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As Comedians Share Thoughts On Will Smith’s Oscars Slap, Richard Pryor’s Daughter Weighs In

Will Smith accepting his Oscar for King Richard at the 2022 Academy Awards
(Image credit: ABC)

It feels like just about every celebrity in Hollywood has had something to say about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, at this point. Some have come out in defense of the star, while others have crticized him for striking the noted funnyman. Interestingly, a number of Rock’s fellow comedians, like Steve Harvey and Tiffany Haddish, have provided some particularly strong thoughts on the situation. Now, the daughter of stand-up comedy legend Richard Pryor has weighed in. 

Rain Pryor knows more than most when it comes to the idea of comics speaking their mind on stage. Her dad was considered a trailblazer during his time for employing blunt humor and biting social commentary in his acts. So what did she think about Rock getting slapped after making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith at the Oscars? Well, the former comedian told the PEOPLE Every Day podcast that she’s met both Rock and Will Smith before, calling them “really good guys.” She did, however, say that she felt sorry for Rock before explaining what she thinks the situation is about:

I feel devastated for Chris, and to me, it was less about comedy and more about an interpersonal relationship we will never know about, because we don’t live with them. But it became the focus of comedy because Chris Rock is who he is, and that’s who it happened to. Chris is going to keep telling his jokes because he’s funny, and he’s smart. Comedy did not die.

The Head of State alum drew the ire of Will Smith while he was presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature. During his opening, the comic joked that he was looking forward to seeing Jada Pinkett Smith in a G.I. Jane sequel, referencing her shaved head (a style choice stemming from her alopecia). In the aftermath, Steve Harvey called the slap a “punk” move on Smith’s part and said that he “lost a lot of respect” for him. Fellow comic Jim Carrey mentioned that he was “sickened” by the applause Smith received after winning his Oscar and said that he would’ve sued him had he been slapped. Ricky Gervais has also criticized the situation, saying that there was nothing “nasty” or unflattering about the joke. On the other side of things, Tiffany Haddish voiced her support, saying that it “meant so much” to her to see “a Black man stand up for his wife.” 

Since the incident occured, many within the comedy world have expressed concern about the ramifications that the situation might have moving forward. Some argue that it could set a precedent for others to walk on stage and attack comics mid-performance. Such a situation actually happened when Dave Chappelle was attacked on stage at the Hollywood Bowl, where Chris Rock cracked a joke amid the ordeal. This has seemingly added fuel to the argument that comedians are steadily being “silenced” as part of cancel culture. During the same interview, Rain Pryor shared her thoughts on that notion as well:

You know, we're in this weird time right now where everyone's on an extreme. I think many comedians are feeling like they're facing 'the silencing.' So to me, [the furor around the slap] is just normal in terms of the way the world works, and how everything gets politicized at the moment.

Many might agree that comics must tread lightly when discussing certain topics. However, others would argue that it’s their job to adapt to the times and produce material that doesn’t come off as being fueled by malice. This is a complex discussion and one that’ll likely persist for the foreseeable future. 

Still, Rain Pryor does share some reasonable thoughts here and makes note of one key point: comedy won’t end with Will Smith’s Oscars slap. The art form will go on, as performers attempt to live up to the legacies of her famous father and others that came before them.

Erik Swann
Erik Swann

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.