Judd Apatow 'wasn't watching' the Oscars when he tweeted about Will Smith's slap
It was the slap heard 'round the world when Will Smith hit comedian Chris Rock during Sunday night's live Oscars broadcast. And Judd Apatow immediately shared his thoughts on Twitter about the explosive moment, which then went viral before he deleted the tweets. But it turns out that The 40-Year-Old Virgin director wasn't even watching the Oscars when the slap happened.
When Apatow went on two different SiriusXM radio shows on Monday while promoting his new book Sicker in the Head: More Conversations About Life and Comedy, he revealed he heard about the now infamous slap through a third party. "The truth is that I wasn't watching the show at that time," he said on Pop Culture Spotlight with Jessica Shaw. "I was on the phone talking to a friend and then while we were on the phone, they're like, 'Oh my God, Will Smith just punched Chris Rock.' And so, I actually haven't watched it in context of the show. I've seen the clips."
As of the time of the interview, he said he wasn't "sure" about how to interpret Rock's joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair and G.I. Jane. "My personal thought was I didn't quite understand the offense, but I may be misreading it because to me, G.I. Jane was the most gorgeous woman in the world," Apatow added. "It was Demi Moore at her strongest, most gorgeous. And the point of that movie was that she shaved her head and she looked fantastic. And so, when you say, 'Oh, you're gonna have to do G.I. Jane 2,' and maybe it's just how I interpret it, I think he's saying she's a badass. You could use a different example and make it a really hurtful joke. And so, I don't know, but there may be more levels to it that I don't understand. And I don't know all the relationships involved."
When Rock presented the award for Best Documentary Feature, he made a comment about Jada's shaved head — and she has previously spoken publicly about her struggles with hair loss caused by alopecia. The joke prompted Will to walk onstage and slap Rock before yelling, "Keep my wife's name out of your f---ing mouth." He later apologized to his fellow actors and to the Academy while accepting his win for Best Actor but did not apologize to or address Rock. And during Apatow's interview, he opened up more about how he thinks the situation was handled.
"I never think of it in terms of right and wrong with the joke," he said. "I just think there certainly is a way of handling dissatisfaction, which should never tell people that the solution is to break that barrier and leap on the stage and commit an act of violence in front of people who are inspired by you. I mean, he's our Sidney Poitier, you know. We look to him to represent the best of people and I'm sure he's a normal person with a lot of problems. And maybe that situation is much more complicated than any of us know... It's certainly a very sad moment for many reasons. The biggest reason being that it might make someone a little quicker to jump up on the stage at a comedy club somewhere. It feels like it is a bad lesson for a lot of people to witness."
Apatow also explained why he deleted his tweets about the moment after they went viral. "Lately, I just don't mind taking tweets down," he said. "Why do they have to live up there forever? Sometimes something happens and you go on a little joke writing surge, like something is so ridiculous like that. And so, you're home and you're bored and you write 10 jokes that make you laugh. And then you listen to people debate... and then you go to bed and you're like, 'I don't care.' I don't need people debating my stupid impulsive comments for the rest of my life."
He also didn't want to pull focus from all the happier moments from the Oscars that should be celebrated instead. "We don't want our big night in Hollywood where we're supposed to be proud of the work we've done and our industry become something that looks like people losing their minds on a long flight," Apatow added. "It's not good for anybody involved, what happened. And I hope something comes out of it, which is a lesson. I hope people speak honestly about it. I hope that Will Smith takes the opportunity to explain himself in a way that will remind people that that's not how we deal with moments when we're aggrieved."
When Apatow went on SiriusXM's The Dean Obeidallah Show, he expanded on why Will's slap sends the wrong message. "The country basically wants to flip out on stewardess[es] on airplanes right now," he said. "There's a lot of people who see violence as the answer. I mean, that's what a lot of the issues we've had in the last couple years is, if people ask you to wear a mask, you're gonna trash the Starbucks. So, there's certainly people out there that think that's what you always should do... You're somebody that people emulate, so it's dangerous."
He once again likened Will to "the Sidney Poitiers of the world" while explaining that he's worried for what people may learn from the situation.
"Because people go, 'Oh, am I supposed to punch the comic when I'm at a comedy club?'" Apatow said. "Hopefully it becomes a teachable moment where Will Smith can speak to people in an honest way about why that was not the way to go. And we'll see in the coming days how he communicates, and one assumes with all he does lately with the Red Table and all of that, that we will hear a very clear expression of why that was a terrible, embarrassing, and dangerous mistake. I'm hopeful that will happen. I'd be very surprised if it didn't because, basically, if that becomes the way it is, then you know, what'll happen to Ricky Gervais on the next Golden Globes?"
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