Will smith

Is Will Smith too toxic to be taken seriously?

After 9/11, American comedians found themselves in a tricky situation. Make fun of any of the usual standbys of their trade – politicians, authority figures, Rudy Giuliani, anyone who wore a badge for a living – and they were liable to be shouted down in an angry chorus of: ‘Too soon!’ Yet if all the jokes they could tell were sanitised and tame, their reputations would decline in an instant. It was a bold comic who tried to argue that telling jokes was a natural human response to disaster; many audiences simply refused to find things funny. Will Smith now finds himself in a similar position. The one-time Fresh Prince

The art of the witty riposte

One hundred or so years ago, a down-in-the-dumps Joseph Roth wrote to Stefan Zweig: ‘The barbarians have taken over.’ Later on, Zweig committed suicide and Roth drank himself to death. They were both talented writers depressed about the state of the world. Reading their correspondence last week I had to laugh. Neither Roth nor Zweig had experienced Hollywood, and obviously would have died much earlier if they had done so. Which brings me to what everyone is still talking about, how a trained seal smacked another seal half its size during the Academy Awards. It was done in order to protect his wife from the barbs of the smaller one,

Will Smith’s slap was a triumph

Will Smith’s straight arm slap of Chris Rock at the Oscars was, for my money, the most interesting event ever to have transpired at any awards show in history. It pips even my previous favourite, which was when Jarvis Cocker ran onstage during the 1996 Brits to reveal his buttocks in protest at Michael Jackson’s ludicrously overblown performance of Earth Song. Did Rock ask to be attacked for humiliating Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, on account of her alopecia? Yes, of course. But that was the point. The joke was predicated entirely on the comic getting away with saying the unsayable – a formulation of words intended to be deeply provocative

What Will Smith’s slap means for comedy

Now this is a story all about how The Oscars got flipped-turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute. Just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I told told a joke about a chick with no hair… Well, I think we all know what the opening routine of Chris Rock’s next Netflix special is going to be. Say what you want about the Oscars, this year people are certainly talking about them. But not about the movies, about the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith, slapping comedian Chris Rock on a worldwide broadcast in front of the Hollywood elite. Like every British comedian, after I woke up and read the news, I ran


Tory MPs in stand off over Will Smith

Ding, ding, ding! It’s fight club time in the Tory party. In the blue corner it’s Simon Hoare. And in the, er, other blue corner it’s Dehenna Davison and Sir Iain Duncan Smith. The subject of today’s rumble in the Westminster jungle is Will Smith’s jab at Chris Rock at last night’s Academy Awards ceremony. Well, they do say politics is showbiz for ugly people… Hoare was early out of the blocks this morning to engage in some ritual macho chest-beating. The Northern Ireland select committee chair scoffed, ‘I’d just hope if someone thought it in good taste to make a joke at the expense of a medical condition of my wife then I’d get