions than anyone else in the room. ” Rock is what García Márquez said about himself – “not rich: a poor man who made money” – and it is in a country without public health, where everything is a question of social class, even attacking a live presenter while remaining unpunished: his job is not to allow us to forget about it, tell us what we don’t want to hear, and make us laugh while we hate him because he reminds us of the obvious that we would like to remove: “Money does for men what women believe plastic surgery face for women: my Botox is to let me give the increase ».
Source: Vanity Fair