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June 19, 2022 by  
Filed under Feature

People everywhere are rallying around Chris Rock for the dignity and grace he has shown in the wake of The Slap.

Chris Rock

At a moment when we are rightfully concerned about the normalization of violence, Chris Rock’s measured response to being slapped by Will Smith was an act of complete emotional control. He defied stereotypes that have plagued Black men, gave space for a conversation about the ever-shifting boundaries of comedy, and has even used the incident to make people laugh.

According to multiple media reports, Rock arrived on stage at London’s Royal Albert Hall last month and said, “I’m okay, if anybody was wondering. I got most of my hearing back and I’m trying to make a decent show.” Explaining that he had no intention of dedicating any more of his show to the incident, he added, “People expect me to talk about the bull—. I’m not going to talk about it right now, I’ll get to it eventually — on Netflix.”

Jada Pinkett Smith also recently posted a video addressing the incident for the first time. She says, “About Oscar night — my deepest hope is that these two intelligent and capable men have the opportunity to heal, talk this out and reconcile. The state of the world today — we need them both and we all actually need one another more than ever. Until then Will and I will continue to do what we have done for the last 28 years and this is to keep figuring out this thing called life together. Thank you for listening.”

The 57-year-old Rock is one of America’s most beloved and admired comics. His observational comedy, rooted in the Black experience and African-American culture, has led to extraordinary success in movies, television and stage. His sharp and uncompromising takes on current events, race, and sex have made him one of the most sought-after voices in popular culture.

In response to the pandemic, he also became a strong advocate for protecting mental health. During a 2020 interview with Gayle King of CBS, Rock opened up about increasing his therapy visits to about seven hours a week after COVID-19 hit the country. Perhaps that is where he gained the insight to deal with the current situation.

“You have to tell the truth,” he says of those visits. “You have to tell — you have to go into therapy prepared to tell the worst part of yourself every week, you know?”

When asked what the hardest truth was to tell during those sessions, Rock says he doesn’t want to embarrass anyone.

“I don’t want to out anybody, I don’t want to, you know, out myself,” Rock tells King. “But, yeah, just, you know, sometimes I wasn’t kind, and sometimes I wasn’t listening, and sometimes I was selfish, and some, you know, a lot of times. And sometimes, you know, I took advantage of circumstances, and positions, of you know, just everyday things. And you know, it’s ultimately, who do you want to be?”

What did he learn about himself, King asks?

“I learned that I could be very hard on myself,” Rock says. “Like really, really hard on myself, and I need to relax. And I need to listen, I need to take chances.”

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