Veteran Awards Host Ricky Gervais Has Some Thoughts About Will Smith’s Oscars Slap

In the aftermath of Will Smith’s Oscars slap, various celebrities have weighed in on the matter. Some have chastised Smith for his on-air actions, while others have criticized Chris Rock, the recipient of the hit to the face, for the joke he made about Jada Pinkett Smith. One of the latest stars to enter the discussion is actor and comedian Ricky Gervais, who’s hosted his fair share of awards shows in the past. The star specifically got honest about Rock’s joke and gave his take on Smith’s mindset during the altercation. 

Ricky Gervais has never been one to mince words, as those who’ve seen his stand-up performances and awards show monologues likely know. Given his status as an edgy comic and five-time Golden Globes host, it was only a matter of time before he was asked about the Will Smith incident. When giving his two cents, Gervais stated that he didn’t see Chris Rock’s joke as an “insult” and didn’t believe the comedian was trying to humiliate Jada Pinkett Smith:

There was nothing nasty about it, there was nothing unflattering about it. It was really tame. You could say that to a kid at a barbecue. … There was nothing to embarrass her.

Chris Rock appeared at the Oscars to present the award for Best Documentary Feature. During his set, he joked that he looked forward to seeing Jada Pinkett Smith in the G.I. Jane sequel, after which Will Smith walked on stage and slapped. During his interview on the Sam Harris’ Making Sense podcast, Ricky Gervais reiterated his belief that the joke was harmless while also noting that Smith initially laughed at the pun:

In the cold light of day, that joke, there was no need for outrage. And, Will Smith laughed, he laughed....she rolled her eyes, and he obviously thought he had to do something.

The co-creator of The Office has found himself on both sides of this kind of situation. During his past Golden Globe gigs, he made a number of edgy jokes that didn’t go over well with some. When addressing the backlash in 2016, the comic explained that he was “shocked” that people thought what he said was “shocking.” Though there was a joke he regretted later on, the star has been adamant about not apologizing for his controversial puns. Conversely, he has also been made fun of at the Globes and at one point, jokingly said he would heckle hosts when the one-liners were aimed at him.

Ricky Gervais isn’t the only former awards show host to chime in on Will Smith’s situation, as fellow comedian and nine-time Oscars host Billy Crystal weighed in on the slap. The star said that he believed Chris Rock handled himself well under the circumstances, though Crystal thought “it wasn’t a great joke.” The 74-year-old Hollywood vet also recalled that he was also concerned about Smith’s “mental state” when the slap played out.

It’s likely that stars will continue to weigh in on the Oscars slap as time goes on. Whether they’ll be in agreement with celebrities like Ricky Gervais or will hold a differing view remains to be seen.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.