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Bill Maher has defended Chris Rock's joke about Jada Pinkett Smith at the Oscars.
It all started when Rock took to the stage to present the Best Documentary award. After cracking a few jokes about Javier Bardem and Denzel Washington, he honed in on Jada with a 'G.I. Jane 2' gag, in reference to her hair.
Smith, while laughing at first, then walked up to Rock, smacked him across the face and warned him to 'keep [his] wife's name out [his] f***ing mouth'. Shortly afterwards, he won his first-ever Best Actor Oscar for King Richard.
During the most recent episode of HBO‘s Real Time with Bill Maher, the host echoed concerns over comedy being straitjacketed by today's more reactive culture online.
In the 'New Rules' segment, which he dubbed 'Explaining Jokes to Idiots', he acknowledged that 'we’re all sick of talking about the slap', but wanted to discuss it again because 'comedians have been under attack for some time.'
"So I must defend my tribe. This war on jokes must end," Maher said, arguing that Rock's gag "wasn’t an alopecia joke, any more than the chicken crossing the road is about bird flu."
Maher also cited another joke during the ceremony, where Timothée Chalamet was seemingly teased for looking a bit tired – the camera then cut to J.K. Simmons.
Maher said: "That’s where it ended. It’s called being a good sport. Let the common people take the piss out of you for one minute."
He pointed out how Smith didn't appear to find the joke offensive initially, even laughing along with the audience.
He continued: "Before this moment, Will is laughing because he hasn’t yet found out that his original, genuine reaction is wrong, and that he should conform to a different view."
Saying how he's hand to contend with 'woke hecklers', Maher added: "Will Smith didn’t get kicked out of the Oscars for going Ike Turner on Chris. But Kevin Hart got kicked out of hosting it for a joke."
The host described the fallout as the perfect example of 'cancel culture', and that comedians are meant to tell offensive, even 'tasteless' jokes. "So what, that’s why we like them," he said.
Maher added: "Kids used to go to college to lose their virginity. Now they go to lose their sense of humour."
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