Chris Rock’s Funniest Stand-Up Comedy Specials

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Highlight of Stand-Up Comedy Specials from Chris Rock's Career.

Chris Rock triumphantly returned to the comedy center stage by debuting his much anticipated Selective Outrage comedy special on Netflix. It was the first comedy special ever aired live on the streaming platform. We had also been waiting for a year for Rock to publicly respond to the now infamous Will Smith slap at the Oscars. He did respond, and it was in the most Chris Rock way imaginable.

Chris clapped back at his former friend with a scathing yet hilarious rant about his wife’s infidelity. Additionally, he labeled Jada Pinkett as manipulative. This is because she had allegedly tried to convince him not to host the Oscars. Her reasons, according to Chris Rock, were because Will Smith had not been nominated that year. He also gave his unique perspectives on fatherhood, racism, and of course, the Kardashians. Selective Outrage debuted live on March 4th and is currently available to stream on Netflix. The stand-up special adds to Chris Rock’s impressive comedy discography. He has won numerous awards for his comedy specials throughout his remarkable career. Here is a list of his top-rated comedy specials.

Big Ass Jokes – 1994

This was Chris Rock’s official debut into televised stand-up comedy specials. HBO produced Big Ass Jokes in 1994 as part of their weekly Half-Hour Comedy Series. The special proved to be pivotal for Chris' career. He had just exited a three-year stint at Saturday Night Live the previous year. Big Ass Jokes displayed the comedian’s uniqueness in subject matter and delivery.

Themes of the special included his childhood and relationship with his mother, and his preference for older women. Furthermore, the comedy special sees Chris giving his controversial take on school busing. His style of comedy was refreshing and a big departure from the skit-focused style of comedy presented on SNL. Many entertainment pundits argue that Big Ass Jokes was the beginning of the raise to super-stardom for the comedian from New York. Chris’ debut special has a 7.2/10 rating on IMDb.

Bring the Pain – 1996

If his debut comedy special was impressive, then his sophomore, Bring the Pain, cemented his name as a comedy titan. The comedy special is Rock’s most critically acclaimed stand-up performance to date. Chris had already made a name for himself at SNL and playing supporting roles in movies like New Jack City (1991) and Boomerang (1992). Bring the Pain premiered in June 1996 as part of HBO Comedy Half-Hour. In the special, Chris Rock talks about dating, marriage and race relations in America.

The comedy special additionally dives into the polarizing murder trial of OJ Simpson. But, perhaps the most controversial part of the special was a piece about “Niggas vs. Black People”. In the approximately 12-minute routine, Rock explains that there is a subgroup of black people he refers to as ‘niggas’. In his view, this subgroup glorifies ignorance and sloth, and generally paints a negative image on the rest of the black community.

Unfortunately, the backlash he received from the routine caused Rock to remove it from the special. In an interview after the premier, he said that he felt like the routine empowered racist individuals to use the n-word. The routine was never performed live again. Bring the Pain has an IMDb score of 8.2. Additionally, it won Rock two Emmy Awards. Chris inked a deal for a weekly HBO talk show called The Chris Rock Show as a result of the success of the special.

Bigger and Blacker – 1999

Recorded in the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Bigger and Blacker premiered in July 1999. It was Chris’ third HBO comedy special. Thematically, Rock stays in the lane of his first two specials. He discusses race relations, relationships, political correctness and gun violence. But, this time, his views on these themes had expanded and his creativity in delivery was sharper.

Chris had been dubbed “the funniest man in America by Vanity Fair by the time Bigger and Blacker was premiering. He had starred in commercially successful movies like Beverly Hills Ninja (1997), and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). His career was on cruise control. Furthermore, Bigger and Blacker won Chris a Grammy for Best Spoken Comedy Album in 2000.

Never Scared – 2004

Primetime Emmy winner Joel Gallen directed Chris Rock’s fourth HBO stand-up special. Never Scared premiered in April 2014. It was taped at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington DC. Chris provides impeccable satirical content on complex topics such as drug legalization and wealth inequality in America, but also explains his take on light-hearted topics like the complexities of women’s happiness to balance the set. Additionally, Rock had recently become a father and he delved into the experiences of raising his daughter.

The 2000s was the age of the Compact Disk (CD), and the comedy special was also available on CD for purchase and lease. Never Scared proved to be another successful comedy special for Chris Rock as he won another Grammy for Best Comedy Album in 2006. It has an 8.0/10 rating in IMDb

Kill the Messenger – 2008

This special was taped in several cities during his international comedy tour. Parts of the recordings were then edited together to create his fifth comedy special. The tour stops in the special include the Carnival City Casino in Johannesburg, HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London, and the Apollo Theater in New York City. Kill the Messenger also served as Rock’s final comedy special with HBO. Topics in the 79-minute special included; sex, the n-word, fuel prices, the 2008 presidential campaigns, and the possibility of a black president. It premiered on September 2008 to critical acclaim winning two Emmy awards for the comedy star.

Tambourine – 2018

Chris is a little tame and composed in the Tambourine comedy special, but does not compromise on the funny. The comedy star returned back to his home town to bare his soul about his personal life. He spends a substantial part of the special narrating about fatherhood, his infidelity and the resulting divorce. But, rock’s comedy performances are never complete without giving the audience his unique takes of politics of the day and Tambourine is no different.

Tambourine initiated Rock’s relationship with streaming giant Netflix. Bo Burnham splendidly took on the directorial duties of the approximately one and a half hour project. The stand-up special received positive reviews on its premier. However, Rock released an extended cut called the Total Blackout: The Tambourine, without Bo’s input and the project received largely mixed reviews. Total Blackout is available for streaming on Netflix.

Selective Outrage - 2023

Thanks to an unfortunate incident of assault at the hands of Will Smith, the world had been waiting for Chris to publicly respond. There was no better way of giving his thoughts and feelings about the incident other than in a comedy special – Chris Rock style. This incident perhaps made Selective Outrage the most anticipated comedy special in recent times.

The now veteran comedian starts off the special by ticking all the boxes of a classic Chris Rock stand-up. Raising privileged children, a hilarious take on racism using yoga pants, and the Kardashian family were part of the subject matter. Between routines, he would hilariously repeat throughout the special that he does not want any problem with another rapper, referencing Will Smith’s past career.

The tail end of Selective Outrage starts with Chris speaking about his support for Will Smith’s career over the years. But, he would then bring back to the lime light the infidelity issue in the Smith’s family. Finally, he then said that the reason he did not retaliate during the Oscars is because he was raised right. His parents told him never to fight in front of white people – and the mic was dropped to a roaring applause from the audience.

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