Jay Leno Dishes on Will Smith’s Oscars Slap: ‘It Wasn’t the Slap That Bothered Me’

By now, we all know what happened at the 2022 Academy Awards: CODA took home best picture, Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes did a fine job hosting, and Dune won for best sound and several other technical categories. Did we miss anything? Oh right. Will Smith slapping Chris Rock. The Oscars incident led to plenty of consequences for Smith, but as Jay Leno revealed, it wasn’t the slap that bothered him most that night.

Will Smith visits Jay Leno on 'The Tonight Show' in 2005, years before he slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars.
Will Smith visits Jay Leno on ‘The Tonight Show’ in 2005 | Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock and faces the consequences

Allow us to briefly recap what happened at the 2022 Oscars. Rock, presenting the Oscar for best documentary feature, mocked Jada Pickett Smith’s alopecia with a G.I Jane joke. Smith initially chuckled, then took exception, strode on stage, slapped Rock, and immediately became the night’s biggest loser despite his win for best actor moments later. 

Smith’s actions didn’t come consequence-free. Studios quickly paused Smith’s projects, he stepped down from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and he later joined a shortlist of people to be expelled from the Academy after it banned him for 10 years.

Smith shocked the world with his slap, but that wasn’t the most troublesome part of the incident for Jay Leno.

Jay Leno on Smith’s Oscars incident: ‘It wasn’t the slap that bothered me’

Jay Leno knows Will Smith fairly well. As the former host of The Tonight Show, he welcomed Smith to his couch several times over the years. 

Leno didn’t condone Smith’s actions, but as he told T.A. Walker of WPTV in Palm Beach, Fla., Smith’s continued hostility afterward bothered him most. As Leno sees it, Smith might have an “emotional thing” that he needs to address.

“You know something, Will is a good guy. I’ve known him a long time, and it wasn’t the slap that bothered me, because that’s reaction. It was in the chair, yelling the obscenities, where you go, ‘Whoa.’ And then to do it again. I mean, you had a minute to clear your head there. You should have taken it, and it didn’t clear, it didn’t clear again. And I went, ‘You know, there’s some emotional thing going on here,’ and I hope he gets it straightened out.”

Jay Leno

“I don’t make fun of him. I’m not making fun of him for that. I just mean, I know him. He’s always been a decent guy, model citizen, good role model. There’s some emotional thing there, and I hope he gets it straightened out.”

Everything about Smith’s Oscars incident chafed with what Leno knows about him, but the repeated profanity stuck out the most.

Leno also mocked Hollywood stars’ self-importance

Earlier in his conversation with Walker, Leno called out the self-importance of some Hollywood actors (via YouTube). He didn’t outright defend Smith or excuse Rock’s joke, but Leno mocked how some celebrities believe everyone knows everything about them.

“That was my favorite thing about the Academy Awards. ‘Everybody knew she had alopecia.’ I didn’t know. I’m sorry, I’ve got my own problems,” Leno said. “The idea that celebrities think everybody knows. Was it [William] Shatner who said, ‘You know, a lot of you might not know I have hemorrhoids.’ No. ‘You know, Bill, I watched Star Trek, and it never even occurred to me that you had hemorrhoids.’”

Leno wasn’t the first celebrity to take a shot at Hollywood egos while discussing Smith’s slap. Michael Bay, who directed Smith in his action movie breakthrough, Bad Boys, also took a shot at Hollywood’s egotism while saying the Smith who assaulted Rock isn’t the one he knows from working with him.

Leno still believes Smith is a good guy, but if there’s an underlying problem that led to the Oscars slap, the former late-night host hopes the Oscar-winner gets it figured out.

RELATED: Oscars 2022: Will Smith’s Slap Points to Bigger Issues at the Academy Awards