Five months after Will Smith slapped him onstage at the Academy Awards, stunning millions watching around the world, Chris Rock delivered another sort of slap back at the Oscars.
Riffing with the crowd at a stand-up show in Phoenix Sunday night, the comedian said that he was asked to host next year’s Oscars, according to the Arizona Republic. But he turned the offer down, joking that returning to Hollywood’s biggest night would be like returning to a crime scene.
Referencing the murder trial of OJ Simpson, Rock told the crowd at Arizona Financial Theater that going back to the awards ceremony would be like asking Nicole Brown Simpson “to go back to the restaurant” where she left her eyeglasses before being killed.
Rock also said he turned down a post-slap Super Bowl commercial offer.
Speaking to Deadline, in May ABC President of Entertainment Craig Erwich expressed an openness to seeing Rock return to the Oscars stage in 2023. Rock has hosted the show twice, in 2005 and 2016, the latter coming in the midst of another controversy: the # OscarsSoWhite firestorm.
The film academy did not respond to a request for comment Monday. The organization typically does not share its discussions with potential hosts and is not expected to name an emcee for next year’s show, scheduled for March 12, until it gets closer.
In a roundtable interview with a group of reporters last week, recently appointed academy chief executive Bill Kramer said the group is looking to put the shocking incident, which led to Smith being banned from all academy events for 10 years, in the rearview mirror.
“We want to move forward and have an Oscars that celebrates cinema,” Kramer said when asked whether the 2023 show would address the incident in any way. “That’s our focus right now. It’s really about moving forward.”
While three of the last four Oscars ceremonies have had no host, Kramer did note that the organization is determined to have a host for this year’s show.
“We definitely want a host,” he said. “A host is very important to us. We are committed to having a host on the show this year, and we are already looking at some key partners on that.” (March’s ceremony had three co-hosts: Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes.)
Rock’s Phoenix show was the latest stop in an ongoing stand-up tour that saw ticket prices spike after his altercation with Smith. On tour, Rock has mostly steered clear of the Oscar-night drama, but on Sunday he cracked a joke about how much the slap hurt and how physically outmatched he was by Smith, who has offered several apologies since the incident.
“He’s bigger than me,” Rock said. “The state of Nevada would not sanction a fight between me and Will Smith.”