Local comedians shocked over Oscars slap between Will Smith and Chris Rock

ATLANTA — Atlanta comedians are sharing their thoughts on Sunday night’s Oscars drama when Will Smith smacked Chris Rock across the face, defending his wife after a joke made at her expense.

Many told Channel 2′s Christian Jennings they were stunned by what happened but that the issue is layered.

Jennings spoke with several comedians Monday, and everyone seemed to say the same thing: they understand why Will Smith snapped, but that violence is never the answer.

“My first reaction: this has to be a joke,” is what comedian Damon Sumner said was his reaction to what he just saw on TV.

He quickly realized that slap was real.

“That’s where I was like, ‘That’s not the right move, Will,’” Sumner said. “I think every comic has to figure out where their line is.”

One of the hardest things about stand-up is knowing when you walk into a room, and you don’t know where anybody’s line is.

Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from hair loss due to the autoimmune disease alopecia.

“We don’t know if Chris wrote that specific joke. A lot of time there’s a team, there’s a crew of writers,” Sumner said. “I think Will is warranted of wanting to protect his wife, but the slap was not called for. He could have handled it a different way.”


Sumner performs at venues across the country.

“They all don’t have security,” Sumner said.

He said he has concerns about the precedent this could set for future audiences.

“There’s been a lot going on in the last few years of people coming up, standing in front of the comic or physically trying to hurt a comedian on stage,” Sumner said. “I do think specifically when talking about comedy it’s something we have to be more aware of.”

Jamie Bendall is a comedian and owner of the Punchline Comedy Club in Buckhead. The whole thing shocked him, too.

“I give Chris Rock a tremendous amount of credit for being able to keep his wits about him,” Bendall said. “I do subscribe to the theory that most comedians shouldn’t apologize for material. We’re up there in good faith effort to make an audience laugh.”

Sumner told Jennings that Chris Rock is his favorite stand-up comedian and Will Smith is his favorite actor.

They are both men he looks up to, and ultimately he hopes they can resolve the matter privately and move on.


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