On Monday evening, late night television dug into Will Smith’s controversial night at the Academy Awards, discussing the moment when the actor walked onto the ceremony stage to slap Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
The incident between Smith and Rock stunned audiences, both inside the Dolby Theatre and watching from home, as it was not immediately clear whether the interaction was a staged part of the show or a genuine byproduct of a disagreement between the two.
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, which airs on ABC, the same network that broadcasts the Oscars, wasted no time before diving into the event that cast a shadow over the evening, beginning Kimmel’s monologue by showing footage of Smith slapping Rock. The program also used broadcast footage of Smith’s subsequent acceptance speech for best actor and a video of the actor celebrating his win at an afterparty later during the evening.
“It’s now a part of our lives forever. We will never stop talking about this,” Kimmel stated. “Even Kanye [West] was like, ‘You went on stage and did what at an awards show?’”
Kimmel also took space to praise Rock’s handling of the situation, expressing awe over the comedian’s ability to roll into presenting the best documentary feature award.
“Chris Rock handled it about as well as you could possibly handle being slapped on stage at the Oscars. He didn’t even flinch… I would’ve been crying so hard,” Kimmel joked. “No one did anything. Nobody lifted a finger. Spider-Man was there. Aquaman was there. Catwoman, all sitting on their hands. Nobody helped Chris Rock.”
“I’m a little bummed because I’ve only hosted the second craziest Oscars of all time,” he continued, alluding to the incident at the 2017 Oscars in which “La La Land” was mistakenly announced as the best picture winner over “Moonlight.”
NBC went with a more coded approach on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” alluding to a dramatic incident during the show without directly recounting the events that took place.
“America may be divided, but it was kind of nice for us to come together to say ‘holy crap’ at the same time,” Fallon’s monologue began.
Fallon dedicated space to congratulating his friend and colleague, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, on his win for best documentary feature. Thompson directed the category’s victor, “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” and plays on “The Tonight Show” alongside his band the Roots. He stepped away from the band to
Fallon didn’t mention Smith or Rock by name until later in the monologue.
“The Will-Chris thing, I was bummed, disturbed. I wish it didn’t happen,” Fallon said. “But it didn’t stop me from loving the business, what we do.”
In his acceptance speech for best actor, Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees, though he did not address Rock during the evening. Smith later released an apology to Rock on Monday afternoon, expressing remorse over his actions.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” Smith wrote. “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
See clips from both “Fallon” and “Kimmel” below.