No slaps at Oscars 2023 but Chris Rock’s special and Jimmy Kimmel’s jokes remind us of Will Smith Slapgate

Shaurya Thapa
Shaurya ThapaMar 14, 2023 | 14:20

No slaps at Oscars 2023 but Chris Rock’s special and Jimmy Kimmel’s jokes remind us of Will Smith Slapgate

March 27 will mark the Will Smith-Chris Rock slap controversy's one-year anniversary (photo-DailyO)

"I got parents. That’s why. ‘Cause I was raised, okay?...and they told me 'Don't fight in front of white people'". That’s what comedian Chris Rock had to say in his new Netflix special Selective Outrage before he dropped the mic (quite literally). 

It is going to be a year since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the night of the 94th Academy Awards (March 27, 2022). But the Oscars have not forgotten the incident, with host Jimmy Kimmel using it as an effective punchline during his monologue.


Jimmy Kimmel and the Oscars crisis management team

A crisis management team was set in place for this year’s Oscars to mitigate any incidents of violence such as “Slapgate”. So, naturally, Kimmel started out with the slap jokes right from his opening monologue. 

“If anyone commits an act of violence during the show, you will be given the Oscar for best actor and be permitted to give a 19 minute speech.”

Even Smith’s 1997 single Getting Jiggy Wit It was referenced with Kimmel warning audiences to not go on stage and “get jiggy with it”.

The talk show host and comedian didn’t spare the Academy themselves, pointing out how the awards show’s audiences and management team “just sat there and did nothing” during the controversial highlight of last year’s Oscars. 

“Maybe even give the assailant a hug” he said, in what can be interpreted as a sarcastic jab at two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington and multiple Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper, both of whom hugged and consoled Smith after the slap. 

While Kimmel used most of his Will Smith jokes in the opening monologue itself, he did keep a pun when it was time to announce Best Documentary Feature (the same category that Chris Rock presented before the slap took place). 


So, before introducing this year’s presenters Oscar-winner Riz Ahmed and Questlove (who bagged last year’s Best Documentary Feature Oscar), Kimmel said that he hopes this category is presented “without a hitch” and “without Hitch”, a clear allusion to Will Smith’s 2005 rom-com of the same name. 

(photo-Jimmy Kimmel on Twitter)
(photo-Jimmy Kimmel on Twitter)

Finally, after Everything Everywhere All At Once’s Best Picture win ended the night, Kimmel walked backstage as a board read “Number of Oscar telecasts without incident”, the number “1” laying underneath the text. 

What does Chris Rock think of Will Smith now? 

Chris Rock preferred to stay mum since “Slapgate” broke the internet but the 58-year-old comedian capitalised on this silence pretty well, finally charging back with his latest Netflix special (particularly its final segment). 

After cribbing on performative activism by brands, his notions of selective outrage, his family life, race, the Kardashians and everything else possible, Rock finally ended the Netflix original with what his audience was waiting to hear. Rock admitted that even though he admired Smith all his life, he now watched Smith’s latest film Emancipation just to see him get “whooped”. 

The film which is set in the era of slavery and stars Smith as a runaway slave in a plantation drew polarising reactions for its graphic violence that included brutality towards slaves. But for Rock, who was assaulted on stage just around a year ago, watching Smith’s character facing the crackling whip was entertaining. 

"It got me rooting for Massa [the white master]. Hit him again massa, you missed a spot."

Smith was described as "embarassed" and "disappointed" after Rock's special premiered on Netflix on March 4, 2023. 

Rock also has jokes for Jada Pinkett Smith 

While Jada Pinkett Smith might have unjustly been dragged by the so-called “mens right activists” [or meninists as some would call them] as the manipulator behind Smith’s violent actions at the Oscars, Rock didn’t spare his Madagascar co-star either. 

Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett Smith voiced the zebra Marty and the hippopotamus Gloria in Madagascar (photo-GETTY Images)
Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett Smith voiced the zebra Marty and the hippopotamus Gloria in Madagascar (photo-GETTY Images)

Rock explained that his “GI Jane joke” on Jada’s alopecia-induced hair loss was petty revenge for what Jada had said during the 2016 Oscars. With Rock set to host the ceremony for a second time, Jada said that Rock should quit his job as the awards were being unfair for snubbing her husband’s critically-acclaimed performance in 2015’s Concussion

In his special, Rock even brought out the infamous Red Table (Jada’s Emmy-winning podcast series) episode from 2020 in which the Smiths discussed their tumultuous marriage in public. A quick recap for the ones who have better things to do than follow celebrity gossip: Will and Jada took a break from their marriage during which Jada also had (as she puts it) “entanglements” with American singer and her son Jada Smith’s friend August Alsina. 

Joking about how there was no need for the couple to wash their dirty laundry in front of the camera, Rock knew that he was rubbing salt in the wound by bringing up Jada’s romantic detour as Will Smith’s teary-eyed reaction in the podcast episode did spark a “Will Smith crying meme” trend. Even though the Oscar-winning actor might have also won the Internet’s sympathy back then, his violent outfit from last year did disappoint some of his fans. 

After giving a teary-eyed interview at Trevor Noah's talk show and now using self-aware humour to mock his action in a TikTok, Will Smith seems to be moving on and apologetic for his actions even as the Internet remains divided.

Last updated: March 14, 2023 | 14:20
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