BALTIMORE — The altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock at Sunday’s Oscars was something Baltimore comedian Big Fred Watkins has seen before.
“I’ve had situations where someone came on stage when one of my guys was on stage and we all jumped on stage. I’ve seen those situations before,” he said.
For him, it’s nothing new for a person to get offended or even worse attack a comedian over a joke.
But he believes the difference in Chris Rock’s joke towards Jada Pinkett-Smith was it came across as a targeted and personal attack.
“There is a way that you can feel it’s personal and then someone is saying your name and talking about you. And I think that was a difference. That’s why after Will Smith sat down, one of the things he said was…keep my wife’s name out your mouth.”
The joke that led Will Smith to slap Chris Rock was about Pinkett-Smith becoming the next G.I. Jane because of her bald head.
According to reports, Rock claims he did not know about her struggles with alopecia—a condition that can lead to hair loss.
Even if he did, Watkins says he will never condone an audience member attacking a comedian.
“It’s not cool. It’’s not acceptable,” he said about people storming on stage to confront a comedian.
For Watkins, the incident is just latest example of how the job as a comedian has evolved.
“There are things that was said everyone laughed at 10 to 20 years ago that someone can possibly get canceled for right now,” he said.
Over the years, many comics have said jokes about groups of people or serious issues, which have been considered offensive.
For some, it’s been their calling card.
But in recent years, the jokes have come with consequences
Watkins said because of his belief Chris’s joke was a targeted one, comics shouldn’t see it as reason to change their material.
However, he does believe comedians should be conscious about their audience and who they might offend.
“As long as your opinion is pure, I think sometimes, maybe in the past, you can say a certain line, but now you have to say that line in the middle of why you feel this way and then kind of settling out so people understand,” Watkins said. “It’s not extra work on a comedian but its just once again an evolution it’s just what has to be done so your art can continue to withstand as time continues to evolve.”