As the night wore on, Kimmel delivered a joke that hit two popular Oscar quadrants at once: the slap and the runtime. “At this point in the show, it kind of makes you miss the slapping a little bit, right?” he said in reference to the flagging energy levels. The final reference to the slap reference came in the last seconds of the telecast, and it was even more cartoonish than all the rest. At the end of the show, after “Everything Everywhere All At Once” made history as the first sci-fi film to win Best Picture and one of very few films centering Asian-American characters to ever take the top prize, Kimmel headed backstage to flip a sign labeled “Number of Oscars Telecasts Without Incident.” He changed the tally from 0 to 1, as if the Oscars are a dangerous factory where attendees could lose life or limb.
These jokes were underwritten, overused, and almost impressive in the way they missed the mark when it came about talking about anything that actually matters, from the context of the slap itself to the ways in which Hollywood institutions punish some incidents of violence while totally ignoring others. Hopefully next year we can change a sign labeled “Number of Oscars Telecasts Without Tired Jokes About The Slap” from 0 to 1.