Chris Rock’s controversial monologue on SNL: funny or disrespectful?

Chris Rock visited his old stomping grounds to host this weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live. Sometimes I forget that he’s not simply the guy who voices a zebra in the Madagascar movies. His SNL monologue reminded me that he’s a devastating comedian. There were no musical numbers in Rock’s monologue. No cute little guitar. This was simply Rock doing some old-fashioned, stand-up comedy.

Dustin Rowles of Pajiba says the rest of the episode wasn’t great, so this monologue was one of the highlights. Rock covers a lot of ground in these 8 minutes. He touches on the terrorist bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, the 9/11 attacks, and the Freedom Tower. Some of what he says is shocking, but his point revolves around the inevitable commercialism of anniversaries and holidays. Rock starts out by mentioning Sunday’s NYC marathon. Then this happened:

“That Boston Marathon was scary, because I love Boston. I love the people there, but that was probably the most frightening, sadistic terrorist attack ever. Just think about it – 26 miles! 26 miles is a long drive. People jogging for 26 miles, their knees are hurting, their feet are killing them, if you’re a woman, there’s blood coming out your t—ies. You’ve been training for a year, you finally get to the finish line, and somebody screams, ‘RUN!’

“The good people of Boston bounced back, and New York will bounce back. We had our own terrorist attack. Now we’ve got the Freedom Tower. They should change the name from the Freedom Tower to the ‘Never Going in There Tower,’ ’cause I’m never going in there. There is no circumstance that will ever get me in that building. Does this building duck? What are they thinking? Who’s the corporate sponsor, Target? Stop it. They put another skyscraper in the same spot? What kind of arrogant, Floyd Mayweather crap is this? What businesses are they going to put in the Freedom Tower? They better put some mandatory stuff in there. If they put a Sunglass Hut in there, it’s gonna be empty. I got robbed on 48th and 8th about 20 years ago, I have not been back to 48th and 8th. I am never going in the Freedom Tower. I don’t care if Scarlett Johannson is butt-naked on the 89th floor in a plate of ribs.”

“Hey, hey I’m not joking about 9/11, but we live in America and in America there are no sacred days because we commercialize everything. We’re only 5 years away from 9/11 sales. You’re gonna hear it on the radio: ‘Come on down to Red Lobster. These shrimp are $9.11.’ It doesn’t matter what the holiday is. Martin Luther King Day. It’s gonna be the same like, “These Toyotas are free at last, free at last!’ ‘It’s MLK birthday. Madea’s got a dream!’ We commercialize everything. Look at Christmas. Jesus’ birthday. Now I don’t know Jesus, but from what I’ve heard, Jesus is the least materialistic person to ever roam the Earth. No bling on Jesus. Jesus kept a low profile, and we turned his birthday into the most materialistic day of the year. It’s a whole season of materialism. And at the end, we have the nerve to have an economist come on tv and tell us how horrible the Jesus birthday season was this year.”

[From NBC – Saturday Night Live]

Rock moved onto the topic of gun control and celebrity involvement in charity. That part wasn’t too funny, but the rest? Rock’s routine reminded me of the late, great Richard Pryor. Yes, it was surprising that Rock mentioned these topics, but he didn’t say anything disrespectful towards victims. He intended to hold up a mirror to our society’s holiday commercialism, and that’s what he did.

Cast member Pete Davidson, whose firefighter father died on 9/11, tweeted his approval of Rock’s monologue.

Oh, and here’s Prince’s performance. He played for eight minutes with his newish band, 3RDEYEGIRL.

Here’s a backstage pic of Chris Rock jamming to Prince tunes before the show.

Chris Rock

Chris Rock

Photos courtesy of NBC, Chris Rock on Facebook & WENN

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84 Responses to “Chris Rock’s controversial monologue on SNL: funny or disrespectful?”

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  1. Ollyholly says:

    The beauty of his comedy is that while, yes, it is controversial and I’m sure people got offended, it shines a light on the listener- turning the tables on them. Sometimes comedy that makes us uncomfortable is some of the most poignant as it tells us more about who we are…

    • StormsMama says:

      Yup. Love him.
      Touching the nerve! And it was funny!

