Chris Rock is known for being a comedian who rarely bites his tongue. But while presenting the winner for the Best Documentary (Feature) category at the 94th Academy Awards, he found himself needing to maintain his composure following an insensitive joke aimed towards Jada Pinkett Smith.
The 57-year-old comedian commented on the actress’ appearance, expressing that she looked like she was to star in the G.I. Jane 2. The mother of two recently opened up about her journey with alopecia in Dec. 2021, citing that as part of the reason why she chose to shave her head bald.
Almost immediately following Rock’s “joke,” Will Smith walked onto the stage and smacked the Good Hair producer, open-palm. While in shock, Rock replied, “Wow, Will Smith smacked the sh*t outta me.” To which, Smith loudly replied after returning to his seat, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fu**ing mouth.”
The two men exchanged more words, but Smith stood firm, reiterating his initial statement.
VIA JAPANESE TELEVISION: The uncensored exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock pic.twitter.com/j0Z184ZyXa
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 28, 2022
This isn’t the first time Rock has made tasteless jokes towards the Smiths. The first instance occurred back in 2016 at the height of the #OscarsSoWhite movement when the couple opted to boycott the Academy Awards.
As that year’s host, Rock joked, “Jada got mad and said she’s not coming. Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”
The awkward silence was deafening in the moments following the slap, especially considering Questlove won his Oscar for Best Documentary (Feature) minutes later.
Scott Feinberg, a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, reported that Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry pulled the King Richard actor to the side as he appeared emotional. Washington also consoled Jada as Will rejoined her side.
During the commercial break, Will Smith is pulled aside and comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, who motion for him to brush it off. Will appears to wipe tears from his eyes as he sits back down with Jada, with Denzel comforting Jada and Will’s rep by his side. pic.twitter.com/uDGVnWrSS2
— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) March 28, 2022
Smith later subtly addressed the incident during his acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He shared the words of comfort that Washington offered him: “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”
After speaking about how Richard Williams was a fierce defender when it came to his family, Smith stated, “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. But, love will make you do crazy things.”
Smith closed out his speech, apologized to his fellow nominees and others, and joked that he hopes The Academy invites him back.
Chris Rock has not issued a statement regarding the incident. According to a spokesperson for the LAPD, Rock has declined to report the incident to the police.
“LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement reads. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will available to complete an investigative report.”
The Academy issued the following statement: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form. Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”