The tension leading up to the Oscars slap has actually been lingering for over a decade.
As folks on social media have been sleuthing around Chris Rock’s history with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, an old clip of the comedian flaming Pinkett Smith has resurfaced. It’s not just the Oscars quips in 2016 and 2022—this beef extends all the way back to 1997.
The digs are from The Chris Rock Show, which aired on HBO for five seasons back in the late ‘90s. In October of 1997—right before Will and Jada tied the knot, and rather coincidentally, right after G.I. Jane premiered—Rock was underway with Season 2 of his late-night talk show when he took aim at the bride-to-be.
“Million Women March was on last week in Philadelphia. I talked to Ice Cube, he called it ‘Bitches by the Bell,’” Rock says in the clip, earning a wave of boos from his live audience. “I didn’t say it! Ice Cube said it. And Too Short said it too!”
After a joke about women not wanting to wear the same clothes, Rock begins his roast of Jada: “You know, at the Million Women March, there were moving speeches from people like Maxine Waters, Winnie Mandela, and here are some inspirational words from the lovely Jada Pinkett.”
Rock proceeds to cut to a clip of a young Jada Pinkett at the march. “I am here today,” she proclaims, “because this is an act of power, women. Okay?” With that, Pinkett’s activism is whittled down to a joke, in which she yells the lyrics to “The Roof Is on Fire” instead of her speech.
“Burn motherfucker, burn!” fake Jada yells to the crowd. (Not even close to her real speech.)
The Million Women March took place in late October 1997, in which around half a million people took to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Women of the march focused on advocating for African American women in America, led by Phile Chionesu and aided by big names like Maxine Waters, Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife, and Jada Pinkett Smith (then Jada Pinkett).
So, the Oscars tease wasn’t an isolated moment in the Chris Rock/Smith family feud. We already knew this, though: Rock picked at Jada during the 2016 Oscars, once again over her activism. When the actress decided to boycott the event over #OscarsSoWhite, Rock took it as an opportunity for snark.
“Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties,” he said, hosting the night’s events. “I wasn’t invited.”
This all brings new meaning to the “Keep my wife’s name out of your FUCKING mouth” that Will shouted, twice, after Sunday’s slap, and why Jada couldn’t help but laugh after her husband smacked the comic.
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