The San Juan Daily Star
Chris Rock mocks Will Smith in live Netflix special, addressing Oscars slap
By Julia Jacobs
Nearly a year after Will Smith slapped him onstage at the Oscars, Chris Rock joked about the explosive moment on a live Netflix show Saturday night, using the last few minutes to mock Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
“Now I watch ‘Emancipation,’ just to see him get whooped,” Rock said, referencing last year’s Civil War-era drama in which Smith plays an enslaved man who is forced to labor for the Confederacy.
In the days after Smith stunned the world with the slap, Rock, a comedian not known to shy away from controversy, was expected to quickly make his feelings about the episode known. Instead, he said at his first show after the Oscars that he was still processing what had happened, and he assured fans that there would be a time and place for him to discuss it in depth.
That time and place turned out to be Saturday, at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore, in a stand-up show that was livestreamed for the rest of the world. At times, Rock made himself the target of his own jokes, noting Smith’s larger build.
“Will Smith does movies with his shirt off,” said Rock, pacing the stage in his white outfit. “You never seen me do a movie with my shirt off. If I’m in a movie getting open-heart surgery, I got on a sweater.”
The full set, titled “Selective Outrage,” addressed cancel culture, the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, abortion and Rock’s family, only addressing the slap at the very end, saying that he was “not a victim” in the situation.
“I took that hit like Pacquiao,” Rock said, referring to the former boxing champion.
At the Oscars ceremony last year, Smith climbed onstage and smacked Rock on live television shortly after the comedian made a joke about the buzzed hairstyle of Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, a condition that leads to hair loss. Smith then shouted at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out your mouth,” using an expletive — a warning that Rock appeared to remember Saturday, when he referred to Pinkett Smith as “his wife.”
The unscripted Oscars moment — followed by Smith’s unapologetic acceptance speech for the best actor award minutes later — stunned viewers and prompted a scramble inside the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which administers the awards ceremony, as it tried to figure out the proper response. Smith ultimately resigned from the academy, which later barred him from attending the Oscars ceremony for a decade.
Since the episode, Smith has apologized several times, saying in a video posted to YouTube last year that he was “deeply remorseful” and, addressing Rock directly, that he was ready to talk at any point. (At a show in London with comedian Dave Chappelle, Rock was dismissive of the recorded apology, likening it to a “hostage video,” according to a report by Deadline.)
Rock has addressed the slap at times as he crisscrossed the country on his most recent comedy tour, testing out some of the material that he performed on the Netflix special.
At one point Saturday, Rock touched on what is undoubtedly a sensitive issue for Smith — his marriage — alluding to Pinkett Smith’s disclosure in 2020 that the couple had gone through a separation, during which she had been involved in what she called “an entanglement” with an R&B singer, August Alsina.
“She hurt him way more than he hurt me,” Rock said, making fun of the couple’s airing of their personal issues on Pinkett Smith’s Facebook talk show, “Red Table Talk.”
Before closing his set, Rock addressed his onstage response to the slap that night.
“A lot of people go, ‘Chris, how come you didn’t do nothing back?’” Rock said. “’Cause I got parents, that’s why. ’Cause I was raised. I got parents. And you know what my parents taught me? Don’t fight in front of white people.”