    • DIANE says:

      Check out his Bigger and Blacker dvd. Some of the best stand-up I’ve ever seen. Hilarious no matter how many times you watch it.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I love Chris Rock’s stand up. He is like Louis CK in the respect that his “comedy” hits on greater truths and sometimes the laugh comes from being uncomfortable. I think he made some great points in this, especially the commercialization aspect.

  2. Gabriella says:


    • joan says:


      BUT . . .

      I know he’s older, but he’s lost his sparkle. His eyes used to flash when he roamed the stage, and now he still brings the humor but he didn’t sell it like he used to. The younger Chris Rock could’ve had that audience laughing at those jokes, but he just looked TIRED.

      Pryor kept his spark, in fact he got better as he aged. CR looks to me like he’s got some issues. Aging? Malaise? Jaded? ‘

      He’s got a beautiful wife and kids and mother; hope he’s behaving himself.

  3. AG-UK says:

    I had the pleasure of seeing him here at the Hammersmith Odeon years and was surprised people in the UK followed him as it was packed, black, white, Asian.. he does remind me of Richard Pryor as he isn’t really afraid to say anything.

    • Renee says:

      Was it in 2008 – I was there!!! I did notice how diverse the audience was and there were a ton of interracial couples. He does remind me of Richard Pryor, to quote Bob Newhart, they make you laugh and then they break your heart.

    • LAK says:

      i was there too. it was hilarious.

  4. tmh says:

    It’s a joke it’s not that serious, get over it!

  5. Lottie says:

    To me it wasn’t offensive or tasteless. It was funny. I read a headline about the monologue on another site before watching and thought he was going to say something terrible, but he didn’t! He’s just saying what’s on his mind and very possibly others. The part about ScarJo was hilarious. It was an edgy set and I’m glad to see Chris Rock again. It’s been a while.

    • Betty says:

      Yes, I was under the impression he said something terrible too, but no dice. He just kept it real. He and Margaret Cho have long been my two favorite comedians.

    • Esmom says:

      Yes, he’s great. So insightful and funny and no, not disrespectful.

    • We Are All Made of Stars says:

      Yup, good for him. He’s one of the ones who is smart enough to tell the truth and be funny about it. It’s been long enough that we can laugh about this stuff. In America, no cow is sacred forever.

  6. Sullivan says:

    Trenchant observations from a talented comedian.

    • frivolity says:

      Absolutely. Trenchant and true.

      Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone personally affected by the tragedies he spoke of would be offended at all. Rather, they should be ANGRY as hell about how the U.S. media and politicians, and society exploit their suffering (and foster it). Rock is just a comedian who touches upon some harsh truths.

      Oh, and I though Prince sucked. Too bad, but I think his ego is really getting in the way of his work …

      • outstandingworldcitizen says:


        Comes down to $$$$$. Don’t say x because it will make people feel negatively about y. My agency is moving into building 4. Some folks are freaked because of the previous bombing and of course 911. Some have even retired a few years early becausr of he anxiety ovef the move. Thank you Bloomturd.

  7. kri says:

    I love CR. He’s so smart. “Everybody Hates Chris” was hilarious. I watched him the other night, and I get it. But tbh, I was a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t shrieking in horror, but I just kept thinking what if there was an audience member there who lost someone in either attack? But that’s just me. He’s a huge talent.

    • Pinky says:

      I miss “Everybody Hates Chris”! It was so spot on and hilarious. Didn’t get the r-e-s-p-e-c-t it deserved.

    • frivolity says:

      Everybody Hates Chis was such a gem! It was terrific and so overlooked.

  8. Kiddo says:

    Well, cheesy they were; the consumerism had started immediately, but was pulled:

  9. Lilacflowers says:

    As a Bostonian for whom the Marathon has been part of my life since early childhood and who knew people hurt that day, I was not offended by his monologue. It was respectful and funny, although I don’t get the timing of it. If he wanted to talk about the Freedom Tower, he could have just begun with that.

    • Kiddo says:

      I’m guessing it might have occurred to him because retail was already putting out Christmas crap before Halloween, and his stream of consciousness brought him to the absolute point of marketing absurdity, which would mean seeping into tragedies, if not holidays. Just a thought.

    • Bridget says:

      It was the New York Marathon this past weekend, that’s where the Boston jokes would have come from.

