An Open Letter to Chris Rock

Dear Chris Rock,

Like America’s conscience, I want to erase this moment in history but I can’t.

You’ve disgusted me to no end. I cannot believe I just witnessed your tasteless, callous, immature, disrespectful and unfunny “comedic tribute” to Oprah Winfrey. It was already borderline for you to joke about her money on such an occasion but you went way too far by cracking a sex joke about Oprah on the day she received her highest honor for the arts in the nation, by the President of the United States of America, in the Kennedy Center Honors:

The Presidential honorees, in total, were country singer Merle Haggard, composer Jerry Herman, choreographer Bill T. Jones, Sir Paul McCartney, and Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham

Now let’s review your jokes, shall we?

Chris: Oprah’s SO rich…

Audience: How rich is she?!

Chris: Oprah’s so rich…that China owes HER money!

Audience: (laughter)

*There’s really no need to focus on Oprah’s money either but we can at least let this one pass, if nothing less, to remind Americans that their xenophobia and white supremacy are unjustified. But I digress…

Chris: Oprah’s SO rich…

Audience: How rich is she?!

Chris: Oprah’s so rich…that if she had sex with Paul McCartney, the SEC would have to approve!

Audience: (uncomfortable laughter, shifts in seats, polite smiles to neighbors)

HOW DARE YOU?!

How dare you disrespect a woman who has given America and the world so much spirit, hope and humanity even with the cars, sweaters and ipads via her medium of communications? How dare you, the only Black man, aside from Sidney Poitier, allowed to even give her such a solitary honor, take your short period of time in which to honor her and choose to focus on her body or make ANY type of sex joke to her at all, let alone in front of her peers and the world!!! You inappropriate imbecile!

Not only would that have been inappropriate to do to ANY woman but to be so disrespectful to Oprah Winfrey (!!!), under the guise of comedy…??? I don’t even have enough adjectives to describe the depth of Oprah’s beauty and humanity and how you trounced upon it. I’m aware Oprah is not perfect; but in the hour of her ultimate tribute, why, why, why did she have to be made to feel uncomfortable and why did it have to be YOU to do her so wrong?

Were you somehow UNAWARE that Oprah is a survivor of child sexual abuse and that, MAYBE, just MAYBE your sex joke might be inappropriate?

Did you, for a fleeting moment, give any thought to America’s sordid racial history and abuse of Black womens’ bodies, in particular, to consider that making an interracial sex joke about someone with whom she’s clearly not engaged, would be unacceptable?

"Boy was THAT awkward." "Yeah, I know..."

When you watched the show on TV (if you even bothered to see such a poor replica of yourself), did you happen to notice how uncomfortable you made Oprah feel and how she tried to politely laugh it off with Paul McCartney sitting next to her? You’re a lint licker with the stench of a rhinoceros’ butt!

Further, not only did you disrespect Oprah, her history, her body and her narrative, you also disrespected her man—STE(A)D(Y)MAN—someone to whom you could clearly not measure up. I bet Stedman would never do a film called, “I Think I Love My Wife”, but that’s another story.

Did you notice how John Travolta and Barbara Walters had to come out and swiftly, politely and awkwardly come and pat you down and shut you up? They did it under the guise of limited time but trust me, it was because you were so appallingly inappropriate in that bit you want to call “comedy”. You’re UN-FUNNY!

Notice the desire to continue to honor Oprah IN SPITE OF Chris

The stupendously dignified tribute that Jennifer Hudson gave is the level of honor Oprah Winfrey deserved. Did you see the way Oprah and Stedman held hands during her performance? Did you see the way her eyes welled up, how she could barely release her breath at moments? How she seemed so filled with hope and possibility as she transitioned from being the number one talk show host for the last 25 years to fortifying an institution she is supremely calling “OWN”?

