BOSTON — Comedian Chris Rock returned to the stage for the first time since being beaten by Will Smith at the Oscars on Wednesday, to enthusiastic applause from a Boston audience.
Rock addressed the slap only briefly, saying he was still processing what happened on Sunday and never mentioned Smith by name.
“Other than the weird thing, life is pretty good,” Rock said sometime midway through his performance. The nightly performance in Boston came just three days after Smith slapped the comedian for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Rock wore all white for his performance and seemed almost embarrassed by the numerous standing ovations he received. As the applause continued for minutes – with fans shouting “I love you Chris!” – The comedian appeared to be getting emotional, a guest seated near the stage told The Associated Press.
“How was your weekend?” Rock joked before getting into his set.
Ticket prices skyrocketed after the Oscars confrontation, but the comedian made it clear he wouldn’t be discussing it at length on Wednesday.
“If you came to hear that, I’m not … I had a whole show that I wrote before this weekend,” Rock said.
Members of the audience shouted their support for the comedian. At least one person cried out for Rock to sue Smith. Another fan wore a t-shirt with the “GI Jane” logo and Pinkett Smith’s face on it.
At Sunday’s Oscars, Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bright haircut. Pinkett Smith has spoken publicly about her diagnosis of alopecia, which can lead to hair loss.
“Jada, I love you. ‘GI Jane 2’ can’t wait to see him,” Rock said at the awards ceremony, comparing Pinkett Smith to Demi Moore’s ‘GI Jane’ character, who had a buzz cut in the 1997 film.
Smith immediately got up from his seat at the front of the venue and walked onto the stage, slapping Rock in the face before sitting back down and yelling at Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his mouth.
Within an hour, Smith won Best Actor and received a standing ovation. During his five-minute acceptance speech, Smith spoke about defending his family and apologized to the academy. A day later, Smith apologized to the comedian, the academy and viewers at home, saying he was “out of line” and that his actions were “not indicative of the man I aspire to be.”
George Guay, a 24-year-old Boston fan who grew up listening to “Everybody Hates Chris,” said he bought a ticket after the Academy Awards.
“He’s the most popular celebrity so I want to be here,” Guay said before the show, adding he hoped Rock would start with an answer to the situation. “I just want a good show”
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences convicted Smith of hitting Rock. His Board of Governors met Wednesday to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Smith for violating the group’s standards of conduct. The academy said it asked Smith to leave Sunday’s Academy Awards after he met Rock, but he refused to do so.
The Los Angeles Police Department said Sunday it knew what happened but was not investigating because the person concerned declined to file a police report.
Pinkett Smith responded Tuesday with a graphic on Instagram that read, “This is a time of healing and I’m here for it.” She had no further comment.
This wasn’t the first time Rock had cracked a joke at the expense of Pinkett Smith. When he hosted the Oscars in 2016, some people boycotted the ceremony because of the #OscarsSoWhite group of nominees, including the Smiths. Rock said at the time: “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.”
Wanda Sykes, who co-hosted the Oscars with Amy Schumer and Regina Hall, said she felt physically ill after Smith beat Rock. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres scheduled to air April 7, Sykes also said that letting Smith stay and accept his award shouldn’t have happened.
Several stars rushed to offer advice and reassurance to Smith after he returned to his seat, including Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper and Tyler Perry.
The drama overshadowed some historic wins at an Academy Awards. The deaf family drama “CODA” was the first film with largely deaf actors to win the award for best film. For the first time, a streaming service, Apple TV+, received Hollywood’s highest honor, signaling a sea change in Hollywood and in cinema-going. Wins for West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose, CODA’s Troy Kotsur, and The Power of the Dog director Jane Campion all made history.