You can take the slap out of the Oscars (or Will Smith out of the Academy), but you can’t take the slap Jokes out of the Oscars, even — maybe especially — at the 2023 Oscars.
Host Jimmy Kimmel opened the show with a monologue that included a joke about the slap incident from the 2022 Oscars. It started mild — “Five Irish actors are nominated tonight, which means the odds of another fight on stage just went way up” — but got more elaborate as the monologue went on.
“If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence during this show, you will be awarded the Oscars for Best Actor and be permitted to give a 19-minute speech,” Kimmel said toward the end of the opening. He also highlighted the Academy’s crisis team, and then pointed out the people in the audience he expected to protect him: Michelle Yeoh, Adonis Creed (cut to Michael B. Jordan), The Mandalorian (cut to Pedro Pascal), and “the Fabelman” (cut to Steven Spielberg).
As you might remember, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at last year’s Academy Awards after Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair loss. The fallout was immediate, bizarre, and ongoing in the year-plus since: Smith won the Oscar and gave a tearful acceptance speech. Smith continued to apologize over the next several days and weeks, while Rock mostly stayed quiet about the incident. The Academy said they would review Smith’s membership, but Smith ultimately resigned. A year later, Smith is making jokey TikToks and Rock released a comedy special that addresses the incident.
Smith is also barred from Academy events for a decade following the slap, meaning the actor will not present the Best Actor Oscar as is customary.
On the red carpet before the show, Janet Yang, president of the Film Academy, said that with the response last year the Academy’s response “was inadequate,” and that she’s “so excited” to be moving on with the show, concluding with: “we’re prepared.”