During his performance on Saturday Night Live, Chris Rock’s commentary on the Boston bombings, 9/11, Martin Luther King Jr., “Jesus’s birthday season,” and guns may have made some viewers uncomfortable—but that’s who Rock is, one of the most subversive comics in the nation.
Rock, whose social commentary is usually cluttered with obscenities, kept it PG for the audience—unless you don’t like the word “titties.” Rock spent roughly 7 minutes elaborating on the irony of tragedy and American culture. The Sept. 11 attacks were 13 years ago and the tragedy in Boston was a year and a half ago. While that may be too soon for some, Rock was his usual self in challenging boundaries and creating an opportunity for his audience to laugh at our pain.
His monologue never belittled the tragedies or condemned Christmas. Rock is neither the first nor the last comedian to make light of an unfortunate event—comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert address difficult conversations with humor consistently but aren’t accused of going too far.
He referred to the Boston bombings as “ the most frightening, sadistic terrorist act ever,” before going into his joke. Rock’s central point is that in America, “there are no sacred days,” because everything is commercialized. And at the 4:20 minute mark of the video below, Rock finally gets to the main idea of his monologue—$9.11 shrimp discounts, “Free at last” Toyotas for the MLK holiday, and how the celebration of the birth of Christ has turned “into the most materialistic day of the year.” All are exaggerated reflections of how America treats its important days.
Though it was a considerably watered-down version of his usual biting commentary, Rock once again held up a mirror to what has been going on in America. And considering that America is grappling with harrowing issues like police using excessive force and students being killed in school shootings, “too soon” is clearly a matter of perspective.