Photo: Johnny Nunez / Contributor via Getty Images and Neilson Barnard / Staff via Getty Images
  /  04.11.2023

During a recent appearance on “The Howard Stern Show” on SiriusXM, Nick Cannon shared how Will Smith helped launch his career and his reaction to the infamous 2022 Oscars slap.

Yesterday (April 10), as Stern and the 42-year-old engaged in conversation, the radio personality noted that Will saw a tape of Cannon doing stand-up comedy at a young age and signed him.

“Yeah, he told me that I reminded him of him,” Cannon responded. “[At] our first meeting, I was rapping, telling jokes, and I had a script ready. I was like, ‘Man, this is the TV show we should do together.’ And I pitched them a whole pilot. He was like, ‘I’m in.’ [Will] gave me a TV deal, a record deal, [and] put me in Men in Black II. He was truly a mentor when I was 16 and always was a great example, man. [He’s] just a solid dude.”

Stern then steered the interview from Will’s involvement in Cannon’s early career to how the Drumline actor responded to the Philadelphia native slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards. 

At the time, Rock was the host of the televised ceremony. Before he presented the Best Documentary Feature Film award, he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith‘s head, which is bald due to a hair loss condition she suffers from, known as Alopecia areata. Rock’s comment wasn’t well-received as Will approached the stage, slapped him, and walked back to his seat before yelling at him to keep Jada’s name out of his “f**king mouth.”

Cannon informed Stern that people were waking him to ask whether he had seen the incident after everything went down. “I’m like, ‘What, see what?'” he started. “At first, we all thought it was like a skit or something. [Then] they started showing Will cussing [Rock] out, ‘Keep my wife’s name out your f**king mouth.'”

The television host then jokingly called the moment Will’s “best acting” and said he should have received an Oscar for that. “But I think once we realized what it was, it was like, d**n, this is so unfortunate. Because that was the first year Will Packer was the producer. We had a Black production. Will was winning the Oscar for [Best Actor in a Leading Role]. It was tough.”

Toward the end of the conversation, Cannon shared that he was empathetic toward his mentor and Rock. “My heart just felt for the both of them,” he said. Watch the clip below:

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