New York comedy club owners are concerned for their acts after Will Smith assaulted Chris Rock at the Oscars 2022, stating that violent behavior “sets a dangerous precedent.”
“Chris was hit for a joke, that’s never OK,” Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman tells Page Six. “There is no limiting principle to it and it must not be normalized. We support Chris completely… I think even Will Smith would agree, and he probably regrets what happened.
He says he hopes this doesn’t spark copycat incidents in comedy clubs.
“Let’s all hope it doesn’t become a ‘thing.’ Gentlemen used to challenge each other to duels, so humans are clearly vulnerable to these sorts of things,” Dworman says.
Stand Up NY owner Dani Zoldan tells us, “I’ve been in touch with a handful of comics and every one of them thinks it’s insane what happened (like the rest of the world!). They have been concerned about cancel culture, but this is next level crazy where they are now concerned about their safety.”
Zoldan goes on, “Comics are here to entertain us and make us laugh — full stop. To physically retaliate against a comedian for telling jokes is totally uncalled for and I hope the Academy sends a strong message in support for Chris Rock.”
Caroline Hirsch, owner of Carolines on Broadway, is also worried that people will follow Smith’s lead and commit violence against comedians if they don’t like what they have to say.
“Comedians should be able to feel comfortable in being able to perform without the fear of being attacked on stage,” Hirsch tells us.
“That was a violent assault committed by a role model on live television in front of an international audience. He should issue a public apology to Chris, and he needs to be held accountable because this sets a very dangerous precedent.”
“I hope this incident doesn’t inspire people to believe that it’s acceptable behavior to resort to violence when a comedian tells a joke that offends them. If you’re offended by the material, don’t laugh,” Hirsch added.
And club The Stand has similar concerns. “What we are worried about now is that this last reaction on international television will spurn others to do the same at comedy clubs and smaller venues,” they wrote on Instagram. “We urge fans to continue to be respectful of the comedian at work and if there is a moment where club goers feel uncomfortable, standup and walk away. A peaceful resolution is for the best.”
The Academy issued a statement on Monday saying that it “condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show” and it has started an official inquiry.
“We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law,” the organization wrote in a statement shared via social media on Monday.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Smith is likely to be disciplined, which could include a suspension of his Academy membership. The outlet reports that it’s less likely Smith’s Best Actor accolade for “King Richard” – which he won on Sunday – would be revoked.
Meanwhile, Smith took to social media on Monday evening to apologize to Rock for his “unacceptable” and “embarrassing” behavior.
“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,” he wrote.