On SNL, Chris Rock Demonstrates How Not to Joke About the Boston Marathon

Rock treaded lightly with his humor, but his quips still made people uncomfortable.

As soon as Chris Rock took the stage Saturday night on SNL, he had almost everyone up in arms.

The comedian, who was hosting the show for the first time since 1996, began his monologue with some jokes about the Boston Marathon bombings. Followed by a joke about terrorism. And then a joke about 9/11. Needless to say, it got a bit awkward.

While most people were unhappy because the jokes were “tasteless,” and therefore straight-up “not funny,” the issue here may have actually been more about context. His humor wasn’t over the top, but his references were confusing and poorly worded.

Let’s break it down:

Rock began:

Tomorrow’s the New York City Marathon. Yeah, scary. What could go wrong there, right?

Some people laughed nervously. He went on:

No, it’ll be all right, it’ll be all right. New York is going to be fine. Just like Boston is fine after the marathon.

Cue side glance from everyone at home. This is where people started to get confused. Fine? Is anyone ever fine after a terrorist attack? He continued:

Oh, you know that Boston Marathon was scary, man. I love Boston, I love the people there, but that was probably the most frightening, sadistic terrorist attack ever.

What??? thought just about everyone. Even the audience filled with New Yorkers wasn’t sure where this was going. Then Rock got to his punchline:

Just think about it. Twenty-six miles. Twenty-six miles! Twenty-six miles is a long drive…People jogging for 26 miles—their knees are hurting, their feet are killing them—you’ve been training for a year, you finally get to the finish line, and somebody screams: “Run!”

OK. Rock got a little laugh there. But a punchline about 26 miles being a long way to run seemed hardly worth the marathon bombing references.

Before proceeding with his 9/11 and Freedom Tower spiel—also uncomfortable—Rock said:

That is horrible, man. But the good people of Boston bounced back. That’s right. And New York will bounce back.

What is New York bouncing back from? What are you talking about, Chris Rock?!

The Boston Marathon jokes may have been intended to segue into more relevant jokes, but their phrasing and delivery offended.

Well, at least he didn’t sing.


POLL: What do you think? Was Chris Rock’s Boston Marathon joke inappropriate?