The 94th Academy Awards witnessed an unexpected altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock, triggered by a joke about Smith’s wife. Smith’s physical confrontation with the host shocked the audience. He later apologised and resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after he was heavily chastised by the Academy board.
Following the incident, the public reacted strongly, leading to several months of intense discussions and headlines. Interestingly, Chris Rock’s silence on the matter became the second most-discussed aspect after the altercation itself. Despite the uproar, the renowned comedian refrained from commenting on the issue for an entire year.
When he finally spoke up, he chose an approach that was both surprising and distinctive, leaving everyone intrigued.
What is Chris Rock’s response?
Following a year filled with eager anticipation from both his fans and the media, Chris Rock, a renowned comedian, at, long last, chose to end his silence regarding the incident that had captured everyone’s attention. Seizing the opportunity during a live-streamed show in the U.S. city of Baltimore, he confronted the matter head-on by openly addressing it.
The show, which was produced as a Netflix comedy special, was dubbed “Selective Outrage“. Rock, who came on stage with a bubbly aura, made generic jokes on several topics but did not shy away from the topic that everyone had their ears out for.
He ushered in a plethora of jokes with the following statement: “I’m going to try to do a show tonight without offending nobody. I’m going to try my best because you never know who might get triggered.” Rock then went on to make a bold statement: “People always say words hurt. Anybody who says words hurt has never been punched in the face.”
The comedy star made it clear that he’s “not a victim, baby”.
With his trademark wit and humour, Rock opened up about the incident, saying;
“You all know what happened to me, getting smacked by Suge Smith. It still hurts. I got ‘Summertime’ ringing in my ears. But I’m not a victim, baby. You’ll never see me on Oprah or Gayle crying. I took that hit like Pacquiao.“
The incident occurred during the 2022 Oscars when Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head. This comment did not sit well with her husband, Will Smith, who swiftly stormed onto the stage and delivered a resounding slap to Rock’s face in response. Subsequently, Smith expressed remorse for his actions and decided to resign from his position at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Academy conducted its investigation into the incident and acknowledged that it had not handled the situation appropriately during the telecast. However, Rock remained tight-lipped about the whole ordeal, much to the frustration of the media and the public.
Before Rock delivered his primary response on the Netflix special, he had been providing comments on the issue without delving into it. During one of his performances at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston, the audience gave him a standing ovation that lasted for two minutes. Following the ovation, he briefly addressed the issue, stating that he was present to deliver jokes and that he had nothing to say about the incident yet as he was still trying to process it. During the show, Rock demonstrated great showmanship by refusing to engage with a fan in the audience who had yelled “F*ck Will Smith”. The crowd was impressed by his ability to handle the situation with class.
A compact audience had assembled outside the premises, aiming to express their disapproval of violence and draw attention to the profound influence this incident had on how individuals perceive acts of aggression and methods of resolving conflicts. Concurrently, ticket prices for the event surged dramatically on secondary platforms, reaching exorbitant levels, with certain tickets being priced as high as $8,000, everyone wanted to witness the comedian’s stance on the issue.
Rock, however, remained tight-lipped about his thoughts and feelings regarding the altercation. The comedian kept mum for a whole year, finally speaking about it during his comedy special.
Why did Chris Rock respond?
Rock had been quiet for over a year since the infamous “Oscar slap”. Although Rock has not spoken directly to Smith since the incident, from his comical comments on stage regarding the issue, there may be several reasons why the comedian chose to respond in the manner in which he did.
Rock stated during a performance at the Baltimore Hippodrome Theater that he has frequently been questioned about his decision not to retaliate when he was struck by Smith. Many individuals have asked him why he did not respond in kind on that occasion. Rock attributes his restraint to his upbringing and the values instilled in him by his parents. He emphasised that his parents taught him not to engage in physical altercations, particularly in the presence of people from different racial backgrounds.
He was quoted as saying;
A lot people go: ‘Chris how come you didn’t do nothing back? How come you didn’t do nothing back that night?’ Because I got parents, that’s why. Because I was raised. And you know what my parents taught me: ‘Don’t fight in front of white people.’
It appears that Rock decided to address Smith’s offensive behaviour as a strategy to halt the continuous barrage of inquiries he was facing from the media and the general public. Additionally, he leveraged his Netflix comedy special as a platform to accomplish this goal, recognising that humour is his strong suit and would be an effective approach to responding to the situation.
Another possible explanation for Rock’s response could be his desire to express his perspective on the situation and his current emotional state regarding it. By referring to the boxer, “Manny Pacquiao”, he effectively conveyed his resilience and ability to process the events without being overly affected, indicating that he is moving forward with a resilient mindset. This could be why he humorously mentioned avoiding emotional interviews with figures like “Oprah or Gayle” (referring to Oprah Winfrey or Gayle King) to avoid dwelling on the matter.
Months have passed since the incident and both superstars have moved on. Smith expressed regret for his actions, acknowledging that they were a product of built-up rage. However, as time went by, the attention surrounding the issue gradually faded.
While the echoes of their clash may still linger in the collective memory of the public, time has a peculiar way of healing wounds and shifting focus. The consequences of Smith’s actions resulted in a 10-year ban and restriction for the actor from attending any of the academy events.
Chris Rock, on the other hand, turned down an offer to return as host of the 2023 Oscar Academy Awards ceremony. The ace comedian began a comedy tour in March 2023 and has been performing in cities around the U.S. and beyond.