Did it occur to you how powerful it was that Jennifer Hudson was able to stand there, as a new woman, a healthy woman, a blessed woman standing with dignity and grace singing the hit song, “I’m Here” from “The Color Purple on Broadway”, the theatrical production of the book and film that changed Oprah’s life and brought her to our living rooms everyday?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Jennifer Hudson singing "I'm Here". Breathtaking...

I thank God for JHUD’s performance because yours was a new low. You should be deeply ashamed of yourself and if you are not, it just tells me that you no longer have a conscience.

I wish you had heard the way I cussed you out last night. I’m not gonna put it in this post because I want to make sure everybody can read this at work—yeah, work, remember that?

This isn’t even the fist time you disrespected Oprah. Do you remember sitting on her chair, as a guest on her show and telling her that her childhood picture looked like that of a slave, as she tried to make light, self-deprecating jokes about her picture, knowing her childhood was filled with pain, abuse and…silence. Whelp, I’m not being silent if nothing more than for the child spirit in Oprah and little girls everywhere who have to deal with the likes of you!

Ole Scraggly

I don’t even know how you got on the dais for the occasion because you were certainly an inappropriate choice, coming up on that stage looking all scraggly and unkempt like the piece of dung that you can be but you didn’t belong there, no matter how many times you get your teeth fixed.

Why don’t you belong there? Because, Chris, it has become more than clear that you are an ardent misogynist who apparently rarely has anything good to say about a Black woman and if and when you are blessed to be in the presence of so many beautiful Black women then you don’t know how to act, you have no class and you’re seemingly always inappropriate. Do you treat your mother like this, Chris?

Speaking of muthas, not that you deserve it but…the next time you’re being interviewed by Oprah, perhaps we can talk about what it means that THREE separate women have made rape accusations against you. How about that, Chris? Since you like to talk about sex so much…it would be insensitive, wouldn’t it?

I hear tell your interlude on Kanye West’s new work is equally disgusting and misogynistic. But I bet you’re proud.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama

Your jokes about Michelle Obama are mostly unfunny. Last night, you joked, “It’s amazing to look up and see the most important person in the world and — next to her — Barack Obama”.

The borderline, backhanded joke was more funny last night; but I hear tell even bell hooks is disgusted by all of the jokes you’ve made about our First Lady so far, including something about her “playing her position” in 2008 in your stand up. What gives, Chris?

I hope you witnessed, with each increasing guest and performance just how poor you were. Even Alex Baldwin was funnier and far more tasteful than you and he’s not even a comedian!

"Wow, aren't Alex Baldwin's jokes funny and appropriate?!" "How Refreshing!"

You, who created a film about imagining a Black President, unfortunately could not muster up the intestinal fortitude to stand in your full humanity and grace in front of one and honor a woman who has given so much to the world. Distinguished Gentleman, indeed…

Shame on you, Chris Rock, you owe Oprah Winfrey an apology and if the Kennedy Center approved your sorry script beforehand, they owe her—and us—an apology as well.

I doubt you’ll be a man about this but I just thought I should let you know that what you did was unacceptable and you need to change.

Sincere but So Disappointed,

Dr. Goddess

p.s. As for “Good Hair”, your documentary might have been more substantive and helpful had you remotely bothered to ask a Black woman scholar, say like Dr. Noliwe Rooks at Princeton University, to weigh in on research she’s been conducting for decades. But that would be too much like right…

p.p.s. Jennifer, you still take my breath away!

See what Twitter had to say about the Kennedy Honors here: #KCH #KennedyHonors (thanks so much to all of you who weighted in on the discussion and provided historical context for Chris’s shenanigans)

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64 Responses to An Open Letter to Chris Rock

  1. tamika

    I hope he gets the opportunity to see this… I am so disappointed and just simply speechless, especially since he has two daughters who I’d hope he envisions to reach Oprah’s level of grace, dignity, respect, humanity, love, honor and wealth!

  2. Franklin

    This blog was brought to my attention by a friend.

