Comedian Chris Rock is no stranger to controversy, often pushing the boundaries of societal expectations with his stand-up comedy routines. But one of his most infamous jokes resurfaced this year, sparking a feud with actress Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will Smith.

In 2016, Rock made a joke during his opening monologue at the Oscars, in which he commented on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that criticized the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards nominations. Rock joked that it was the “White People’s Choice Awards” and quipped, “It’s not fair that Will Smith was this good in ‘Concussion’ and didn’t get nominated. It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for ‘Wild Wild West.'”

Pinkett Smith and others in the entertainment industry took offense to Rock’s joke about her husband, who had just starred in the film “Concussion” about head trauma in football players. Pinkett Smith boycotted the Oscars in response, and her husband also sat out of the show.

Fast-forward to 2021, and Rock has a new Netflix special called “Chris Rock: Total Blackout, The Tamborine Extended Cut.” In the special, Rock addresses the controversy and defends his joke, stating that he did not mean to insult Will Smith.

“I loved ‘Concussion,'” Rock says in the special. “I thought Will did a great job. It’s not my job to get Will Smith an Oscar. It’s not. And if it was, I’d tell you! That motherf***** is good. It’s also not my job to rub Will Smith’s back. We’re not boys like that. We’re not.”

Rock goes on to explain that he made the joke because he had heard that Smith’s full name was actually “Willard,” which he finds amusing. He claims that he has a similar name origin story and often mocks himself in his comedy routines.

“I want to know who is going to Willard’s house,” Rock jokes in the special. “I want to know who’s in the hot tub with Willard. He ain’t no thug. Hitting Jada from the back is not gangster, it’s polite.”

Pinkett Smith did not appreciate Rock’s explanation and took to Twitter to address the situation. In a series of tweets, she accused Rock of perpetuating the “mistreatment of women” in his joke.

“Really @chrisrock?,” Pinkett Smith tweeted. “Our girls need to be taught to be warriors not polite in the face of disrespect.”

She also retweeted a message from another Twitter user who criticized Rock’s joke and accused him of “punching down” on a successful Black couple.

While the feud between Rock and Pinkett Smith may continue, it raises the question of where the line should be drawn in comedy. Is it acceptable for comedians to make jokes about public figures, even if they may offend some people? Or should there be a limit on what topics can be joked about and who can be the target?

Rock, for his part, has never shied away from controversial material. In his 2018 Netflix special “Tamborine,” he joked about police brutality and the #MeToo movement. He has also faced criticism in the past for making jokes about rape and domestic violence.

Comedy is often used as a form of social commentary, with comedians exploring issues and topics that may be difficult or uncomfortable to talk about in other settings. But where do we draw the line between making a point and causing harm?

In the case of Rock’s joke about Will Smith, it remains a matter of personal interpretation. Some may see it as harmless teasing, while others may view it as perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Black men or disrespecting successful Black couples.

As conversations about race, gender and other social issues continue, it’s important to examine the role that comedy plays in shaping our cultural landscape. While comedians have the right to free speech and expression, they also have a responsibility to consider the impact of their words on others.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned from Rock and Pinkett Smith’s feud is that there’s no clear-cut answer to these questions. Comedy is a complex and nuanced art form, and what is funny to one person may be offensive to another.

At the end of the day, it’s up to each individual to decide what kind of humor they find acceptable and where they draw the line. As audiences, we have the power to choose which comedians we support and what messages we want to send to the wider world. It’s up to us to decide what kind of society we want to live in and what kind of humor we want to create and consume.