Former Academy Awards host Billy Crystal minced no words when talking about the slap heard ’round the world.
Appearing on Bob Costas’s Back on the Record on HBO Max, Crystal called the infamous Smith-Chris Rock confrontation a “most disturbing incident, for sure. It was an assault. I’ve had experiences. I hosted the Grammys three times and I’ve been thrown things.”
He continued, “In [Oscars] pre-production, the amazing Gil Cates, we would go through – he was the producer for six of the nine that I did – we would go through the rundown and I’d say, ‘Maybe I should be there because something might happen there. If that person wins, I should follow that.’”
Crystal maintained that having a host brings an element of control to an event.
“I sort of set myself up to host the show, really host the show, so you can tie it together. So, whenever I see shows that it’s a no-host show, yeah, it went faster, but there’s nobody there to capitalize on anything and give the audience the feeling of there’s somebody in charge.”
Crystal recalled a time when he was hosting the Grammy Awards. Comedian Jackie Mason made an inflammatory remark, and then Little Richard followed with something similar. Crystal was sent out to diffuse the situation, which he did by making a joke.