HOUSTON – A local comedian “Blame the Comic” knows first hand how it feels to be in the hot seat -- or on the hot stage -- that Chris Rock found himself on at Sunday night’s Academy Awards.
Mouths dropped, Twitter fingers began to fly and the internet was set afire after America’s favorite “gentleman” and funny guy -- Will Smith -- walked on stage and slapped Rock during what some call the biggest awards show in history. Afterward, he tearfully accepted an award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’ father in the movie “King Richard.” During his acceptance speech, he spoke about being a protector.
It appears that Smith was defending his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, from being the butt of one of Rock’s jokes, when the legendary comedian called Pinkett Smith “G.I. Jane.” What was troubling to many, is that Pinkett Smith has been publicly sharing the pain of losing her hair due to alopecia, a medical condition suffered by many African American women.
Two questions remain:
1. Was Rock out of line for making fun of a person’s medical condition?
2. Was Smith out of line for “physically” defending his wife, and more so, doing it live on stage?
Well, if you had to ask your grandmother, the phrase “keep your hands to yourself,” would probably be the first thing she’d say.
From the latest rise in gas prices to the “things Black mothers say,” Marion Stafford, also known as “Blame the Comic,” keeps the internet in stitches with his viral videos poking fun at hot topics. KPRC 2 spoke to the comedian, who admitted he was not watching the Oscars when the soon-to-be infamous “slap heard around the world” rang out but it didn’t take long for him to find out what was going on. First, his wife called and then his social media timeline started buzzing.
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“I had to look at the video and see for myself what was going on and I was like, ‘eh, not buying it,’” he said. “If it is true, which I don’t believe it is, he was all the way wrong.”
Despite his beliefs on whether the incident was staged or not, Stafford says comics have rights.
“I feel like the comedy culture, in itself, is already under attack through “cancel culture” through the things that we can say as far as freedom of speech and I think this has kind of pushed the level a little far,” he said. “Even though Will Smith is a celebrity, now we are being attacked physically for the things that we say.”
Stafford says a line has clearly been crossed.
“This is too far, comedy should have a safe space. If a comedian can talk about himself with self-deprecating humor, I should be able to say things about other people and get the same fair treatment of laughs on the flip side of that coin.”
Stafford said that if what happened is true, in his opinion, it’s “just another push of toxic masculinity.”
“It goes back to when you were a child, people can say whatever they want to say about you as long as they don’t put their hands on you, that’s just the way it goes,” he said. “What other people’s opinions are about me, that’s not my business because I don’t live for other people. "
Stafford says striking others, especially on a national platform like the Oscars, pushes the narrative that it is OK to act this way and it is not.
“It is toxic, it is abusive, causes emotional distress,” he said. “Nobody wants to walk around and have to not be able to speak freely and second guess the things they want to say, feeling like they are going to offend somebody. Especially when you come to a place that is known for jokes, known for laughter, known for humor that is going to be a little taboo...but it is all in fun.”
So what about the people who say that, because Smith’s wife had a medical condition, she should not have been targeted? Not so fast, said Stafford, it is all fair in the name of comedy.
“I think when you live in your truth, the truth will find you. Everybody knows her story. She’s not the first person or woman to wear a bald head and she is not the last person to have a bald head,” Stafford said. “Things that are presented to the public are open for public opinion and things that are left behind closed doors are private. So everything is fair game when you are out in the public.”
Stafford feels it is disheartening for Rock and Smith, two titans in the entertainment world, to be entangled in such controversy.
“Chris Rock is an icon in this comedic community, and if he doesn’t have a safe space, then what about the rest of us?” he asked.
But back to his theory of it not appearing to be real, Stafford - in his own comedic way - shared his thoughts.
“If you get slapped appropriately or made contact with, your eye is going to water. Your ear is going to ring. You are going to recalibrate your jaw because that is pain, that is a ringing sensation,” he said. “A good slap will make you walk away and think about it. It might even bring those little gray lights.”
He says Rock didn’t appear to be shaken up enough, the camera angles were just “too perfect” and Smith’s hand was “just too flat.”
The comedian joked, “when you slap somebody, you are going to have just a little bit of cuff in your hand to get that contact that you want to feel.”
He went on to surmise, “Hey, this is the biggest platform for actors. Why wouldn’t it be believable? Will Smith is an A-rated actor. Chris Rock has hosted the Oscars several times; it’s all about ratings. This is a publicity stunt and I stand by it.”