Hack Comics, Relax: No Will Smith Copy Cats Are Gonna Slap You Just Because You Suck
I didn’t want to keep talking about the Slap, but I feel I must as a public service for the people who fear an epidemic of slaps. Once brave men, some of whom weren’t that worried about COVID-19, are now very concerned that Will Smith has created a Slap movement.
Jimmy Dore, who considers himself a comedian, declared Monday that “What Will Smith and the Academy Awards did was make everyone who performs live a lot less safe.” How you ask? Dore imagines an extremely viable scenario where “the next time a comedian gets heckled by a woman and the comedian responds, her husband/boyfriend will feel it his duty to assault the comedian.”
There’s a lot of gendered, heteronormative crap to wade through here. Dore can’t imagine the woman he’s insulted slapping him, but women have an impressive slap history. They don’t need their husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend/plus one slapping anyone on their behalf. Slapping is within their core competency.
Dore vastly overestimates Will Smith’s influence. It seems unlikely that otherwise peaceful guys will now feel free to slap hack comics just because Smith slapped Rock. It wasn’t a public gateway slap. Dore doesn’t mention Jada Pinkett Smith, whose appearance Rock mocked (perhaps without knowledge of her medical condition), but she actually didn’t heckle Rock. She was just existing in the audience while bald. Does Dore have a lot of alopecia jokes in his repertoire?
Re-creating the Oscar Slap situation in your average comedy club would require a comedian making fun of a woman in the audience who’s minding her own business. That’s rude and unprofessional, but some (male) comics think it’s hilarious to publicly humiliate women. I don’t. Yes, there are a lot of obnoxious drunk people at comedy shows, but true pros can deal with hecklers without getting vicious. Dore should try amusing his audience instead of bullying them, but perhaps he struggles with getting laughs that aren’t at other people’s expense.
Last year, Dore admitted to sexually harassing his former "Young Turks" colleague Ana Kasparian. The following quote is unfortunately not a joke:
Ana Kasparian used to dress when I worked there unbelievably inappropriately for a newsroom. She looked like she was going to a rave. The skirt ... one time she came into the newsroom with a skirt so short ... it wasn’t a pencil skirt ... it was like a fluffy one ... it was so short that she bent over in front of me and I literally saw her ass and her thong ... Everybody saw it. And I go, "Ana, nice news skirt." And everybody laughed. Like they laughed louder than I thought they would. And so it humiliated her. She got humiliated in the middle of the newsroom. And I did it, and I felt bad. At that time we were friendly, and I was just busting her balls for dressing like that in a newsroom.
Dore demands a safe space for his insult comedy but he won’t extend that same courtesy to a woman in the workplace. God knows what offensive crap he’s said to other women based on how they were dressed. There’s obviously good reason for Dore to worry about chickens coming home to slap.
Joe Rogan also expressed his concerns about the Slap setting a “terrible precedent." On Tuesday’s "Joe Rogan Experience,” he said:
It was a rare instance where someone is so enormously famous and successful like Will Smith that they literally still allowed him to not just win the Academy Award but also go up and accept it and give a speech after he assaulted a small comedian.
Everyone’s talking about Chris Rock like the brother’s Hervé Villechaize. He’s smaller than Will Smith, sure, but he’s 5’10 or Hollywood male actor 6’1. I also don’t recall Rogan lamenting Donald Trump’s post-"Access Hollywood" tape election victory as evidence that men would feel empowered to grab any woman they wanted by the pussy.
Rogan concedes that most people aren’t going to change their behavior because of Will Smith "but dumb people might,” and that’s probably the larger demo at a Rogan or Dore show. However, California law is pretty clear that “words, no matter how offensive, and acts that are not threatening, are not enough to justify an assault or battery.” Will Smith made me do it is not a legal defense.
Amazingly, Rogan now considers well-paid celebrities role models, which is the exact opposite of his position from the distant past of two months ago.
But also it’s like what are we saying as a society when the people that we look up to, for whatever reason, for good or for bad, we look up to actors. And the Academy Awards is supposed to be them in their most regal — their most regal outfits, their best behavior and to drop down to violence for something so innocuous as a G.I. Jane joke.
They’re just handing out gold statues, dude. No one’s in the running for Pope. The G.I. Jane joke obviously wasn’t innocuous, but Rogan is the same asshole who doesn’t get why he can’t say the n-word. Not all laughter is positive. Christine Blasey Ford said what she remembered most from her assault was her tormentors’ laughter. Rogan, Dore, and far too many others prize the right to be obnoxious without consequence. That’s almost as toxically masculine as the Slap.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."