Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's relationship with Chris Rock goes back to the '90s

At the 2022 Oscars, Smith hit Rock after the comedian joked about Pinkett Smith's appearance.


The 94th Oscars had its fair share of surprises, including fan-favorite "CODA" taking home best picture.

But one unscripted moment easily overshadowed the rest of the live ceremony's event. Best actor nominee, and eventual winner, Will Smith appeared to slap Chris Rock.

In the lead-up to the altercation, Rock took the stage as a presenter. After joking about Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, the comedian turned his attention to another married couple in attendance: Will Smith, who would go on to win best actor for "King Richard," and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rock made a comment about Pinkett Smith's bald head, saying she could star in "G.I. Jane 2." Pinkett Smith has been open about her struggle with alopecia, an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss.

Smith swiftly got up, slapped Rock, and took his seat again. He then shouted an expletive, which was censored for U.S. audiences, and told Rock to "keep his wife's name out of his mouth." After the incident, Rock regained composure, and commented, "That was the ... greatest night in the history of television” before presenting.

While the show technically went on, viewers were buzzing with reactions online, and reports from the Dolby Theatre mentioned a tense audience. Smith took a sideways route to addressing the slap in his acceptance speech for best actor, his first Oscar. “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” he began, seemingly drawing a connection between his action and his "King Richard" character.

The shocking incident is part of Rock and Smith's history, which dates back to their first time working together in the '90s. Rock previously joked about Smith and Pinkett-Smith in his 2016 hosting gig.

Read on for the context surrounding the altercation. Rock has already confirmed he would not press charges.

Chris Rock and Will Smith during MTV's Video Music Awards Show in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic

1995: Rock appeared on 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'

Chris Rock makes a cameo appearance in the sixth and final season of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," the sitcom and pop culture phenomenon that launched Smith's career.

Rock played a comedian named Maurice Perry and the comedian's sister Jasmine, whom Will takes on a date as a favor for his cousin Hilary.

1997: Rock mocks Pinkett Smith's attendance at the Million Women March

During the second season of his late-night talk show "The Chris Rock Show," which ran on HBO, Rock made fun of Pinkett Smith's speech at the Million Woman March, an event that advocated for African-American women in the United States and was led by major figures like Maxine Waters. The clip was resurfaced by The Daily Beast.

Rock made fun of the event in general before turning his attention to Pinkett Smith, airing an edited version of her speech. In the edited clip, Pinkett Smith appears to shout song lyrics. Her full speech is available online.

1999: Smith and Rock appeared in a mockumentary together

The duo appeared in a half-hour Spike Jonze mocumentary about a community dance group, along with other '90s celebrities like Madonna, Janeane Garofalo, Sofia Coppola, Fatboy Slim and Regis Philbin.

The shared acting credit may be inadvertent: The mockumentary partially took place at the VMAs and captured celebrities' reactions.

2005: Rock and Pinkett Smith work together on the 'Madagascar' movies

Rock and Pinkett Smith lent their voices to zoo animal escapees in the "Madagascar" movie series. Rock played Marty the zebra; Pinkett Smith was Gloria the hippo.

They went on to make a trilogy together: "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" came out in 2008, and "Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted" came out in 2012.

2012: Rock says his kids 'listen to' the Smiths' kids

During a promo tour for the third "Madagascar" movie, Rock appeared to bond with Pinkett Smith over her children — Willow and Jaden Smith — and their music careers.

“Hey, my kids listen to your kids!” Rock told Smith, per Fuse. “‘21st Century Girl‘? Oh my god," he said, referring to Willow Smith's 2011 song.

2009: Rock says 'there no Will Smith Jokes'

In a 2009 interview Rock did with CNN, the comedian identified a few people that he couldn't joke about. Among them? Smith.

“(Obama’s) just one of those guys, you know, like Will Smith. There’s no Will Smith jokes. There’s no Brad Pitt jokes," he said.

“You know, what are you going to say? ‘Ooh, you used to have sex with Jennifer Aniston. Now you have sex with Angelina Jolie. You’re such a loser.’

2016: Rock jokes about Smith and Pinkett Smith in his Oscars monologue

Though Rock said he couldn't joke about Smith in 2009, he changed his tune in 2012, when he hosted the Oscars and made cracks at the couple.

That year, Pinkett Smith and Smith chose to boycott the ceremony, along with creators like Spike Lee, citing a lack of diversity among the nominees.

“Jada said she’s not coming, protest. I was like, ‘Isn’t she on a TV show?’ Jada’s going to boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” Rock said.

Rock then said Pinkett Smith was upset her husband didn't receive a nomination for his work in “Concussion.” “It’s not fair that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated. You’re right. It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for ‘Wild Wild West,’ OK?” he said, referencing one of Smith’s biggest flops.

2016: Pinkett Smith responds to Rock's Oscars speech

As for whether these jokes sowed discontent between Rock and Smith and Pinkett Smith? In her response at the time, Pinkett Smith appeared to be nonplussed.

“It comes with the territory,” she told x17online, per People. “We got to keep it moving, there’s a lot of stuff we got to handle, a lot of stuff in our world right now. We got to keep it moving.”