Oscars Producer Reveals Will Smith Jokes Originally ‘Went Harder’ And Why They Pulled Back

The 95th Academy Awards dropped a few surprises when it aired this past Sunday, but the ceremony went as producers planned for the most part. There were some historic wins, mostly due to the Daniels’ seven-time Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All At Once, which served as highlights of the night. Ultimately, nothing transpired on the stage that was as dramatic as the slapping incident involving Will Smith, which occurred last year. That situation was the elephant in the room that host Jimmy Kimmel had to address in his opening monologue. However, according to awards producers, the Smith jokes initially "went harder” than what was featured in the show. Still, they decided to pull back, and we now know the reason for that.

Jokes about one of the Oscars’ biggest scandals were indeed present this year. However, Molly McNearney, an EP of this year’s show and Kimmel’s wife, explained to People why her husband did not go “harder.” She said they did not want the night to revolve around said incident. She told the publication: 

We didn’t want to make this year all about last year. I cannot tell you how many Will Smith jokes we had that then we got rid of. We think that only the best for that room made it. There were certainly some that went harder, but we didn’t think that was our place to do that. That should be Chris Rock, not us.

Of course, while the comedy didn’t go as hard as it could have, the show’s producers didn’t want to ignore the incident entirely. Instead, they decided to take a more original approach and make light of how those in the room did, or, more specifically, did not, handle the situations. She continued: 

We really liked the idea of making fun of the reaction to it last year. I think we’re all still in a bit of shock of how that went down and how after watching that violence everyone had to then sit through an acceptance speech.

Molly McNearney is referring to how, moments after last year’s violent incident, Will Smith was awarded Best Actor for his role in King Richard. The actor took to the stage, unchallenged, and gave an emotional acceptance speech that did not include an apology to Chris Rock, in a moment that some found awkward moment,. Though Smith would apologize later, many believed it was too little too late.

It makes sense that the Oscars producers wouldn’t feel like it’s their place to make all the slapping jokes. Coincidentally, just a week earlier, Chris Rock threw out plenty of jabs while discussing the subject in his latest standup special, Selective Outrage, though. The SNL alum made Netflix history with his newest special, which was the streamer’s first livestream global event. The comedian did not hold back, going hard on the slap and Jada Pinkett Smith’s “entanglements.” Insiders close to the Smiths said Will didn’t watch Rock’s special, but people near him told him about it, and he was reportedly very embarrassed.

The Oscar host’s jokes about the infamous slap might not have gone as mean as they could have been, but it's clear that the show definitely still wanted to mine some comedy from the shocking moment. Audiences who want to see some “harder” jokes on the matter, though, can check out Chris Rock’s Selective Outrage, which is now streaming for those with a Netflix subscription

Ryan LaBee

Ryan graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in English/Creative Writing. An expert in all things horror, Ryan enjoys covering a wide variety of topics. He's also a lifelong comic book fan and an avid watcher of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.