  10. Pinky says:

    Amazing. So-o-o-o good! (And this is coming from someone who witnessed firsthand the towers burst into flames and crumble, and then struggled through the aftermath.)

  11. Mrs. Wellen Melon says:

    Robert Klein on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee said, “Can you do a joke about cancer? Yes but it had better be funny.”

    Chris Rock was funny.

  12. Nikki says:

    I thought it was a lot about the Boston Marathon for one little joke: “Run!” , and I realized I was literally holding my breath. I do think it’s questionable taste, and not worth the laugh. I’m still seeing mayhem, not the funny side for an audience’s entertainment. But all the rest of it, I thought was not offensive, because it wasn’t joking about the horrible day itself, but decisions afterwards. And the funniest comedy is always TRUTHFUL, and he nails it. I love Chris Rock and have really missed him!

  13. Delilah says:

    I saw SNL last night (DVR), so it’s fresh in my mind. Probably why I detected that some part of his monologue is omitted. I think it would help represent Chris Rock better if you quoted it better, Bedhead. re:Freedom Tower – he gave examples on what he meant as ”mandatory stuff”, i.e., IRS, DMV, etc. Also, he made other remarks about the Jesus birthday that were omitted. I know everyone can just google or YouTube the monologue but just my opinion you need to see and hear the whole routine yourself to get a more accurate impression of Rock’s act. But the rest of the episode as well as Prince’s performance was disappointing. I liked the Intro, skit about the daughter live streaming, the Taylor Swift bit and the Obama approval ratings. For the record, I did not find the monologue offensive but knowing the PC climate we’re in, I can see that others are bound to be offended.

    • judyjudyjudy says:

      being offended has nothing to do with a PC climate and everything to do with people having the right to take offense at things said and having the right to say so. I hate when people try to dismiss genuine sensitivity as “PC”. (I mean this generally and not a slam on you specifically) Having said that, I agree, he was very clear on what he was mocking and people should hear the whole thing rathe than just edited snippets that may mislead. I thought he was very funny (tho he went on too long about Boston), but then I love his intelligence and his disrespect.. Classic Rock.

    • Bedhead says:

      I transcribed the whole speech (unlike most other outlets, which included one or two sentences, tops) and then had to do some cutting for brevity’s sake. The “mandatory” details seemed redundant, so I left them out! Along with plenty of other repetitive phrases. Sorry for the confusion.

      • Delilah says:

        Bedhead I know about the value of omission due to redundancy but for me I lol’ big time at the examples. I have beef with probably all the mandatory entities he mentioned and it really helped drive home the comedic aspect of the Freedom Tower bit. My intent is not to diminish your effort so I hope that is not your takeway.

        @JudyJudyJudy I think we get caught up with categorical imperatives of labeling phenomenon. I get pissed at the term race card so I could see my blanket label of “PC climate” strikes a nerve. Everyone has one, including me.

  14. Feebee says:

    Funny! For a wee bit at the start I was I bit unsure but it was just funny. Pity about the rest of the episode, even WD was under par, but he made for an excellent start.

  15. Sam says:

    What was there to be offended about? He at no point attaked or impugned any of the victims or anything of the sort. On the bit about the Freedom Tower, he was mocking his own irrational reaction of fear. Nothing hateful about it. People have lost our ability to think critically about comedy.

    • Nikki says:

      I think there WAS something to be offended at in the Boston Marathon joke, because the joke centers on laughing about something right at the finish line, at the time people were getting maimed. If we can agree rape jokes are not funny, don’t expect me to laugh about “Run!” after 26 miles. But all the rest of it was hilarious, because it was laughing about stupid decisions after the fact, our fears, etc. I’m NOT a PC person, but the Boston Marathon joke was not worth the laugh. Would you want to tell it to someone who had his legs blown off? Then don’t tell it.

      • Sam says:

        But the joke WASN’T about the victims. It was about how unfair it was people who had just run 26 miles and were at the point of exhaustion reached the end only to have to run more. It’s gallows humor, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

        Oh, and BTW, rape jokes CAN be funny. They just have to be well-done and lampoon the attacker instead of the victim. You should avail yourself of Google to see some decent examples.