    I retain employ from a broadcaster connected to these awards. Rest assure that Chris Rock’s monologue was scrutinized by show writers and coordinators before he took the stage. This was all approved by Oprah’s team.

    • I am not rested nor am I assured by this idea. Not by the manner of her response and not by the looks on the faces of Barbara Walters and John Travolta. Further, IF this particular joke was approved, then shame on the Kennedy Center, Chris Rock and ALL who approved it. They are not above reproach.

      Still, it goes back to the writer. Just the fact that he wrote that joke and thought it would be okay to “share” at the Kennedy Awards–and about his supposed “friend”, no less— says so much about Chris Rock—and it ain’t good.

      You would have to prove that Oprah approved that statement for me to believe it, Sir.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Franklin

    rest assured*

    • I appreciate your commitment to proper spelling (trust me); but I think that we must ask ourselves if, indeed, this tasteless joke was approved, why wasn’t it better “scrutinized?”

  4. R.A.B.

    Thank you for the reassurance, Franklin, because this was an infuriatingly inane blog post by one hell of an Oprah stan. I’m having thoughts of Selena.

    • I do love me some Oprah but I don’t think I’m a stan. Well, maybe I am but I’m not trying to kill her the way Selena’s manager did so I’m missing your point. Viva Selena, btw, she was wonderful, too!

  5. well put! I’ve been finding Chris Rock unfunny for a while now, and I used to be a huge fan, but you put all of his inappopriate ramblings together on one page and I can see the problem – Rock doesn’t like women.

    I don’t really like Oprah, to tell the truth, but she’s made many contributions that deserve at least a modicum of respect. Chris Rock would never make the Oprah variety of joke about Bill Gates, whose wealth, contributions to business, popular culture and philanthropy are equal to those of Ms. Winfrey. It’s pretty clear that Rock is lately in the business of denigrating Black women in public. Not good.

    People make fun of Oprah all of the time, in the way that Black folks make fun of White folks, mostly because she has so much money and power that it’s kind of okay. But to make fun of her to her face, at a very highbrow function in which the President and First Lady are in attendance? My dear, that’s just terrible.

    • See? Even someone who is NOT an Oprah stan understands the importance of context and decorum. Thank you so much. And I, too, have thoroughly enjoyed some of Chris’ comedy. Watching this show awakened me to his horrors and I was reminded of his shenanigans on Twitter. It’s shameful, really. Grow up, Chris. Grow up.

  6. R.A.B.

    Dear God, you read like a character from a Tolstoy novel.

  7. R.A.B.

    “My word, it just isn’t proper!”

  8. Maybe the wrong venue for the material, but NO ONE should ever be above a joke/insult. Moreover, we shouldn’t seek false outrage on things that are trivial.

    I’m concerned that many American’s below the poverty line are in favour of tax-cuts for the rich because of this false notion that the American dream is accessible to all.

    Oprah has a platform to defend herself, many of us do not; and it’s those people who need a champion for their cause.

    Demigods are toxic to ones soul

    • To be clear, Oprah is not a demigod to me but her contributions are undeniable and are definitely on the level of divine, there’s no doubt.

      I talk about tax cuts and poverty too. But image and art are important as well.

      It’s not that Oprah is above a joke. She’s not. But the time and he place were above that sort of joke, at that time, in the context of honoring her 25 years of service.

      We can all champion each other and I have no problem championing respect for Black women, a subject and behavior often overlooked.

  9. This is a great piece, as you thoroughly and (mostly) thoughtfully eviscerated Chris Rock’s non-comedy comedy. The fact that both the Kennedy Center and Oprah allowed his monologue to go on without objection or suggestion is simply outrageous.

