Poking fun? During the first White House Correspondents’ Dinner in nearly three years amid the coronavirus pandemic, host Trevor Noah noted how comedy has changed in light of Will Smith and Chris Rock’s Oscars drama.
“It is risky making jokes these days,” the Daily Show host, 38, said during his monologue on Saturday, April 30, per C-SPAN footage. “I mean, we all saw what happened at the Oscars.”
He continued: “I’ve actually been a little worried about tonight. What if I make a really mean joke about Kellyanne Conway, and then her husband [George T. Conway III] rushes up on the stage and thanks me?”
The 53-year-old Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum made headlines in March when he smacked the 57-year-old South Carolina native at the 94th annual Academy Awards. Rock joked that Jada Pinkett Smith — who wed the Ali star in 1997 — could star in a G.I. Jane sequel due to her shaved head. (Pinkett Smith has been vocal about her struggles with alopecia and hair loss.) While the Maryland native, 50, subtly rolled her eyes at the joke, Smith strolled on stage and slapped Rock.
“Keep my wife’s name out your f—king mouth,” the Philadelphia native shouted after returning to his seat.
The Grown Ups actor declined to press charges against Smith — who won a trophy for his King Richard role during the March 27 ceremony — before eventually receiving an apology.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” Smith wrote in an Instagram statement on March 28. “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. … I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. 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.”
Amid the controversy, the Men in Black star resigned from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which banned him from future events for 10 years.
After the Oscars incident made headlines, many comedians fervently defended Rock and joked about the situation as a whole.
“Don’t even think of this as an award show,” the Born a Crime author said last month while hosting the Grammy Awards, referring to Smith’s now-viral line from the Oscars. “It’s a concert where we are giving out awards, we will be listening to music, dancing, sing, keeping people’s names out of our mouths and we are going to give people awards all throughout the night. So let’s get straight into it.”
Noah followed up his musical hosting gig by emceeing the Washington, D.C., event. The annual dinner — attended by President Joe Biden — aims to celebrate the freedom of speech and raise money for journalism programs. Many comics — including the likes of Noah and James Corden — had the chance to roast the POTUS before he got to crack a few jokes as well.