Will Smith and Chris Rock Oscar Slap – ‘You Know if You’re Going Too Far,’ Tichina Arnold Observes

Actor Tichina Arnold who starred alongside comedian Chris Rock in Everybody Hates Chris said “you’ll understand if you’re hurting somebody else’s feelings” when asked about Rock’s Academy Awards standup and the now-infamous slap Will Smith delivered onstage.

During Rock’s Oscars monologue, he joked about Smith’s wife’s shaved head, which is actually a result of alopecia, a condition Jada Pinkett Smith has talked about struggling with in the past.

Smith left his seat in the audience, walked directly up to Rock, and slapped him across the face before returning to his seat. Smith was banned from attending a future Oscars ceremony for 10 years.

Smith later issued an apology video, which Rock has discussed in his latest standup gigs, referring to it as a “hostage video.”

Will Smith Chris Rock slap: ‘You know if you’re going too far’

Arnold, who knows Rock well and respects him said comics usually know when they’ve pushed the joke too far. “I feel that if you are a human, you’ll understand if you’re hurting somebody else’s feelings,” she said on the Behind the Velvet Rope with David Yontef podcast.

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock during the Academy Awards ceremony in 2022
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock onstage |Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times

“Or you know if you’re going too far,” she continued. “Comedy, because I love comedy so much, if it’s funny, it’s funny. If it’s not, it’s not. But that’s relative because we all don’t find the same things funny. But one of the reasons why I never became a standup is because I’m a comedic actress. But watching all the greats, I went to see Dave Chappelle, Eddie Griffin, you know, Chris Rock.  I love going to the comedy clubs watching because it’s a fearless occupation.”

Tichina Arnold says she tends to mind her business, reflecting on the Oscars slap

Arnold said comedians should be able to talk about their life and experiences. But sometimes people don’t love what you have to say.

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“But it’s a way where you can convey how you feel about life and you tell your story of what you’ve gone through, through laughter. And that’s not easy to do,” she observed. “So you have a lot of people that may make certain decisions, people may like it, people may not.” 

That’s why Arnold prefers to deliver her comedy through acting. “But I tend to mind my business. Gotta mind your business. People go through what they go through. If they ask you how you feel about it, then you express yourself,” she asserted. “But other than that, no one cares. Mind your business. Stay outta other people’s business. Yeah, I stay outta people’s business.”

Chris Rock talks about the Will Smith apology video in his act

Smith’s apology video prompted Rock to reflect on Smith’s delivery and his comments. Alongside Dave Chappelle, Rock mused about it last month during a standup performance. “F*** your hostage video,” Rock said to a Liverpool, England audience via The Guardian. He added that Smith was “a perfect man for 30 years” and unveiled himself to be “just as ugly as the rest of us”.

Chappelle wondered if the slap hurt. “Godd*** right,” Rock said. “The motherf***er hit me over a bulls*** joke – the nicest joke I ever told.”