Culture / Entertainment

Chris Rock Makes Sensitive Gun Lovers Walk Out on his Texas Show

And a Surprise Guest Star Nearly Steals the Night

BY // 05.15.17

Chris Rock certainly hasn’t lost anything. Any worries that Rock misplaced his legendary  bite during a nine-year break from stand-up touring completely disappear less than 20 minutes into his set. For Rock starts breaking down some of the patented absurdities of America’s gun culture.

In Texas.

There are laughs and some murmurs at the gleaming new $84 million Smart Financial Centre as Rock clinically dissects the  hunting tenant of gun devotees on a Saturday night in Sugar Land. “You don’t need to hunt,” Rock says. “You want to kill something.” At this point an older gentleman two rows behind me almost pleadingly calls out, “Chris, no!”

“I eat what I kill,” Rock mocks. “….You passed four Whole Foods on your way to go to hunting.”

Rock details his own hunting experience as a child (he killed a little rabbit, cried about it and got called a gay slur by his grandfather for being weak). But it’s not until he takes on that old NRA-friendly staple of gun defenders faced with mass shootings — What if a guy with a knife killed 20 people? — does the little murmuring grow into a mini rumble.

“If a guy with a knife kills 20 people, 17 people deserved to die,” Rock declares, noting that no one who witnesses a few people getting stabbed is sticking around to get knifed themselves.

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At this point, some people in the sellout crowd of 6,400-plus get up and walk out. It’s not a huge number by any means, but it’s enough to be noticeable — and it happens in all different parts of the arena. If Rock is fazed by this at all, it surely does not show. He continues to stalk around and command the stage in his simple all-black outfit (black jacket, black T-shirt and black jeans) and deliver big laughs that make people think.

“This is very liberal right here,” Rock says a little later. “But 20 minutes in any direction…”

It turns out liberals who aren’t offended by gun culture ribbing can be offended by bullying talk. For when Rock goes on a comic rant (remember he’s a comedian) about bullying being good for kids, there’s more murmuring in the crowd. A few people will tweet that they walked out of the show then too, but it’s not as noticeable and large a departure in the theatre as the gun bolting.

Rock argues that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t have been so successful without going through bullying as a kid — and thanks his own chief childhood tormentor by name for motivating him.

Do the people who walk out not realize they (presumably) bought a ticket to a Chris Rock show? Getting offended by Chris Rock making you uncomfortable is like getting offended at Ken Burns for going long.

There’s been a lot of talk about how this Total Blackout Tour is Rock’s most personal show. That is true — to a point. Rock talks about being a bad husband, about becoming “addicted to porn” and his divorce. He admits to cheating and even runs through the three women he slept with:

1). A Girl who worked at Sephora

2). Miss Kanas City — “I’m not going to tell you what year.”

3). A member of Destiny’s Child — “not Beyonce.”

Yet, despite these biographical touches, Chris Rock is still Chris Rock. One of the greatest standup comics of all time still frames jokes (even personal ones) within larger societal issues. This is what always gave him a huge edge over mere everyday observational comics — and it still applies nearly a decade later.

Chris Rock has a special connection with one member of Destiny’s Child.

You’ll leave a Jerry Seinfeld show chuckling. You leave a Chris Rock show laughing — and mulling over some stuff in your mind. Not that Rock can’t just deliver over-the-top laughs.

Rock’s joke about porn actresses, Meryl Streep and a certain bodily function will not be soon forgotten by anyone in the Saturday night crowd at Smart Financial Centre. But his decree that the background check required for gun ownership in America should be having a mortgage resonates on a deeper level.

“If you have a 739 credit score, you’re not killing anybody,” Rock cracks.

“Whole Foods doesn’t say no Black people. But a $7 orange sure does.”

Rock’s Total Blackout Tour orbits around the $40 million deal he signed with Netflix to produce two stand-up specials. Material from this tour will make up at least one of those specials, but Rock makes sure these city shows stand on their own. He complements his own routine with guest stars that make the night of comedy long enough that there’s a 20-minute intermission before CR starts flashing on the video boards and Rock takes the stage.

On a Saturday night in Sugar Land, it’s Lil Rel as a guest comic and revelation. It’s not that Lil Rel is funnier than Rock, but he’s great in his own way. A less secure comic than Chris Rock probably never lets this guy take the stage right before him. Probably best known for his breakout role in the surprise horror movie blockbuster Get Out, Lil Rel comes out in a Bulls No. 33 Scottie Pippen jersey and proceeds to kill it in H-Town.

Lil Rel takes on SoulSwipe, wondering why they didn’t just call it “Black Tinder” and he shuts down both new-age preachers (“I don’t trust the iPad preachers”) and show-off “strong-ass dads” who make typical out-of-shape fathers with dad bods look bad.

This guy is a worthy headliner in his own right. But Lil Rel is clearly thrilled to cede the stage to Rock.

Once Rock bounds onto the simple stage (his only “props” are the great vintage shots of old comedy albums that flash on the side video boards before the show and at intermission), he immediately starts talking about Houston. “Hot as a mother******… Geto Boys and half of New Orleans,” Rock cracks in running down the attributes of America’s fourth-largest city.

Rock also skews Whole Foods several times, leveling the trendy yuppie-beloved grocery store chain. “Whole Foods doesn’t say no Black people,” Rock roars. “But a $7 orange sure does.”

The entire crowd is with him at this moment. That won’t last. As it should be. This is Chris Rock. He’s supposed to offend some fools.

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