Chris Rock Re-Edits a Special, and the Result Is Fascinating


The main contrast, however, is the comic’s discussion of its own infidelity. Up until “Tamborine”, Rock was known as a social commentator who mostly kept his private life at a distance. However, addressing his divorce and responsibility for his marriage breakdown, Rock made the most vulnerable, introspective comedy of his career. Burnham was clearly drawn to and focused on this aspect of the set. This material, including jokes about marriage, divorce, and sex, takes up about half of the special, as opposed to about a third of the expanded version.

When Rock admitted his mistakes, Burnham went into a rare close-up. And it stayed on the star’s face with no shots cut off when Rock talked about cheating on his wife. When the crowd giggled, Rock looked serious and insisted he wasn’t proud. He said he knew what people thought, “What’s wrong with men?”

On this line Burnham did something dramatic: he shrank the frame even more and moved on Rock like a microscope, so close that it obscured part of his head. It’s an aggressive move that both underscores and expands the question of what’s going on with men, adding new weight to that personal story, especially since it came out just months after Harvey Weinstein’s exposé and inevitably the #MeToo movement evokes.

A year later, Kevin Hart released a special, “Irresponsible,” in which he also talked about cheating on his wife. He was weirder, shorter in his remorse and the particular cut of him after a joke to make the crowd laugh. While Burnham put the audience off, “Irresponsible” took a more flattering route, with an attitude that showed that it was okay to laugh before you keep things moving.

Rock’s extended version stays harder but moves closer to that stance. He removes the extreme close-up that, along with her role of drawing attention to the material, is something of a signature Burnham take. He used it at the beginning of his directing for Jerrod Carmichael’s groundbreaking special “8” – whose cinematic rock aesthetic inspired him to hire. Instead of that touch, Rock adds a new take, a mouse view of the star from the front of the stage, partially obscured by what appears to be a member of the audience. This new angle looks at a performer in awe.