    My only issue here is that I think it’s a bit extreme to call Chris Rock a misogynist. Sexist, crass, lewd, idiotic, a buffoon, a chauvinistic pig among the worst sort. Definitely. But last I checked, Rock didn’t go on stage last night advocating that it’s okay to try to rape someone straight or talked about his sexual exploits like “running the train” or peeing on a 14-year-old as if these are acceptable ways of treating women. And while no one can or should ignore the fact that he’s been accused of rape himself in the past, being accused shouldn’t condemn him forevermore as a misogynist.

    I’m hardly defending Chris Rock’s anti-feminist, anti-marriage and overtly crass comedy and artistry — if one could call it that. Even Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy would’ve had the sense to clean up their monologues — and their hair and beard — last night to do their shtick at the Kennedy Center for Oprah and POTUS 44. What he did last night was overtly sexist, somewhat denigrating (though more of himself than of Oprah or anyone else), and extremely unacceptable in a high-brow or low-brow event. But it wasn’t misogyny. I can be convinced that Rock is a misogynist, just not on what he did last night.

    • Remember the “nappy headed hoes” jokes on The Tonight Show? His last stand-up special where he said he was going in on Black women? The previous stand-up where he talked about how duplicitous Black women are? Myriad fat jokes focused on women? The “Good Hair” docu where he asked certain men to weigh in on Black women’s hair, but didn’t ask women the same questions? How he acted in the beauty shop scenes, as opposed to the barber shop scenes?

    • Thanks so much. I agree. Chris Rock’s misogyny cannot be contained in his Kennedy Center “comedy”, which is why I addressed other examples in his post.

      Brownstocking laid it out very well, no need for me to repeat it.

      Point of clarification: That was D.L. Hughley’s shamefulness going on The Tonight Show and echoing Don Imus about the Rutger’s Women’s Basketball players. Yet another major low point in Black “comedy”. This is why many of us worked hard to get him OFF of CNN—and we did it. He plays it off but trust me, he couldn’t even read the cards correctly. Maybe he should have gone to Rutgers to get literate.

      • Dave

        Dr. Goddess said “That was D.L. Hughley’s shamefulness going on The Tonight Show and echoing Don Imus about the Rutger’s Women’s Basketball players. Yet another major low point in Black “comedy”. This is why many of us worked hard to get him OFF of CNN—and we did it.”

        What? Now this is a big, fat lie. You and no one else got get D.L. Hughley off CNN. His show is no more because he moved back to LA to be with his family. The show was taped at Time Warner Headquarters in New York! He’s still a correspondent for CNN, and will start coverage for them as an LA-based contributor since this works with his schedule and he can be closer to his family.

        Do you know how I know this? My name is Dave Becky and I was the executive producer of the show! Now why don’t you look that up!

        If you’re going to put lies out there, it’s good to check your facts, and ponder whether there are people out there that are more in the know than you are. You are clearly a phony.

  10. WHen it comes to women, CHris Rock just doesn’t know what else to say. I tend to love Rock’s political humor,but he has only one tired hateful riff when it comes to women, and he always loses my attention when his stand-up goes there. He is still resorting to “your mama is so fat” jokes at this stage in his career. which is sad.

    However, no one should be above the fray – Oprah is material for jokes just the same as anyone or anything. Too bad Rock couldn’t talk about a woman without talking about sex.

    • Thanks. I feel the same way about the political humor. Oprah has a pretty good sense of humor and takes alot of jokes. Can she not be made to feel uncomfortable at her own honor, though? Just once? It’s all that I ask…

      • oh, i totally agree. i was a shame, for him to do that, obviously, Rock was there to tell jokes, to be funny, but he clearly put NO thought into what he was going to say – he just fell back on what he knows. The Paul McCartney joke was a real low for everyone involved,

  11. CHILI45

    I kept thinking about this piece and don’t understand why his “tribute” was not edited. The “bit” was not funny whether it was approved by the Kennedy Center or Oprah’s peeps and whose to say that he didn’t add the inappropriate jokes off script? But the most curious thing is why these “jokes” were not cut out since the show was taped on Dec. 5th.

