Comedian Chris Rock told audience members during his comedy show in Arizona he declined an invitation to host the Oscar awards again next year.
Rock, who was slapped during last year’s telecast by Will Smith after joking about wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s short haircut, told a crowd at his show in Phoenix on Sunday night he refused the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences request that he reprise his hosting role for the 2023 Academy Awards broadcast, the Arizona Republic reported Monday.
The comic compared the invitation to O.J. Simpson’s slain wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, going “back to the restaurant,” where a pair of lost eyeglasses might have started a chain of events that led to the brutal stabbing deaths of Brown and restaurant employee Ron Goldman in 1994. Simpson was found not guilty in the famed mid-90s trial.
During the 2022 broadcast, Rock, 57, joked Pinkett Smith’s buzz haircut could be for a G.I. Jane sequel, referencing the movie starring Demi Moore as a Navy SEAL recruit, who sports a close-cut hair style, US Magazine reported.
Smith rose from his seat and walked onstage, slapping Rock once, then returning to his seat in a moment that shocked the live crowd, leading Smith to later resign from the academy, and its board of governors to ban Smith from the organization’s awards and events for 10 years.
Smith has since publicly apologized to Rock in a video on Instagram in July, The Hill reported.
“Chris, I apologize to you,” Smith said in the video. “My behavior was unacceptable. And I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the academy’s new CEO Bill Kramer said they will have a host for this year’s awards, and the show will not include jokes or other mentions of Smith slapping Rock.
“[We are] committed to having a host on the show this year,” Kramer told THR. “We want to move forward and to have an Oscars that celebrates cinema. That’s our focus right now.”
During Sunday night’s show, the audience tried egging Rock on to discuss the moment more, leading the comic to say that Smith, who played boxing champion Muhammad Ali in a movie, was bigger than he is.
“He’s bigger than me,” the Republic reported Rock said. “The state of Nevada would not sanction a fight between me and Will Smith.”
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