Of course, Chris Rock would make a joke about not returning to host the Oscars after The Slap. Of course, Chris Rock’s joke about not returning to the Oscars after The Slap was a little provocative. No one really expected anything different from the comedian, but did it have to be that joke?
To recap: Rock joked during a set that he turned down hosting the 2023 Academy Awards after getting slapped by Will Smith onstage because it would be like asking Nicole Brown Simpson “to go back to the restaurant” where she left her eyeglasses before she was killed. Online reactions to this quip were mixed. Many decried his tastelessness for comparing a slap to a murder, some decried the continued dated references from Mr. “It was a GI Jane joke!”, and others decried the fact that it was simply a bad punchline.
Commenting to TMZ, Simpson’s sister Tanya Brown unsurprisingly sided with the critics. Sure, the joke was “distasteful,” “tacky,” and disrespectful to Simpson’s surviving family members. But in her opinion, the “crack wasn’t just unfunny, it literally doesn’t make sense.” Comparing the two events is “apples to oranges” and “it’s lacking in logic and a basic connection.”
And yeah, let’s break down the comedic math of this for a minute. First, we have to accept, however “distasteful,” that Rock has to compare himself to a famous victim for this joke. Then we have to ignore that Simpson is deceased, and can’t return anywhere. But why would he compare it to asking Simpson to go “back to the restaurant”? Unlike his experience on the Oscars stage, the restaurant was not the scene of Simpson’s victimization. The math, as they say, isn’t mathing.
We’re inclined to agree with Tanya Brown that “this was a complete misfire on his end,” on multiple levels. (Not least of which: will comedians ever stop acting like they’re a protected class?) We will, however, accept pitches for better punchlines—what is Chris Rock being asked to return to the Oscars like?