Chris Rock speaks on Will Smith's Oscars slap at stand-up show: “I’m still kind of processing what happened”
Chris Rock has spoken publicly for the first time about his run-in with Will Smith at the 2022 Oscars ceremony, where, after Rock made a joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, Smith walked onstage and slapped him.
- READ MORE: The story of Slapgate: Will Smith and Chris Rock’s relationship through the years
Though many in the entertainment world have weighed in on the situation – Smith himself having issued a formal apology to Rock, admitting that he was “out of line” – Rock himself kept silent. That was until he began his first stand-up set since the incident on Wednesday (March 30), when he performed to a sold-out crowd in Boston.
He was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation, Variety reports, and opened the show by vaguely addressing his row with Smith. “How was your weekend?” he asked nonchalantly, eliciting roars of laughter. “I don’t have a bunch of shit [to say] about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I’m not… I have, like, a whole show I wrote before this weekend.”
Rock went on to clarify that although he didn’t have a lot to say now, he’ll likely address the situation more in the future. He explained: “I’m still kind of processing what happened. At some point I’ll talk about that shit – and it will be serious and funny.”
Before he could continue, Rock was cut off by one particularly vocal crowd member, who screamed out, “Fuck Will!”
Have a listen to an audio recording of the moment below, shared by Variety:
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Despite still awarding him with the Oscar for Best Actor In A Leading Role, The Academy condemned Smith’s conduct at this year’s ceremony, saying it had “officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences”.
Overnight, The Academy revealed that Smith’s slap led to him being asked to leave the Oscars, but the actor “refused”. “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” The Academy said in a statement via The Guardian. “While we would like to clarify that Mr Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognise we could have handled the situation differently.”
The Academy went on to say that Smith’s conduct made for “a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television”, and apologised to Rock “for what you experienced on our stage”.
The Academy subsequently confirmed that they’d “initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct”, which may lead to “suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions”. The matter will be a focal point at The Academy’s next board meeting, which is slated for April 18. It’s there that Smith is likely to learn of any formal consequences he’ll be handed by the body.
During his post-slap acceptance speech for the Best Actor award (which he earned for his role in King Richard), Smith spoke about trying to protect his family and “be a river to my people” – as well as being defended by Denzel Washington. In that speech, Smith apologised to The Academy and his “fellow nominees” through tears, though not to Rock.
The LAPD has confirmed that Rock is not pressing charges against Smith, with a statement reading: “The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
Since the incident, Smith’s son Jaden has reacted on social media, while a number of celebrities have also weighed in on the altercation. Among those who’ve given their two cents are Smith’s old Fresh Prince co-star Janet Hubert, The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, Jim Carrey, Amy Schumer, Zoë Kravitz and Morrissey, as well as Smith’s mum, Carolyn, and Jada Pinkett Smith herself.
Questlove, whose film Summer Of Soul was announced as Best Documentary by Rock in the aftermath of the slap, also responded to the incident, revealing that he had missed the moment because he was meditating.
- READ MORE: A history of Oscar scandals: is Will Smith’s slap really the most controversial ever?
Wanda Sykes – who was among the hosts of this year’s Oscars ceremony – said that Rock apologised to her directly after the incident, and said she was disappointed that she hadn’t received an apology from Smith. An insider for Vanity Fair, however, claimed that Rock tried to downplay the situation as he exited the stage, joking about Smith’s Oscar-nominated turn as boxer Muhammad Ali in 2001’s Ali.
Meanwhile, CODA was the biggest winners of this year’s Oscars, taking home three awards including Best Picture, while Dune won the most awards overall. CODA star Troy Kotsur made history as the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar. West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose also made history when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first openly queer woman of colour to win one.