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How late-night hosts reacted to Will Smith slapping Chris Rock: ‘Nobody lifted a finger!’

‘We will never stop talking about this,’ Jimmy Kimmel said.

Tom Murray
Tuesday 29 March 2022 23:14 BST
Late-night hosts react to Will Smith Oscars slap

Naturally, there was one major talking point as the US talk show heavyweights delivered their opening monologues on Monday (28 March).

Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert all weighed in on what was arguably the most controversial night in Oscars history. The 94th Academy Awards were, of course, marred by Will Smith slapping presenter Chris Rock in the face after he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head.

Kimmel, whose show runs on ABC, the same network that carries the Oscars, began by showing the clip of Smith walking up on stage and striking Rock in front of the audience.

“It’s now a part of our lives forever. We will never stop talking about this,” Kimmel said. “Even Kanye [West] was like, ‘You went on stage and did what at an awards show?’”

Ye (the artist formerly known as Kanye West) famously intervened at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards when Taylor Swift won Best Female Video, taking the microphone and shouting, “I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!”

Kimmel continued: “No one could have predicted the most controversial movie of 2022 would be GI Jane but it was!”

Rock had said to Pinkett Smith while presenting the award for Best Documentary: “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see you.” Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to come out, and has spoken about it on multiple occasions in the past.

Will Smith and Chris Rock on stage during the 94th Oscars (AFP via Getty Images)

Kimmel went on to praise Rock for how he handled the situation, despite many criticising the comedian for making the joke in the first place. “Chris Rock handled it about as well as you could possibly handle being slapped on stage at the Oscars”, Kimmel said, “He didn’t even flinch… I would’ve been crying so hard.”

“No one did anything,” he added. “Nobody lifted a finger. Spider-Man was there. Aquaman was there. Catwoman, all sitting on their hands. Nobody helped Chris Rock.”

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Kimmel also said he was “a little bummed because I’ve only hosted the second craziest Oscars of all time” referencing the 2017 Oscars in which “La La Land” was wrongly announced as the Best Picture winner over “Moonlight”.

On NBC, Fallon took a typically neutral approach to the altercation, refusing to even name Smith or Rock until well into his monologue.

“America may be divided, but it was kind of nice for us to come together to say ‘holy crap’ at the same time,” Fallon said.

Instead of taking a stance, Fallon chose instead to direct attention toward his show’s bandleader Questlove who won the Oscar for Best Documentary – the award being presented by Rock when Smith assaulted him.

Later, Fallon concluded: “The Will-Chris thing, I was bummed, disturbed. I wish it didn’t happen. But it didn’t stop me from loving the business, what we do.”

Meanwhile, Colbert had some advice for Smith: “If you really want to hurt a comedian, don’t laugh! That hurts way more than a punch. I promise you.”

He also joked that the slap was the worst thing Smith had ever done... apart from Wild Wild West and Gemini Man.

James Corden applauded Rock for his strong jaw on The Late Late Show: “I’ll say this, Will Smith cannot take a joke, Chris Rock can take a punch.” Corden also spoofed the Encanto song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” but with the lyrics swapped to “We Don’t Talk About Jada”.

Smith apologised to Rock early Tuesday (29 March) after failing to do so in his speech after winning the Oscar for Best Actor.

“I would like to publicly apologise to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong,” he wrote in a statement published on social media.

The Academy has said it may discipline Smith for the incident.

“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr Smith at last night’s show,” said the organisation in a statement, following the controversy. “We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”

Since the event, ticket sales for Rock’s upcoming comedy tour have spiked with one ticket marketplace reporting it sold more tickets on the day following the Oscars than it did the entire month previously.

Find the full list of 2022 Oscar winners here. See the latest updates and reactions from the dramatic ceremony here, and read about the biggest talking points here.

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