      • judyjudyjudy says:

        “sam” , it is almost as if you read the post I had on here that I didn’t press submit on. Do you work for the site?


      • HoolooPie says:

        @Nikki Maybe he WOULD tell it to someone who was actually there. In no way, shape, or form is he poking fun at someone who was maimed that day. Geez, it’s a JOKE. There will always be people overly-sensitive; the best comedians push on and, as is apparent from most other responses on the board, still make people laugh.

      • Nikki says:

        Read each of yor points, but we will have to agree to disagree on this one. I understand he’s not making fun of the victims, and I understand it was a JOKE even without the capital letters! But unlike the Freedom Tower joking, , the joke I object to requires finding humor at the finish line itself, which is a lot to ask if you know or empathize with someone who lost her legs near the finish line of that race. It was too tragic and horrifying a scenario for me to laugh that someone nearby hears “Run!” I’m a little surprised I’m branded as an overly PC moron; I guess it is a question of sensitivity.

      • Kitten says:

        I’m a Bostonian and a runner and I wasn’t offended.

        That being said, I can completely see Nikki’s point. In Boston, the marathon finish line has always been hallowed grounds. It’s just really hard for people who aren’t from around here to grasp how horrific it was to hear stories of Copley Square littered with limbs and burned flesh. Also as a passionate runner myself, I can imagine that it would be particularly devastating for a runner to lose the use of one’s legs. It’s just hard to see the humor in it.

      • Chris says:

        @Kitten: Passionate runner and avid pot smoker? That’s an interesting combination.

  16. db says:

    love it! Very funny. We’re in desperate of a laugh at the inanity of it all.

  17. The Original G says:

    It made me think SNL might be worth watching again.

  18. Someonestolemyname says:

    I worked with him years ago on SNL , he did not come off as a nice dude. I’ve been turned off to his comedy ever since.
    Just can’t warm to him.
    I found his comedy very mean spirited. I know people love him, but I don’t like his humour at all. His comedy just always seems forced and angry to me.

    • Brionne says:

      Comedians are usually some of the most twisted individuals….but they’ve somehow learned to make their inner turmoil funny. Sam Kinnison, Richard Prior, that guy with the watermelons, Kathy Griffin, George Carlin….these are some people with dark sides.

    • Sugar1 says:

      He has offended me plenty to the point when I heard he was appearing on SNL I wasn’t super excited at all. I come from old old school SNL the early years so it lost its appeal to me long ago & far away. But a few things quoted in this post from his monologue made me laugh but I’m still no fan of his.

  19. Zigggy says:


  20. moo says:

    funny. it made me laugh.

  21. Birdix says:

    That’s it–it wasn’t likely before, but now I’m content to never run a marathon

  22. Venuslotus says:

    I kinda cringed while watching, I did chuckle at some parts.

  23. pnichols says:

    He’s not saying anything that people aren’t thinking. He is brilliant. Always loved him. He is tasteful and dead on accurate. Props.

  24. FingerBinger says:

    It wasn’t offensive. It wasn’t that funny either.

  25. Mew says:

    He says what’s the truth. If that’s offending, then better head back to the fairytale land of bubblegum flowers and rainbow puke.

  26. bns says:

    I love him.

  27. Anare says:

    LOL! And I’m laying in bed sick so I don’t think much is funny right now. Chris Rock was spot on. Loved it.

  28. Flounder says:

    He is spot on and funny!!

  29. Ginger says:

    Brilliant and intelligent.

  30. MSat says:

    Chris was funny, Prince blew the doors off that place, everything else ranged from just “okay” to “ugh.” SNL really needs to step up their writing game, quick. I know losing Seth Myers as head writer was a crushing blow. But there are some funny people on this show, give them something good to do! Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Vanessa Bayer – they’re hilarious. Give them some decent material, or better yet, let them write something!

  31. word says:

    Aside from the monologue, I had high expectations for this episode. It was disappointing. The skits were not very funny and I really hate it when the host reads EVERY line from the cue cards. Last week, when Jim Carey hosted, it was really funny ! I think as a stand up comedian Chris Rock is one of the funniest guys, but he just wasn’t good on SNL this time. They need to have Drake host again, he killed it last time !

