chris rock netflix edited

Netflix edited Chris Rock’s new comedy special to hide an embarrassing mistake

Rock flubbed a joke about Will Smith in the original live version—and didn't do a good job of covering it up.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 9, 2023

Marketed as Netflix‘s first livestreamed comedy event, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage aired last weekend. It debuted to mixed reviews and plenty of drama, mostly focusing on Rock’s comments about the Will Smith Oscars slap. But the show’s quality as a “live” recording is now being called into question after Netflix edited out one of Rock’s onstage mistakes.

When Rock flubbed a joke in the original live recording, it was pretty obvious. During a segment about Rock’s kinda-sorta feud with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, he tries to make a joke about Smith’s film Concussion (2015). However he accidentally namechecks Emancipation (2022) instead, so the punchline about the slap (ie. Will Smith “giving him a concussion”) doesn’t make any sense.

Instead of turning this slip-up into a new, impromptu joke—which is kind of what you’d expect from live standup comedy—he pauses and backtracks, saying “Not Emancipation. I fucked up the joke. Concussion.” Then he repeats the whole bit again with the right movie title.

It’s an awkward moment, and some reviews called him out for it. However, by retelling the whole joke, he made it easier for Netflix to just go back and delete the mistake. Which is exactly what happened, as spotted by Vulture critic Jesse David Fox.

When you watch this moment on Netflix now (about four minutes from the end of the special), it looks totally natural—although the show’s subtitle now reads “Streamed live and edited,” which feels like a bit of a cop-out for Netflix’s first live comedy special.

You can make the argument that the edited version makes for a better viewing experience, but it also detracts from the authenticity of watching a “live” performance. And, of course, it covers up an awkward mistake for both Netflix and Chris Rock, making the show look smoother and more naturalistic than it actually was.

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*First Published: Mar 9, 2023, 1:47 pm CST