With The Oscars approaching on Sunday, March 12, the world has been revisiting Will Smith’s infamous slap of Chris Rock at last year’s show. As the Emancipation star slowly works his way back into the spotlight, and Rock’s new Netflix special set to premiere, it seems everyone still has opinions about what went down. Actor/comedian Marlon Wayans is approaching the situation from a different viewpoint, making it the subject of his new HBO Max comedy special.
In God Loves Me, he tackles the slap as a friend of Chris, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Wayans explained how he put the show together and whether he felt a need to get input from any of the parties involved.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2022 Oscars, the White Chicks star began adding content about “the Slap” to his stand up set. Then, as he worked on his material, tweaking it a little more for each show, he realized he had an hour worth of stuff on this one subject.
“I kept exploring the truth and it became like a Rubik’s cube to me. I got one side. That’s the Chris Rock side. I got what’s my experience with Jada, and then what’s my experience with Will,” he said. “What’s my experience in the industry? What’s my experience as a Black person? What do white people feel? Before I knew it, I had an hour of material.”
Though he contacted both men immediately after the Oscars, Marlon didn’t feel a need to get their opinions on the special. And honestly, he has a pretty good reason why.
“In their art, they don’t ask me, ‘What do you think of this?’ I think as artists, we all do what we do,” Wayans said. “Especially because it’s such a sensitive subject, I didn’t want their opinions. I just hope they gauge and trust that I love them. That I’m being objective. I’m being honest. I’m being real. And that the purpose of this is more healing than it is deconstruction.”
As someone who’s been on the receiving end of Rock’s cutthroat brand of comedy, Wayans still sees value in the SNL alum’s performance style. He noted how his family is famous for an edgy comedic style, so he doesn’t take it personally. That being said, there is one topic he considered off-limits for the special: Pinkett Smith’s alopecia.
“That’s a condition and that’s something that I won’t say I’m making fun of. Nobody knew that she had it. Jada is a very stylistic person. She’s fashion-forward. I don’t think Chris saw the episode of Red Table Talk where she talked about that. So I think Chris is just kind of commenting off the top, and I think they were dealing with the condition of it, and Will was being protective,” Wayans said. “I just felt that would weigh down the special. That needs its own 10 minutes. And I think that’s a separate piece. And that takes investigation. It’s not what I knew, and I don’t want to be insensitive to anybody that’s going through that. I think that that would have convoluted the message, so I left it out and I just explored what was funny from a place that we can digest. I felt like some things are too hard to digest, so let me not spend that time dealing with that because it becomes something else. That’s a special unto itself."
Marlon still feels like the two men can reconcile, though publicly assaulting someone at a star-studded awards show seems like a lot to come back from.
Marlon Wayans: God Loves Me is available to stream on HBO Max.