Oscars incident sparks safety concerns for performers

Comedians say for the most part audience members are just there to have a good time, but in some circumstances like this things can go south.
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 10:23 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The safety of performers is always the top priority at venues like the Coronado Performing Arts Center, and the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford.

Especially after the incident that shocked viewers Sunday night, when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock across the face, after making a joke about his wife’s shaved head.

“If people want to go in that direction, we’ll take care of the situation and most likely they are going to be out the door,” said ASM Global General Manager Doug Johnson. “There’s no need for that, we put smiles on peoples faces, that’s what we do, we make people happy.”

But a lot of talent performs at smaller venues, like bars and restaurants, where security is scarce.

“You’re in a very intimate setting, you know the closest audience member is two feet away,” said Comedian and Radio Personality Kevin Wood. “If you say the wrong thing with the wrong person there, you never know when that’s gonna happen, but most of the time it doesn’t.”

Comedian Marcos Lara says they always run the risk of violence when telling controversial jokes, but it’s about defining a boundary.

“Especially with the brand of comedy I do, where I address a lot of hot button sociological issues,” said Lara “I know that I am running a certain risk.”

Lara hopes if this inspires anything, it’s the opposite of attacking others. He says the best way to make sure violence like this doesn’t happen to local performers is for community members and venue owners to keep an eye out.

“I would love to see it inspire community taking care of community,” said Lara.

Wood says it’s difficult at times to know where to draw the line with jokes, because that line looks different for everyone. He thinks Smith was wrong to use violence to respond.

“I hope that people don’t start coming to my shows and punching me in the face,” said Wood.

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