Chris Rock: 'Anybody that says words hurt has never been punched in the face'

The comedian speaks out about the Will Smith Oscar slap in first-ever Netflix event shown in real-time

Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage at the 94th Academy Awards on March 27, 2022, in Los Angeles. AP Photo
Powered by automated translation

Chris Rock has opened up about the infamous slapping incident involving him and Will Smith at the 2022 Oscars.

Broadcast a week before the 2023 Academy Awards ceremony — which Rock has declined to host — Rock addresses the slap in a live show filmed at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore.

Chris Rock: Selective Outrage is the first-ever event shown in real time on Netflix. It was accompanied by pre and post-show entertainment starring Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Sir Paul McCartney, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others.

Taking to the stage in an all-white ensemble, Rock performed a set that touched on politics, religion, racism, pop culture and more, before wrapping things up with commentary on the incident everyone was waiting to hear about.

“Anybody that says words hurt, has never been punched in the face,” said the comedian in his first public address about the event outside of his stand-up shows.

In March last year, Smith slapped Rock onstage during the 94th Oscars ceremony in response to a joke he made about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. No police report was filed following the incident.

In the new Netflix special, Rock said that the joke he made stemmed from comments made by Pinkett Smith many years ago.

“His wife said I should quit the Oscars, I shouldn’t host because her man didn’t get nominated for Concussion … So I did some jokes about it, that’s how it is. She starts it, I finish it.”

Rock also told a global audience that he had been a lifelong fan of Smith.

“I love Will Smith, my whole life, I love this man. He makes great movies, I’ve rooted for Will Smith my whole life … And now I watch Emancipation, just to see him get whooped.”

Smith stars in the 2022 film Emancipation as a slave fleeing a Louisiana plantation after being whipped close to death by slave masters.

He also commented on the industry's response to the incident, which inspired the name of his Netflix show.

“The thing I have a problem with is the selective outrage. One person does something, they get cancelled — somebody else does the exact same thing, nothing.”

Rock also offered an explanation for why he did not retaliate on the night.

“Because I got parents, that’s why. Because I was raised. And do you know what my parents told me, don’t fight in front of white people,” joked the comedian, aged 58, before throwing his microphone to the ground.

In July last year, Smith publicly apologised to Rock for the attack. “My behaviour was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk,” said the Oscar-winning actor. He has been banned from the Oscars gala and other Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences events for 10 years.

The 95th Academy Awards Ceremony will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on March 12.

Updated: March 05, 2023, 6:04 AM