BOSTON — In his first time onstage since the Oscars, comedian Chris Rock said Wednesday he’s not quite ready to talk or joke about what happened when Will Smith slapped him Sunday.
“I’m still kind of processing what happened,” he told a sold-out crowd at The Wilbur, adding that at some point he would delve more deeply into the incident but that he wasn’t ready just yet.
Rock, dressed in all white, was greeted with two standing ovations before he ever began his set.
“Let me do a show, yo,” he told the cheering crowd. “You got me all misty.”
He jokedly asked the audience, “How was your weekend?” before he hinted at the slap and told fans that his performance wouldn’t be focused on it.
“I had a whole show written before this weekend,” he said.
Rock’s comments and the first of his back-to-back shows came hours after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it had begun disciplinary proceedings against Smith.
The crowd at The Wilbur, which had a distinctive comedy club atmosphere on the bottom and a traditional theater vibe in the mezzanine, roared at Rock’s jokes. Covering everything from Covid and politics to daughters Lola and Zahra, the set seemed like a return to form for Rock.
But a heckler stopped the show twice. At one point, a person who appeared to be a member of security stepped onto the stage behind Rock.
It’s unclear if the heckler was removed, but as the person shouted, Rocked commented, “Is this going to be the tour now?”
Some comedians have expressed fears that crowds could become more hostile since the incident at the Oscars.
Frustrated crowd members, some of whom said they paid between $1,000 and $2,300 for their seats after the Oscars shouted for the heckler to be quiet.
At Sunday’s ceremony, as Rock was presenting the award for best documentary feature, Rock joked that he was looking forward to seeing Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, in “GI Jane 2.”
In 2018, Pinkett Smith revealed that she had been diagnosed with alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss. The film “GI Jane” stars Demi Moore as a woman who shaves her head during military service.
Smith marched to the stage at the Dolby Theater and hit Rock. He then returned to his seat and shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—–g mouth!”
Rock kept his composure, joking that it was the “greatest night in the history of television.” He declined to press charges, the Los Angeles Police Department said. Many ticket holders for Wednesday’s show waited outside in the cold to see Rock’s first stand-up set since Sunday’s events.
As they stood in line, attendees called Smith’s reprehensible actions.
“I think it’s one of the most disgraceful things that’s ever happened in television history,” said Owen Murphy, 18, of Providence, Rhode Island. “I think Will Smith should be ashamed of himself.”
Many agreed the joke Rock told was an innocent comment and that the disagreement should’ve been handled off-air.
Smith “went too far,” Marquis Williams, 34, of Connecticut, said. “He could’ve gone back stage and taken care of it with [Rock]. You’re on live TV. That’s what you do.”
Smith drew scrutiny Sunday because he did not directly apologize to Rock when he accepted the best actor Oscar for his role in “King Richard,” a portrait of Venus and Serena Williams’ father. He instead apologized directly to Rock in a statement Monday, saying he was “out of line” and “embarrassed.”
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” Smith said in a message Monday night on Instagram. “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable.”
Rock has previously mocked Pinkett Smith, notably in 2016 in his monologue as Oscars host.
“Jada said she’s not coming. Protesting. I was like, ‘Isn’t she on a TV show?’ Jada’s going to boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”
Rock’s Boston shows were sold out long before the slap. On its Instagram page on Feb. 11, The Wilbur wrote that tickets to the shows Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were gone. The venue announced March 18 that another show was being added.
Daniel Arkin contributed.