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Chris Rock unloads on Will Smith a year after the famous slap

While Smith has apologized and repeatedly spoken out about the incident, Rock has avoided talking about it. Until now.
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A year after Will Smith slapped him on the stage of the Academy Awards ceremony, Chris Rock ended what has been mostly silence to unload on the actor, characterizing him as a coward who may have lashed out because of his own marriage problems.

On Saturday night, a week before the 2023 Academy Awards presentation, Rock, 58, performed in his first stand-up special since last year’s Oscars.

“Anybody who says that words hurt has never been punched in the face,” Rock said at the opening live Netflix special, “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage."

Rock spent most of the more than hour onstage at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore talking about anything but the altercation with Smith one year ago.

But the show peaked at its very end with an emotional but comedic analysis of the Oscars fracas that many have been waiting for.

"It still hurts," Rock said of the slap. "I got 'Summertime' ringing in my ears. But I'm not a victim, baby. You'll never see me on Oprah or Gayle [King] crying. It's never gonna happen."

During the special on Saturday, Rock said Smith may have been angry over his marital issues and took the occasion to express frustration.

Smith charged the stage of the 2022 Oscars after Rock made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia areata, a medical condition that results in hair loss.

"Will Smith practices selective outrage," he said. "Everybody knows I had nothing to do with that. I didn't have any entanglements."

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Pinkett Smith has said she had an "entanglement" with another man while the Smiths were separated.

Rock went on to say “everyone in the world” called Smith an expletive over his relationship issues, but Smith took it out on Rock — a physically smaller man.

"She hurt him way more than he hurt me," the comedian said.

The comedian also said Pinkett Smith had urged him to drop out of hosting the ceremony one year because Smith had not been nominated for his role in "Emancipation," Rock said, before correcting his joke to name another movie, "Concussion." “That’s how it is. She starts it, I finish it,” he said.

Rock went on to talk about how much he's "rooted for Will Smith my whole life."

"And now," he continued, "I watch 'Emancipation' just to see him get whooped."

Representatives for the Smiths did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Since last March, Smith has apologized and spoken repeatedly about the incident. He resigned from the motion picture academy in the aftermath of the slap, and the academy's board of governors subsequently banned Smith from attending the Oscars and all other academy events and programs for a decade.

But Rock has avoided all the usual platforms celebrities often go to to air their feelings. On the road, he's often worked in jokes and reflections on the slap, though it’s never been more than an element.

Rock first broke his public silence about the slap three nights after the Oscar ceremony in Boston. “How was your weekend?” he asked the crowd, adding that he was “still kind of processing what happened.”

“Selective Outrage” is Rock’s second special for Netflix, following 2018’s “Tamborine.” They’re part of a two-special $40 million deal Rock signed with the streamer in 2016.

While rivals have gotten into live streaming and sports, “Selective Outrage” is Netflix’s first foray into live programming. Netflix, with 231 million global subscribers, has signed on to stream next year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, signaling that “Selective Outrage” may be just the start of a new trend.