Chris Rock to headline comedy show at the Borgata

94th Academy Awards – Oscars Show – Hollywood
Chris Rock stands backstage at the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, on March 27.
Al Seib/A.M.P.A.S./Handout via REUTERS

Sunday night’s 94th Academy Awards were going along fairly smoothly throughout most of the evening. Hosts Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall and Amy Schumer did their comic bits, alone and together, with the proper balance of derision and praise.

Two Delaware Valley born-and-bred artists, musical director Adam Blackstone and orchestrator-conductor Derrick Hodge, made each segment sing.

As expected, ‘Dune’ was awarded every major and minor technical award, including Best Cinematography. The Best Supporting Actress Oscar went to Ariana DeBose for ‘West Side Story’, with the Best Supporting Actor nod going to Troy Kotsur for ‘CODA’. The oddsmakers and book bettors were safe.

Well, for most of the evening.

No bookmaker—or any of us watching at home— could have predicted that Oscar presenter Chris Rock would make a dated bald joke at Jada Pinkett-Smith’s expense. Or that her husband, Will Smith – the night’s Best Actor nominee for his fatherly role in King Richard – would take that joke to heart, storm the stage, and slap Rock across the face.

Smith went on to win Best Actor honors for his role as “King” Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Serena and Venus – and gave an emotional acceptance speech.

Chris Rock speaks to the audience at the 94th Academy Awards.REUTERS/Brian Snyder

“Life imitates art,” said Smith through tears, comparing himself with his role as Williams, and being a fierce defender of his family. “I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”

It should be noted that a still-stunned Rock – who handled himself and the slap down moment with dignity – barely got the words out of his mouth to make much of his time on stage, giving Philly’s Questlove his Oscar for Best Original Documentary for ‘Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)’ about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.

Rock – a man who rarely suffers from a lack of something to say – will return to live, stand-up comedy with his Ego Death World Tour 2022, on Saturday, April 2, in Atlantic City, with two shows at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

Produced by Live Nation, the 38-date North American leg of Rock’s first world tour in over five years will commence in New Jersey’s casino alley, and then head to his hometown New York City, St. Louis, Denver, Chicago, and more, before wrapping Nov. 17 at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.

You know. The same place that he was slapped on national television.

The comedian’s stand-up specials on HBO such as 1996’s ‘Bring the Pain’, 1999’s ‘Bigger & Blacker’ and 2004’s ‘Never Scared’ are among his most memorable and applauded.

With those cable broadcast spectaculars, Rock – then compared to Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce – made incisively cutting fun of O.J. Simpson, Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, and parents whose daughters took to the stripper’s pole. When Rock hosted the Academy Awards in 2005, he poked fun at the ubiquity of Jude Law and Rock’s own inability to top the acting likes of Denzel Washington.

“If you can’t get Denzel, don’t hire me,” Rock joked at the time. “Denzel would not have done ‘Pootie Tang.’”

Now, Rock will bring his stand-up to AC this weekend, and we can assume his first topic on the stage of the Borgata will be the Oscar slap heard-round-the-world.

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