Warning: This post contains graphic language.
The clip, which contains explicit language but can be viewed here, is from HBO’s unscripted comedy special Talking Funny. The comedians — also joined by Jerry Seinfeld — got on the topic of race when C.K., 51, said, “When a black guy gets rich, it’s countdown to when he’s poor again.”
“He is the blackest white guy I f—ing know,” said Rock, 53, of C.K. “And all the negative things we think about black people, this f—er…”
“You’re saying I’m a n—r?” C.K. interjected.
“Yes,” Rock responded as Gervais, 57, started cracking up. “You are the n—rest f—ing white man I have ever [met].”
Looking uneasy, Seinfeld, 64, said he doesn’t think C.K. can “do that.”
“I don’t think he has those qualities. … I wouldn’t use it anywhere,” he continued, referencing the racial slur.
The four comedians have yet to publicly address the controversy over the clip. PEOPLE has reached out to reps for Rock, C.K. and Gervais. A rep for Seinfeld had no comment.
The conversation for the special continued as C.K. went on to say that he and Rock use the word on stage.
“We compare up in different ways, but that’s definitely a pairing. Who says n—r on stage? We don’t,” Gervais said, referencing himself and Seinfeld.
Someone pointed out that Gervais just used the word and C.K., laughing, said he and Gervais say it in private, while Seinfeld has probably never said it.
“No, never,” Seinfeld responded.
“That’s the huge difference between you and me, I think,” C.K. said. “That I’ve said it.”
“Well, you found the humor of it,” Seinfeld responded. “I haven’t found it. Nor do I seek it.”
“You know what though, Jerry, all of a sudden having a great n—r bit would be pretty amazing,” C.K. said. “It would be amazing.”
The clip has prompted outrage and shock online, with many praising Seinfeld for not taking part in the slur tossing and also arguing that Rock, as a black man, played a role in enabling it.
“I know black folks who are completely comfortable with white people saying the n-word in their presence. Have had to tell a few white folks that I’m not that black person,” tweeted The Atlantic writer Jemele Hill. “Still it says something the only person who was uncomfortable was Seinfeld.”
“Note how proud Ricky Gervais was of the fact he used the n-word. And Louis CK basically said he’s one because black folks ain’t s—. Chris Rock is getting crucified, but those other two deserve massive smoke,” she continued.
“It’s quite clear that even if Chris Rock wasn’t born, Gervais and Louis CK were going to be using the n-word,” she added. “Black people never have and never will give white folks permission to call us that. That’s the jig. We get blamed for their use of it like they ever need our approval.”
BET News host and Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill argued that Rock, C.K. and Gervais were all complicit.
“Chris Rock enabled the convo. But clearly the other 2 willfully engaged it. It’s not either/or,” he tweeted.
For C.K., the resurfaced remarks come a little over a year after multiple women accused the comedian of sexual misconduct in a New York Times article. At the time, C.K. responded with a lengthy statement in which he admitted that “these stories are true.”
“The hardest regret to live with is what you’ve done to hurt someone else,” he said. “And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them … I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.”