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Chris Rock Says He Turned Down an Offer to Host Next Year’s Oscars

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He feels no need to return to the scene of the slap.

Chris Rock backstage at the 2022 Oscars before the slap.

Chris Rock backstage at the 2022 Oscars, before the slap.Al Seib/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Will Smith isn’t the only one who won’t be returning to the Oscars next year. But while Smith was barred by the Academy from attending the gala for ten years for infamously slapping presenter Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars, Rock himself will be staying away on his own volition: During a set in Phoenix, the comedian told his audience that he has already turned down an offer to host the awards show next year, according to the Arizona Republic. He added that he also declined an unnamed Super Bowl commercial, which one might guess made reference to the slap.

While Smith released a five-minute apology video in July, Rock has spoken only a few times about the incident since it happened. On April 1, in his first concert after the slap, he told a Boston audience that “I don’t have a bunch of shit about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend. I’m still kind of processing what happened…. At some point, I’ll talk about that shit. And it will be serious and funny.” On August 28 he offered an early attempt at the funny part, when he said that asking him to return to the Oscars was like inviting Nicole Brown Simpson to go back to the restaurant she ate at the night of her murder. (This joke did not go over well with some people online.)

Later in his performance, after someone in the crowd yelled out for him to “Talk about it!”, Rock said what we all assumed after watching the shocking moment last March: that slap hurt. No surprise, considering it was delivered by someone who played Muhammad Ali. “He’s bigger than me,” Rock joked. “The state of Nevada would not sanction a fight between me and Will Smith.”

Speculation that Rock might return to host the Academy Awards, a job he previously took on in 2016 and 2005, began immediately after the slap went viral. (Hollywood loves a comeback story.) If he did host again, he would join a small club of performers who have done so three or more times, including Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billy Crystal. The rumors gained some substance in May, when ABC’s President of Entertainment Craig Erwich told Deadline he was open to the idea of Rock returning for his third hosting gig.

Rock has been on a huge stand-up tour in the months since the Oscars, where he has made a few glancing allusions to the incident. He told a New Jersey crowd, “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face,” per Deadline and US Weekly. In Atlanta, he referenced being “smacked by Suge Smith.”

Though Rock has a uniquely personal reason for turning down the Oscar job, he’s hardly the only one who will pass on the offer. Despite its high-profile nature, hosting the Academy Awards has not been the most desirable job as of late. As the telecast’s numbers steadily decline (due to cord-cutting, and the small audiences for many of the nominated films, among other reasons), any emcee risks getting blamed for an inevitably low rating, even if it would have slumped without them. There’s also the social-media scrutiny that comes with the job—whether of a host’s Oscar-night material, or, after their announcement as host, of any past comments and behavior. There was no host from 2019 through 2021, and there was massive controversy around Kevin Hart when he was slated to host due to homophobic material in some of his social media posts. (He subsequently stepped down, hence the first hostless evening.) The 2022 show was hosted by Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes, and Amy Schumer, who made history as the first trio of women to fill the role together.

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