    • R.A.B.

      Okay, but now you’re all pivoting from an open letter in response to some supposed offense to, I guess, an open letter meant to convey strongly that you didn’t think some joke was all that funny. Methinks someone is missing the point of open letters.

    • Exactly, Chili, I agree. If ANY of them approved the sorry script, it’s inappropriate. You ask a good question, though.

  12. I say this is overboard. So, as a comedian, Rock isn’t allowed to make jokes? Or should he have a list of “appropriate” jokes? Is Oprah God or something? I don’t understand the strong defense…

    • I say Rock went overboard. Yes, he’s allowed to make jokes but you make certain jokes at certain times. He clearly missed the full context and his joke was just tacky and wrong. Far too often, we are conditioned to accept this type of disrespect. I hope you understand a bit better after reading the comments on this page. Excellent insight.

  13. Thanks for summarizing the jokes, you saved me from enduring actually listening to it. I get it, some people hate Oprah. They hate her wealth. They hate that she is not radical and does not openly disagree with certain issues. They hate that she has a true friend in Gayle and she takes care of her friends. They hate that she never married. They hate that she never spawned offspring. They hate that her weight fluctuates. They hate that she exists period as a successful black woman who is both loved and respected by many for her professional accomplishments. But dang it all to heck, Oprah represents possibility and I love that woman for that. For simply existing!

    • Precisely. And that’s why the theme song to “The Color Purple” is “I’m Here”, which is why JHUD’s tribute was so phenomenal and why Chris Rock was so out of touch and out of place. Boo. You make a good case for being an Oprah stan, though. I’m back on it! LOL!

  14. He’s misogynist, not just because of last night. His stand-up is full of anti-woman, in particular Black woman, jokes. Last night just showed that he can’t turn his bitterness off. He swears “Everybody Hates Chris” but really, Chris hates everybody but Adam Sandler.

    Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Oprah’s, but I definitely respect her accomplishments. Who, anywhere else in the world, can claim what’s she’s done? And for a comedian, given a national stage of prominence, to just try to phone it in with some “Oprah’s so rich” jokes? They weren’t funny, and weren’t appropriate.

    I don’t understand his wife, maybe he doesn’t, either. I truly pity his daughters; you can only try the “daddy was working, those jokes were the job” for so long.

    @ Alison agreed. He can be spot-on with political humor, but as soon as it gets to gender, he is made of fail. Insecure.

  15. Ilene

    I watched the show tonight and was completely horrified. I am not a black woman but I am a woman and a feminist and I really thought Chris Rock sank to a new low. I have found him funny in the past but the Kennedy Center Honors were neither the place nor the time for him.

    Talk about the yin and the yang. Chris Rock and Mr. Sidney Poitier, whom I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to meet several times over the years. Crass and Class.

    • Thank you, Ilene, and it’s so true… Sidney Poitier… I wonder what he thought. I bet he didn’t think it was funny at all. I’m hoping someone said something to Chris. Class and Crass, indeed. Well stated!

  16. aaw1976

    A black girl told him he was ugly and we been paying ever since. That or his mother was such a shrew growing up he compares all black women to her and he secretly hates her. The jokes were unfunny. He looked like he rolled out of bed and put the suit on. Or he slept in it. Was his wife there? Or is she filing for divorce… again. Needless to say it was not Chris Rock’s finest hour. But even with the bad, tacky, lame easy simple jokes….the fact he didn’t feel he had to get a fresh edge up? or a cut? or trim his beard? Was just disrespectful to Oprah, the president, and all who had to look at him.

  17. Serendipityschild

    When I read this open letter last night, my outrage at how Chris Rock spoke at such a dignified occasion was so total that I could not speak coherently on it. Tonight I still feel outraged but can express my evaluation in one word: coonery.

  18. eatmyshorts

    get a sense of humor and stop putting black men down. he is a comedian, that is what they are hired to do. i swear some women, just too above it all.

