Comedian, Host And More

179: The Will Smith / Chris Rock Slap Heard Round The World

The Chris Rock / Will Smith slap will have consequences for comedians, performers, and entertainers for years to come. As a stand up comedian who has performed entertaining live audiences at TV shows like The View, Good Morning America and maybe more importantly I’ve been performing in a lot of dirtier and dingier comedy clubs.

On episode 179 of the Tom Kelly Show podcast, I talked about how the “Slap Heard Round The World” was triggering for me and many of my colleagues. Did we just give the world permission to slap entertainers? Did we just give our children permission to slap verbal bullies? Was the Jada Pinkett joke really that bad?

We’re all still talking about “the slap” because there is one minute on the Oscars will have ramifications for American society in coming months. I break down my thoughts here.

Why I Think The Slap Was Real

Was the slap real?  Now that I heard what Chris Rock and Will Smith said during the bleeped exchange.  I think it was. 

Even if the exchange was faked.  The exchange was not good for comedians, club comedians, or people celebrating excellence.  And as an ally to causes that celebrate Black excellence.  This was a cloud on Quest Love and Will Smith’s own win as Best Actor.

This was a year to celebrate the very Black Excellence Will Smith complained about the Oscars missing.

Can We Slap People Who Are Mean?

As a stand-up comedian who still performs in rough comedy clubs with no security, I think this is bad for comedians.  I had a man try to get on stage because he thought one of my jokes was “too gay.”

If I’m too mean, do I deserve to be slapped?  

If Will Smith can slap Chris Rock on the Oscars why not slap Tom Kelly?

We’ve created a situation where it’s ok to respond to words we don’t like with 

Will Smith Had More Than A Bad Minute

I heard people I admire say “Will Smith had a bad minute.”  

No he didn’t.

He laughed at a joke.  His wife whispered in his ear.  He got up.  He walked up the stairs.  He stood in front of Chris Rock.  He said something.  Then he slapped him.

What if he punched instead of slapped?  What if he had a gun and shot him?   

Where is the line that Hollywood stops being so forgiving?

Was The Joke That Bad?

Yes and no.

So Amy Schumer making fun of Will and Jada’s rocky marriage . . . funny. (I thought that was too personal and mean.  I genuinely thought that would get a rough reaction.)

Chris Rock making fun of Jaida’s baldness (with Rock possibly not knowing it was induced by a medical condition) by saying she would be in a sequel to GI Jane a bad ass military movie that’s where he swings?

That said . . . you don’t make fun of medical baldness. But Jaida looks so good, it’s easy to not know it’s medical.  Rock was making fun of a hot woman in a position of power.

GI Jane wasn’t an insult.  She didn’t say she looked like Kojack or Uncle Fester.  GI Jane is a backhanded compliment.

How do we know Rock and Jaida are in a position of power?  Rock didn’t press charges.  If Will Smith slapped me . . . of to Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv’s house.

Is GI Jane A Compliment

My friend Amy Cici writes: I had to shave my head last spring since I was going through chemo, and I welcomed every GI Jane comment b/c I took it from the standpoint intended; GI Jane was a hot badass.

You Don’t Comment On Black Women’s Hair

In 2009, Chris Rock made a documentary called “Good Hair”.  The takeaway for white people was don’t comment on a black woman’s hair.  No one wants your opinion.  Just shut your mouth.

I’m not saying Chris Rock deserved to get slapped. 

But maybe, as a comic, he is the one guy on Earth who should have known the joke may not work.

Hollywood Is So Phony

I don’t blame the people in the room.  It took me 20 hours to come up with an opinion on Will Smith.

But then again, I watched a censored TV broadcast.  

They were there.

What should Will Smith’s punishment have been?  In a dream world?  For me, they should have opened the envelope, see if he won.  If he won, they should have skipped the category and mailed him the trophy like they did for so many pre-recorded technical awards.

We’re all complaining about Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine. 

If we can’t stop the Fresh Prince of Bel Air from hating Everybody Hates Chris, what hope do we have for peace anywhere.

I’m not even saying cancel Will Smith.  

But can we acknowledge slapping a performer at an awards ceremony is a bad thing?

I’m also upset that ABC and the Oscars didn’t back Chris Rock.  I worked at ABC for 14 years.  I went to Human resources for far less.

Where Do We Go From Here?

By law, Chris Rock was the man assaulted.  He chose not to press charges.

Diddy brokered a peace between them before the show was over.  If Diddy is that good a negotiator lets send him to the Ukraine, North Korean and then the Middle East.

I’m a fan of Chris Rock.  Chris Rock is close to the type of comic I wanted to be when I was young.  

I’m a fan of Will Smith.  I’m a fan of his positive entertainer vibe.

I want Will Smith to genuinely be sorry.  I want Will Smith to genuinely say “I’m sorry, Chris Rock.”  

I want someone to say that this should not happen at Comedy Shows, Schools, and work places.

And until I rewrite most of my jokes that involve me being mean to the crowd . . . I want a bodyguard.

Tom Kelly is a stand up comedian and host of The Tom Kelly Show podcast released Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays on You can find Tom across the board on social media as “Tom Kelly Show”.

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