Chris Rock Responds To Will Smith’s Oscar Slap At Standup Show

What is Chris Rock thinking about?

It’s a simple but valid question, one that the world is asking after Will Smith slammed the comedian on live television during the Oscars on Sunday. The now infamous slap has been the subject of du jour on every corner of the internet and television in the 48 hours since – but Rock has remained noticeably quiet. That is until Wednesday night, when Rock raised the topic publicly at a stand-up show in Boston.

“Hey, okay!” he exclaimed as he took the stage in an all-white suit. The standing ovation from the crowd continued before Rock made another attempt to get the ball rolling for the evening: “Yo, let me do the show!”

After a few more moments of applause, Rock immediately addressed the elephant in the room.

“How was your weekend?” he began, generating a wave of laughter. “I have no idea what happened, so if you come to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote for this weekend. I’m still processing what happened. So at some point I’ll talk about that shit. And it will be serious and funny.”

An audience member then chanted “Fuck Will Smith!” before Rock moved on.

“I’m going to tell some jokes. It’s nice to just be outside,” he said before starting his material.

At least a dozen local reporters lined up outside the theater two hours before the show started, bundled up in the thirty-degree New England weather.

“This is insane,” one onlooker yelled as he passed a host of cameras and on-air reporters around 6 p.m.

Prior to the show, local religious leaders gathered outside the Wilbur Theater to make a statement about “the incident involving our brothers” and “send a message that violence is not the way to resolve conflict.”

“This is an educational moment, so we end the cycle of underreported violence in the black community,” said Kevin C. Peterson, founder of the New Democracy Coalition, a non-partisan, nonprofit organization focused on civic engagement , for a small group of reporters.

Event organizers in the Wilbur were not happy with the crowds gathering outside.

“We need to get ready for a show,” a Wilbur employee said as he tried to hang ropes outside the venue. “We’re trying to work now.”

Boston resident Sam Wisnia, 24, thought it “coincidentally” that Rock would make his first public appearance a short distance from his hometown. He got tickets on Monday morning after the Oscars and acted early enough that he paid only $70.

“I didn’t look” [the Oscars] live, but I’ve watched the clip many times,” said Wisnia. “I hope he leads” [his set] with the whole situation and he can find the humor in it.”

Another Boston resident, Jesse Setaro, 32, saw an Instagram ad for Rock’s show “after getting punched.” He paid $225 and considers that a bargain compared to what others paid.

Setaro was unfazed by the frenzy of reporters outside the theater: ‘Why shouldn’t they be here? it is a historic night.”

Rock’s taciturnity may be why ticket sales for Rock’s stand-up comedy tour were nearly impossible to get by. By coincidence, Rock was booked to play several shows in Boston starting Wednesday before embarking on his “Ego Death World Tour” next month, which begins in New Jersey. It is the first time in five years that Rock is back on the road.

His four-day stint in Boston kicked off at the 1,000-seat Wilbur Theater on Wednesday, with a sold-out show at 7:30 p.m. and another at 10 p.m. COVID-19 vaccinations were mandatory for attendees.

Tickets went fast on Ticketmaster and were resold on StubHub and other ticket exchange and resale websites for astronomically inflated prices. Original prices started at $49.50, but in the wake of the shocking incident at the Oscars, they went for a whopping $800 to $8,000 on secondary sites. Admission to the 7:30 p.m. show was in high demand as many expected it to be the first time Rock would publicly respond to Smith’s violent outburst.

A StubHub representative said the site had “more than 25 times daily sales” in the past two days compared to the past month. “It’s incredibly unusual to see the spike that we experienced,” said Mike Silveira, spokesperson for StubHub. Also the online ticket seller TickPick wrote on Twitter on Monday“We sold more tickets to see Chris Rock at night than in the past month combined.”

The incident in question took place in the middle of the 94th annual Academy Awards, when Rock presented the Best Documentary category on stage. The comedian started riffing on A-list celebrities in the audience before going off script to joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and her shaved head. (The actress has alopecia, a medical condition that causes hair loss.)

“Jada, I love you: ‘GI Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” Rock said, referring to the 1997 action movie in which Demi Moore’s character has a shaved head.

Smith initially laughed at the jab. But after turning to Pinkett Smith and noticing her epic eye-roll at the joke, he quickly switched and walked onstage to punch Rock in the face. At first, everyone – including Rock – thought the excitement was a little off, but it soon became clear that wasn’t the case.

“Oh, wow,” Rock said as Smith walked offstage. “Wow. Will Smith just terrified me.”

After returning to his seat, Smith yelled, “Keep my wife’s name out of your damn mouth.”

Rock replied, “Wow, dude. It was a ‘GI Jane’ joke.” That prompted Smith to shout in a louder octave, “Keep my wife’s name out of your damn mouth!”

Rock appeared on stage visibly shaken, struggling to organize his thoughts. “That was, uh, the best night in television history,” he offered.

Shortly after the incident, Smith was awarded the Best Actor Oscar for his role as tennis coach Richard Williams in “King Richard,” a feel-good sports drama in which he plays the father of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams. In a tearful acceptance speech, Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow Best Actor nominees, but he stopped calling Rock. In his comments, he also tried to connect the altercation with his on-screen character in “King Richard.”

“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said. “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy dad, as they said about Richard Williams.”

Later in his speech he said: ‘In this profession you have to be able to have people who don’t respect you. And you have to smile and you have to act like that’s okay.”

Smith apologized to Rock on Instagram on Monday. “I want to apologize to you publicly, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I’m ashamed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.” He also said, “Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too heavy for me and I reacted emotionally. “

Rock declined to press charges, but the Academy has launched an investigation into the situation to “explore further measures and consequences,” a spokesperson said.

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