Chris Rock has made his first public remarks after being slapped on live television by Will Smith during Sunday’s Academy Awards, saying at a Wednesday night comedy show that he was “still processing” the incident.
At his show in Boston, his first since the Oscars and part of a pre-existing tour schedule, Rock addressed the controversy by jokingly asking the crowd, “How was your weekend?” before explaining he “did not have a lot to say” yet about that night.
“I’m still kind of processing what happened,” he said, according to audio posted by Variety. Greeted by thunderous applause, the comedian also tamped down any audience expectations that he would talk at length about the slap, telling them: “If you came to hear that, I’m not … I had like a whole show I wrote before this weekend.”
Rock added that he would have more to say “at some point” and that it would be “serious and funny”, Variety reported.
“We love you,” someone shouted at one point, eliciting cheers from the audience, according to the audio.
The incident stunned the crowd at the 94th Academy Awards and those watching at home.
Rock had made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s buzzed haircut, comparing her to GI Jane. Pinkett Smith has a medical condition, alopecia, that has resulted in hair loss. Smith promptly stood up from his seat at the front of the venue and took the stage, slapping Rock across the face before sitting back down and yelling at Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his mouth.
Within an hour, Smith had won best actor, receiving a standing ovation. During his five-minute acceptance speech, Smith talked about defending his family and apologized to the Academy. A day later, Smith issued an apology to the comedian, the Academy and viewers at home, saying he had been “out of line” and that his actions were “not indicative of the man I want to be”.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has condemned Smith’s behavior and said on Wednesday that it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against the star for violating its code of conduct.
The Academy, facing criticism that Smith was allowed to remain in his seat and enjoy the show after the assault, also revealed it had asked Smith to leave the ceremony but that he had refused.
Ticket prices for Rock’s shows soared after the slap. In Boston, attendees were prohibited from bringing phones or other recording devices to their seats.
George Guay, a 24-year-old fan from Boston who grew up on Rock’s TV show Everybody Hates Chris, said he had bought a ticket after the Academy Awards.
“He’s the most popular celebrity so I want to be here,” Guay said, adding that he hoped Rock would open up with a response to the situation. “I just want a good show.”