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Why Will Smith should have been thrown out of the Oscars

By Gordon Young | Editor-in-Chief

March 28, 2022 | 4 min read

A great deal can go wrong during an awards show, but a guest assaulting a host crosses too many lines, writes The Drum founder Gordon Young. Here’s what the Oscars should have done, and what should happen next.

Oscar

What next for Will Smith following his outburst at the Oscars? / Adobe Stock

What would I have done if a nominee had got up and hit one of our hosts midway through one of The Drum Awards? To be honest, my first reaction would have been to call security and have them chucked out.

Several years ago at The Drum Roses awards, we were confronted with a similar incident. That year, Phill Jupitus was hosting the event for us in Manchester. Jupitus is a comedian who, like Oscar host Chris Rock, has a sense of humor that tends to toe the line.

He was being heckled, and I can’t remember what Jupitus said as a put-down, but it involved the heckler’s girlfriend and his dog.

The heckler was enraged. Moments later he was up on stage squaring up to Jupitus across the podium. There was no violence. But the intent seemed to be there. So security was called and he was thrown out.

Like Rock, Jupitus handled the aftermath like a professional. Commenting on how his assailant looked a bit like him, Jupitus told our crowd: “That was a bit like arguing with your shaving mirror.”

It turned out to be a bad night for the man. Unlike Will Smith, he was not later seen dancing at Manchester’s equivalent of a Vanity Fair afterparty.

In fact, from what I hear, his employers – who were at his table – sacked him, and his girlfriend – who was also there – left him.

Somehow it got worse. He seemed to get into an altercation outside the hotel and then got himself arrested. He basically lost his girlfriend and job and was arrested all the space of 20 minutes or so.

Now I appreciate there are differences between our attendee and Smith. But to me, it is a surprise his actions seem consequence-free.

There is no doubt Rock’s joke was offensive. To make fun of Smith’s wife on the grounds of how an illness affected her looks was out of order.

But storming a stage during a global live broadcast and assaulting the host was disproportionate. Had I been running the show, I would have had him removed. This, after all, is how anyone else would have been treated.

But what now for Smith? As well as apologizing to the Academy, whose show he disrupted and the other winners he overshadowed, he should now say sorry to Rock.

The joke was terrible, but Smith (who has mentored comedians) knows that pushing boundaries is what they are there to do. If he fails to say sorry there must be an argument for rescinding his Oscar.

Surely hitting people for telling a terrible joke is not part of the values they represent.

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