    • You should know that there are many Black men who were offended by Rock’s statements, so this is not about gender, although I doubt that a Black woman would joke this way with a Black man when he was receiving HIS HIGHEST HONOR but still…

      Dave Chappelle, a BLACK MAN, who has created hilarious sketches about getting Oprah pregnant would NOT have disrespected her at the Kennedy Honors. HE would not have made a sex joke.

      You need to think on that and one day you, too, will be “above it all”.

      • Dave

        How the heck do you know what Dave Chappelle would have done? Let me guess, you’re a psychic too!

        • The best predictor of the present is the past. Dave Chappelle has shown that he has character and integrity, even in his comedy. For example, we know Dave loves “tittays” but he would never make a joke about Oprah’s breasts at an honor for her. What part of “decorum” are you not getting here?

  19. R.A.B.

    Okay, but now you’re all pivoting from an open letter in response to some supposed offense to, I guess, an open letter meant to convey strongly that you didn’t think some joke was all that funny. Methinks someone is missing the point of open letters.

  20. JAChick10

    Is this snark?

  21. I had to go to the source, so I watched it on YouTube.

    I like Oprah more than Chris Rock.

    I didn’t find it objectionable. Was he hilarious? No. Was he inappropriate? No.

  22. Dave

    Man, talk about ranting & raving about nothing. Dr. Goddess, are you a failed actress or something? I have never seen someone literally make a mountain out of a molehill like this. Great job. You deserve your own soap opera for the drama you manufactured out of thin air here.

    This “letter” is reeking of so much over-inflated self importance, it’s comical.

    • Errr, you may want to check my bio. I act. My career is not as an actress but when I have acted, it’s been rather successful, thanks.

      A molehill is not receiving the highest honor for the arts in the land and having to sit through an awkward sex joke moment.

      Nevertheless, I’m glad you were entertained.

      Let me know if, on the day your Mom would retire from her job of 25 years… if it would be okay for some dude to make a sex joke about her at her retirement party.

      But, you know, your mileage my vary…

  23. Thanks so much for reading my open letter and all of your responses, including the disagreement, wayward criticism and thinly veiled attacks. LOL.

    I am not a witch. I’m just like you.

    I’ll be responding to each of you right after I do one last assignment to get me in under deadline.

    Keep the shenanigans coming.

    By the way, folks, do you think that Dave Chappelle, a Black man and a comic, who has made full sketches of comedy about getting Oprah pregnant… would have made that joke THAT night? Methinks not.

    What say you?

    • funny that you ask )I was just asking myself what Bernie Mac would have said, may he rest in peace. or some of the other Kings of Comedy. it says a lot about the business that Rock was the one hired for that gig in the first place.

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  25. Nobody is above humor even God…Can we now focus on serious issues confronting us????

  26. Lauren

    Umm what did you expect?!! This is the SAME putz who said and I quote ‘a black woman should NEVER be first lady period’ now I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Oprah but I HATE Rock. And I frankly don’t get the whole ‘brillant social commentator’ the guy is a fool of the highest order and has been for some time and the only reason white people just ‘love’ him is because of crap like this. His comments about Captain Sully on the Tonight Show were stupid childish and disgusting I have an open letter for Chris too. Dear Chris you are a foolish a-hole please shut the hell up.

  27. Lauren

    Oh and he also made nasty jokes about Michelle Obama’s hair and backside there’s class and then there’s class WITHOUT the cl guess which one he is?

  28. Speile

    Let’s not forget that routine he did about understanding why OJ killed Nicole Brown! The guy is a long-time misogynist. Even if this incident is not the most egregious example of his misogyny, it’s important to show how a misogynist does let that filter through in his treatment of women at all times, even when less overt about it.

  29. Has anyone tried the great free to play games that exist now?
    There are actually quite a few.

  30. Juan Pendejo

    Chris Rock is the best.

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