Oscars Host Wanda Sykes Speaks Out About How She Felt For Her Friend Chris Rock During And After The Will Smith Slap Incident

The moment when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock during the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony has got to be the most scrutinized event in Oscars history, as everyone has an opinion. Following the slap, the show had to go on for the three Oscar hosts — Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall and Amy Schumer — but figuring out how to process what went down really only started once the cameras stopped rolling. Even months later Sykes still struggles, and she opened up about how it felt to see her friend Rock get hit on stage.

Wanda Sykes and Chris Rock have been friends for a long time and appeared together on screen in movies like Pootie Tang and Down to Earth. Sykes had some strong words for Will Smith after he responded to a joke Rock told about Jada Pinkett Smith by going on stage and slapping the comedian on live television. Sykes talked about being “traumatized” in the aftermath, and she told THR it’s something she still hasn’t been able to fully get past:

I should probably talk to somebody, to be honest. It was crazy. It ruined the night. I felt awful for my friend [Rock], for his family. It’s just so shitty. And, for our industry, who are we? We all saw what happened and just sat there. It’s the craziest thing ever. It reflects where we are in this country as far as the level of civility.

Wanda Sykes is still apparently feeling the effects of what happened to her friend, to the point where she says she should probably talk to someone about it. She said it ruined the night, and it's hard to look back at how everyone reacted to the surreal moment. Following “the slap heard around the world,” everyone was in a state of shock. Denzel Washington pulled Will Smith aside to comfort him. Chris Rock maintained his composure and presented the award he was there to present, before leaving the stage and not being shown again on the broadcast.

Will Smith, however, was allowed to stay in the audience, and a short time later he was presented with the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in King Richard. Not only that, but his acceptance speech garnered a standing ovation from the audience, which Sykes and others including Jim Carrey found sickening. The Upshaws actress has expressed that she doesn’t understand why Smith wasn’t escorted from the building after the assault. There was some confusion about what happened behind the scenes following the slap, including whether or not Smith was asked to leave, but ultimately it was reported that the SNL alum declined to press charges.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air icon did publicly apologize to Chris Rock in the days that followed the Oscars ceremony, but while Jada Pinkett Smith has expressed that she’d like the two actors to reconcile, Rock is reportedly focused on his work as he continues touring and preparing for an upcoming comedy special. His act does not include jokes about the incident, though he has mentioned it off-handedly at his shows. 

This is an issue that’s going to continue to be a topic of conversation, as it still affects those who were a part of it, and fans hope to get Chris Rock’s take — maybe in a new comedy special someday. In the meantime, check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to see what’s coming to theaters soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.