    • MSat says:

      My big problem with the material is that the writers seem to take a premise or one punch line that’s mildly funny and just drill it into the ground. An example is the recurring sketch with the veterinary technicians who tell people that their pets are dead – one time around that premise is funny, but 10 times in one sketch? Not funny. The fact that it’s even a recurring sketch shows that the writer are just out of ideas.

      I also think that the Update pairing of Colin Jost and Michael Che is just not working. Jost is about as plain vanilla boring as you can get and he has a terrible habit of telegraphing his punchline that just kills every joke. He seems to think he is a LOT funnier than he actually is. Che just seems bored, flubs up his lines, and isn’t given much to do except introduce the character “bits” – which are usually a big disappointment. I mean, how many times can we see Drunk Uncle come out and do the same thing over and over?

      I miss Fred Armisen.

  32. defaultgirl says:

    Chris Rock was funny, I liked the monologue and LOVED PRINCE and his 3rd eye sunglasses:-) He could’ve rocked out for the whole show with his sexy girl band:-) AWESOME SAUCE!!

  33. Blarg Smith says:

    Rock is right.

  34. theoneandonly says:

    Yes, Drake should quit rapping (sorry I’m no fan of rap) and try acting; he was quite good in his SNL stint. And please, Chris Rock was funny not disrespectful.

    • Alyssa Callaway says:

      Fun fact: Drake was actually a longtime cast member on the Canadian teen drama “Degrassi.” So he got his start acting, I think. I can’t remember the name he was credited as (I believe it’s his real first and last name…Aubrey something) but when he became popular as a musician I said “Hey! It’s Jimmy from Degrassi!”

    • Gina says:

      Dang I didn’t watch. I love Wheelchair Jimmy…..but I like his rapping as much as his acting. Mean old Rhi Rhi broke his heart.

  35. Gina says:

    Throw a light punch to get a big headline. I guess I get it. But make a light joke about a black man and Rev. Sharpton and Jackson will hold a press conference. Our country is very selective about its humor. It’s like beauty, all in the eye of the beholder.

    • Veronica says:

      There is a world of difference between mocking the less favorable institutions of the culture in power versus using humor at the expense of a marginalized group. That’s not a discrepancy in how we view humor – that’s the core of how humor WORKS. Understanding power dynamics and how they interplay are key to the entire process.

      • Gina says:

        I agree with your comment on a certain level. You are making the assumption that everyone shares your intellect which is a gross understatement. Everyone comprehends words and defines them differently. What is hilarious to someone, might be hurtful to someone else. Edgy comedians cross the line continuously to stay relevant, sometimes at their own expense, sometimes at the expense of others. Any “humor” relating to any terrorist activity might be a hoot to some and to others a reminder of the world we live in where beheading is the new norm on the nightly news. Sure someone out there will find a way to make jokes about that too. Don’t going losing your head over my comment………..point made maybe?

  36. Veronica says:

    I’m generally okay with Chris Rock because he’s usually employing humor to make some very distinct points about American culture. I admit I got a kick out of the Toyota line, though. Very clever.

  37. LaurieH says:

    Chris Rock is a comedian and by virtue of that, eveything he says is an exaggerated caricature of the truth or an opinion. In this case, I thought it was rather brilliant because he was making the broader point that Americans turn everything – no matter how somber or sacred – into an exercise in profiteering. 9/11? Sure…charge people to get into the memorial. Michael Brown’s death? The family is selling t-shirts. Christmas and Easter? Absolutely the worst. How the birth and resurrection of Jesus turned into a mall stampede and mounds of chocolate bunnies is anyone’s guess. Thanksgiving? Leave the dirty dishes in the sink and give thanks that Wal-Mart is opening at sunset. Yeah – Chris had a point. If it’s offensive it’s because we’ve become offensive.

  38. Jess says:

    I thought he was very funny. I love him!

  39. Liv says:

    I am a Boston resident & a runner, and I was by no means offended. I worried for a moment he was going to take it to a dark place, but that did not happen. He kept it relatively light and still shed his comedic light. I say “Bravo!” to a comedian that can take a sensitive, saddening topic and find some way to evoke laughter.

  40. liddyrose says:

    If you want to see the Chris’ SNL monologue and commentary on it go here: