It was the slap heard ‘round the world.
Legendary Brooklyn comedian Chris Rock was slapped hard across the face by out-of-control actor Will Smith on Sunday night during the internationally televised Academy Awards show awarding Oscars for the top movies of 2021.
The incident occurred after Rock made a joke about Smith’s actress wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who recently shaved her head and has been open about her struggle with alopecia, which causes hair loss.
“Jada, I love you, ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” Rock said on stage. This caused Smith to swiftly walk up to Rock on stage and assault him with a hard slap to the face.
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth,” Smith shouted repeatedly after exiting the stage. Though that remark was censored during ABC’s live broadcast of The Oscars, unedited footage of the incident, recorded in other countries, made the social media rounds afterward.
Rock, a veteran stand-up comedian, responded with a joke that Will Smith just slapped the s–t out of him, and was the most historical thing that ever happened on television.
While Rock stood alone after the assault, several actors came over to console Smith, the perpetrator. However, local New York City comedians came to the defense of Rock.
“It really shows how thankless standup comedy is as an art form. To physically assault somebody while they are doing their job,” said one comedian who performs regularly at the Cellar in Greenwich Village. “I mean, you guys [Hollywood] never honors comedians or comedies during the Academy Awards. They never nominated Jim Carry for all the great comedies he did. Comedians are always doing movies, funny movies, great movies, but they don’t honor us. So it [the Academy Awards] is specifically for the bougie dramatic actors. And then what they do is they have comedians come in between giving out the awards to kind of living the night up.”
“So you essentially have comedians tap dancing for you. And not just any comedian, but Chris Rock, a comedic icon. He’s performing for a whole bunch of people that think they’re better than him. And then they assault him while he’s performing. And then they can console the person who assaulted him. Nobody consoled Chris Rock,” the comedian added.
Chris Rock grew up on Decatur Street between Howard and Saratoga avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He was bussed to James Madison High School, but dropped out after being picked on by the white kids in the school and later received his GED before going into comedy.
As of Monday afternoon, Rock had refused to press charges against Smith. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday it would conduct its own investigation of the incident.