Nearly one year after the Oscar-night slap heard ’round the world, Chris Rock finally let loose with his thoughts about the incident Saturday in a stand-up special at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre that streamed live on Netflix. After months of relative silence on actor Will Smith’s shocking assault on Rock during last year’s Academy Awards ceremony (when Smith walked up to the stage and slapped Rock, the telecast’s host, for telling a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith), Rock addressed it during his show in profane and emphatic terms. (The Washington Post’s standards on obscenities prevent a direct transcript.)
“Y’all know what happened to me, getting smacked by Suge Smith,” he joked.
Rock, who said he took the hit like boxer Manny Pacquiao, blamed Pinkett Smith’s “entanglements” for Smith’s outburst. “His wife was [having sex with] her son’s friend. I normally would not talk about this. … But for some reason, [they] put that … on the internet,” Rock said, referencing the couple’s public remarks about the infidelity in their relationship.
“She hurt him way more than he hurt me,” Rock said, joking that he still has “Summertime” (a rap hit Smith released in 1991 as part of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince) ringing in his ear long after the slap.
Rock said Smith’s masculinity was then called into question, but it was Rock who wound up paying the price. “Everybody called him a b----,” he said. “And who’s he hit? Me. [Someone] he knows he can beat.”
Pinkett Smith was not spared from Rock’s criticism, either. Rock said it all started after comments she made in 2016, when he was hosting the Oscars a previous time. “She starts it … I finish it,” Rock said. (His version of all of this is sure to be finely combed over and debated in the days ahead.)
Rock ended the special with words of wisdom from his parents that prevented him from fighting back after Smith slapped him. “I got parents. And you know what my parents taught me? Don’t fight in front of White people.”
Lasting just over an hour, Rock’s set roamed over several hot-button topics, delivered in his trademark style. He talked about “woke” and “cancel” culture, and provided examples of “selective outrage” (“The kind of people who play Michael Jackson songs, but won’t play R. Kelly”) and other modern hypocrisies: “Typin’ out woke-a-- tweets on a phone made by child slaves.” He talked about opioids. He talked about Meghan Markle. He talked about women, abortion, O.J. Simpson, the Kardashians. He shared a personal story about his daughter getting expelled from an elite high school. He talked about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol: “When did White men become victims? White men think they’re actually losing the country,” he said. “Did you see the Capitol riots? What kind of White ‘Planet of the Apes’ s--- was that?”