CHICAGO - Sunday night’s Oscars slapdown between Will Smith and Chris Rock is having a huge impact on Chicago comedians and comedy clubs.
One Chicago comedian said there is no doubt audiences are becoming more sensitive and hopes the confrontation doesn’t send the wrong signal.
"In no world, you tell a joke as a known comedian, and Will Smith walks on stage and slaps you in the face. There’s no world," said Chicago comedian Calvin Evans.
Evans said he was stunned by Will Smith’s reaction to Chris Rock’s joke, even if it was insensitive.
"You just don’t put your hands on somebody," said Evans. "Especially when you know what profession— he’s a comedian. He tells jokes. He told a bad joke. That’s not funny."
Evans works comedy clubs all over the country and appears frequently on television. He said there’s no doubt audiences are becoming more sensitive to edgy material, which he says is not good for comedy.
"I don’t censor myself. I think there is a freedom in comedy where you walk on stage like I’m gonna talk about some uncomfortable things, maybe some uncomfortable situations. But my job as a professional is to be able to massage this idea, this thought into something and bring levity to it," said Evans.
Zanies in Old Town has been featuring standup comedy since 1978. And they’re hoping that Sunday night’s slap doesn’t have a broader impact on comedy audiences.
"You get a little concerned," said Zanies publicist Rick Gieser. "You want to make sure that something like this doesn’t become normalized, and it starts happening on the club level."
So did Rock’s joke about Smith’s wife go too far?
"I think they are equally at fault," said Evans. "Because you can’t control what somebody does to you, but you can control how you react to it."