Chris Rock starts national tour amid fallout from Oscar ‘slap’

Wave Wire Services

HOLLYWOOD — Comedian Chris Rock was expected to break his silence on the “slap heard ’round the world,” as he kicked off a worldwide stand-up comedy tour March 30, appearing in public for the first time since being smacked on stage at the Oscars by actor Will Smith.

Meanwhile, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors met earlier that day, and the issue of Smith’s actions during The March 27 ceremony was expected to be a major point of discussion.

It could be weeks before the Academy reaches any conclusions in the formal review it announced March 28 in response to the altercation. In a letter sent to Academy members March 29 and obtained by several trade publications, Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson reiterated their outrage at Smith’s on-stage assault of Rock, but said it will take some time for consequences to be determined.

“To be clear, we condemn Mr. Smith’s actions,” the letter stated. “As outlined in our bylaws, the Academy’s Board of Governors will now make a determination on appropriate action for Mr. Smith.

“As governed by California law regarding members of nonprofit organizations like the Academy, and set forth in our standards of conduct, this must follow an official process that will take a few weeks.

“We will continue to update you on any developments, but we also ask that you respect your board, Academy staff and the process as this unfolds so it can work in the considered way it was intended and mandated. Please trust that the Board of Governors will conduct this process in a manner that is both expedient and respectful of all involved while maintaining the standards of the Academy.”

There was still no indication of what potential consequences Smith could face, but the options likely include either a suspension of his Academy membership or a permanent expulsion.

He is unlikely to have his best-actor Oscar win for “King Richard” rescinded. The Academy has previously expelled members including Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein, but none were forced to surrender any previous Oscar wins.

Rock was on the Dolby Theatre stage to present the Oscar for best documentary feature, but he made a joke about Smith’s wife — actress Jada Pinkett Smith — and her bald head, suggesting she would be starring in a sequel to “G.I. Jane.” Pinkett Smith has talked in the past about having the hair-loss condition alopecia.

Smith, who was seated in the front of the theater, walked onto the stage and smacked Rock across the face, then returned to his seat, screaming at Rock twice, telling him to “keep my wife’s name out of your [expletive] mouth.”

When he later won the best actor Oscar for “King Richard” — for his portrayal of the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams — he tearfully apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees, but not to Rock.

Smith issued a formal written apology the next day, saying, “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive.”

“My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” he said.

“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.

“I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams family and my ‘King Richard’ family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.

On March 29, Jada Pinkett Smith wrote on Instagram: “This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.”

Rock has not made any public comments since the altercation.

Hiss tour, dubbed the “Chris Rock Ego Death World Tour 2022,” opened in Boston, and concludes — ironically — with stops at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Nov. 17 and Nov. 18.