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Amy Schumer's Joke Eases The Tension After Will Smith's Slap

As the first "back to normal" Academy Awards since 2018, this year's Oscars ceremony felt different for a number of reasons. Before the show even aired, the Academy announced that they would be cutting eight categories from the live broadcast, a move that received mass criticism, including from notable Hollywood players like Steven Spielberg (via Deadline). These winners included Riz Ahmed who won for his short film "The Long Goodbye," and best editing which went to Joe Walker from "Dune" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

While those changes caused some discourse, though, it was nothing compared to what happened late into the night. In a completely unscripted event, viewers were shocked when Will Smith approached the stage during Chris Rock's presentation and slapped him.

This action was not random, but a reaction to Rock's joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett-Smith's shaved hair. The comedian referred to her as "G.I. Jane," which did not go over well, as Pinkett-Smith has made public statements about having alopecia (via CNN). Regardless of the circumstance, viewers had and continue to have strong reactions to this surprising turn of events. One of the most graceful responses was by co-host Amy Schumer, who quickly handled the room shortly after the incident occurred.

Schumer used comedy to keep the show going

Just before the Oscars ceremony was inextricably changed for the rest of the night, the hosting duties had been balanced well between Schumer and the other two co-hosts, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall. One segment in particular involved the three dressing up as their favorite characters, with Schumer suspended from the ceiling in a Spider-Man costume. When returning after the incident in question, it was Schumer who succeeded in getting the room to laugh again.

"I've been getting out of that Spider-Man costume, did I miss anything?" Schumer asked the audience to a chorus of laughter. "There's like a different vibe in here." 

The comedian then quickly segued into a less loaded bit where she stole the seat of best supporting actress nominee Kirsten Dunst — who played Spider-Man's primary love interest, Mary Jane Watson, in the original Sam Raimi trilogy — to talk to Dunst's partner Jesse Plemons (also a nominee). As a stand-up comic, Schumer is no stranger to the occasional rough crowd, and this was a good choice to smooth things over in the room. Her casual sense of humor did not draw too much attention to the event, and she quickly moved on to finish the show with her co-hosts. 

There is no doubt that the preceding incident overshadowed the entire night, but Schumer did her best to bring the atmosphere of the room down to an acceptable level. Viewers seemed as impressed as the live audience, as seen on Twitter, where NPR television critic Eric Deggans tweeted, "Amy Schumer with the line of the night."