Chris Rock Emerges Victorious at Chaotic Atlantic City Performance

Lines were long. Tempers were hot. But the comedian delivered the laughs.

chris rock, who performed at the borgata in atlantic city on saturday, less than a week after his infamous encounter with will smith at the oscars

Chris Rock, who performed at the Borgata on Saturday night, less than one week after the infamous Will Smith slap at the Oscars, seen during a 2017 show (photo by Andy Witchger / Creative Commons 2.0)

With Will Smith’s infamous Oscars slap still dominating entertainment news headlines, comedian Chris Rock took to the stage at the Borgata in Atlantic City on Saturday night, less than one week after Smith assaulted him for millions to see.

Ticket sales for Rock’s two Saturday shows at the Borgata were already strong. After all, this was only the second stop on the Chris Rock Ego Death World Tour 2022, his first major tour in five years. But after he became the trending hot topic of the moment, those tickets became downright hard to get. One former Borgata higher-up told me on Friday that VIPs were even reaching out to her in an attempt to score tickets, even though she hadn’t worked at the casino for more than a year. And on the ticket resale site StubHub, sellers were trying to get as much as $1,000 per ticket as of Saturday afternoon.

Those who already bought their tickets were greeted with long lines and frustration at the Borgata. In addition to the many fans who had to wait in line at the box office — or, rather, wait in line to get to the box office, since the long, long line snaked around the casino floor — to pick up will call tickets, there were also the fans who bought digital tickets (and who doesn’t do that these days?) who learned upon arriving at the venue that they, too, had to wait in line to exchange those digital tickets for paper tickets. Say what?

“I love Chris Rock, but this shit is ridiculous,” one digital ticket holder told me of the chaos.

Then there was the waiting in line to get into the 2,400-seat venue. That started with one security line that fed fans through metal detectors. And then there was yet another line where fans had to lock their cell phones inside Yondr pouches. That’s standard operating procedure at any big comedy show, since comedians don’t want all of their new material to wind up on YouTube. But many seemed displeased with the no-phones policy. “I spent $600 on two tickets and can’t even get a picture of Chris Rock?” one disgruntled woman with a thick New York accent ranted at a security guard. And don’t get me started on the line for the venue’s bar, which was slow enough to turn even the rowdiest Atlantic City bachelorette sober.

The first show was scheduled to start at 7 p.m., but Rock took the stage around 8 p.m. This was likely due in no small part to the fact that there were still hundreds of fans waiting in the aforementioned lines 30 minutes after the scheduled start time. Fans grew audibly annoyed as the minutes ticked by. But the grunts and groans dissipated as soon as Rock emerged from the wings, clad entirely in white clothing and sneakers. His shadow towered behind him thanks to a bright footlight at the center of the stage.

Rock started the night by telling the jam-packed venue that he wasn’t there to talk about the Oscars incident. “I had a whole show written long before that shit went down,” he said to limited enthusiasm. (The man seated to my right later told me he was very disappointed that Rock didn’t talk about the Oscars slap and said he only came to hear about that.)

But things soon picked up once Rock launched into his scripted material, which touched on everything from AIDS to Ukraine to Lululemon to parenting. Notably, Rock made it through an anti-Trump tirade, at one point yelling, “Fuck. Trump.” without anybody in the audience firing back at him, as Atlantic City audiences are prone to do when things get political. (Wanda Sykes learned this at the Borgata in 2016.)

The only time the audience seemed to collectively cringe was when Rock decided to tackle the tricky subject of abortion. He mocked the notion of a “safe abortion,” noting that a “safe abortion is an abortion where only one person dies, I guess?” As for his own stance on abortion, Rock joked that he’s not pro-choice but “pro better choice.”

“Ladies, if you have to pay for your own abortion, get an abortion,” Rock said from the stage. “Leave these minimum wage dicks alone.”

Rock may not have the same frenetic comic energy he displayed in the early ’90s, when he shot to stardom on Saturday Night Live and In Living Color. But his show at the Borgata proved that Rock is, as one fan put it, “still a funny fuck.” (But, seriously, hundreds of dollars per ticket?!)

While Rock emerged victorious from the show, garnering a standing ovation, Smith became the butt of more than a few jokes the same evening on Saturday Night Live. Smith also resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday, and the organization says it’s still considering how to proceed with disciplinary action.

If you missed the Borgata shows but still want to catch Chris Rock’s Ego Death tour, he’ll appear in Bethlehem later this month and at the Met in Philly in September. Tickets for those Met shows are already scarce.