Chris Rock says he’s still ‘processing’ the Oscar hit during the show

BOSTON (AP) — Comedian Chris Rock will make his first public appearance on Wednesday since Oscar-winning actor Will Smith punched him for a prank about Smith’s wife on the Academy Awards show.

The Boston nighttime performance comes just three days after Smith Rock hit the Oscar stage, stunning the crowd at the 94th Academy Awards and those watching at home.

Rock was greeted with thunderous applause and told the audience, “I’m still processing what happened,” according to audio posted by Hollywood retail outlet Variety. He also suppressed audience expectations that he would talk at length about the hit, telling them, “If you came to hear that, I’m not…I had such an entire show that I wrote earlier this weekend.”

“We love you,” someone shouted at one point, according to the audio cheers from the crowd.

At Sunday’s Oscars, Rock had joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s flashy haircut. Pinkett Smith has spoken publicly about her diagnosis of alopecia, which can cause baldness.

‘Jada, I love you. “GI Jane 2, I can’t wait to see it,” Rock said as he handed out an award, comparing Pinkett Smith to Demi Moore’s “GI Jane” character, who had a buzz cut in the 1997 film.

Smith promptly rose from his seat at the front of the room and went onstage, punching Rock in the face before sitting back down and yelling at Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his mouth.

Within an hour, Smith won the Best Actor award and received a standing ovation. During his five-minute acceptance speech, Smith spoke about defending his family and apologized to the academy. A day later, Smith apologized to the comedian, the academy and viewers at home, saying he was “outside the lines” and that his actions “are not indicative of the man I want to be”.

Ticket prices to Rock’s shows skyrocketed after the blow. In Boston, attendees were prohibited from taking phones or other recording devices to their seats.

George Guay, a 24-year-old Boston fan who grew up with “Everybody Hates Chris,” said he bought a ticket after the Academy Awards.

“He’s the most popular celebrity, so I want to be here,” Guay said, adding that he hopes Rock is open with a response to the situation. “I just want a good show.”

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences condemned Smith for hitting Rock. The board of governors met on Wednesday to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Smith for violating the group’s standards of conduct. The academy said it had asked Smith to leave Sunday’s Oscar ceremony after hitting Rock, but he declined.

Los Angeles police said on Sunday they were aware of what happened, but would not investigate because the person involved refused to report to the police.

Pinkett Smith responded Tuesday with an image on Instagram that read, “This is a season of healing and I’m here for it.” She offered no further comment.

It wasn’t the first time Rock had made a joke at the expense of Pinkett Smith. When he hosted the 2016 Oscars, some people boycotted the ceremony because of the #OscarsSoWhite group of nominees, including the Smiths. Rock then said: “Boycotting Jada the Oscars is like boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I was not invited.”

Wanda Sykes, who co-hosted the Oscars with Amy Schumer and Regina Hall, said she felt physically ill after Smith punched Rock. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres that will air on April 7, Sykes also said that Smith should not have been allowed to stay and receive his award.

Several stars rushed to advise and calm Smith after he returned to his seat, including Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper and Tyler Perry.

The drama overshadowed some historic Oscar wins. The deaf family drama “CODA” became the first film with a largely deaf cast to win the Best Picture award. For the first time, a streaming service, Apple TV+, grabbed Hollywood’s highest honor, signaling a dramatic shift in Hollywood and in the cinema. Wins for ‘West Side Story’ Ariana DeBose, ‘CODA’ Troy Kotsur and ‘The Power of the Dog’ director Jane Campion had all made history.

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