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Ardal O’Hanlon says Will Smith's Oscar slap was due to a 'warped sense of male masculinity'

"We’re living in a world where people are on a hair-trigger. Social media is toxic,” the Fr Ted star has said.

Ardal O'Hanlon as Dougal in Father Ted

Allison Bray

Comedian Ardal O’Hanlon has revealed that he was once violently accosted by a vicar who had “a go” at him for lambasting clerics.

Appearing on RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live to discuss the incident at the Academy Awards on Sunday night in which Hollywood star Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock over a joke about the actor’s wife, the Father Ted star revealed that he was once accosted by an enraged cleric.

Asked if he had ever been confronted over jokes he made during his career as a stand-up comedian, he said: “I’ve had a few over the years, a lot of it happens after the show where people will confront you about something you’ve said on stage or about who you are.”

He recalled one incident in which he was accosted.

“I was filming something in a car park outside a church in London and the Church of England vicar who was in charge of the church approached me in the car park as I was waiting between scenes and he was very angry,” O’Hanlon said.

"I thought he was coming over to say ‘hi’ or ‘I love your work’, but no, he actually grabbed me by the lapels and pinned me up against a wall and he had a real go at me for ridiculing clerics generally – because of Father Ted and the Vicar of Dibley and shows like that – that were making fools of people like him and that people weren’t taking him seriously.”

Will Smith hits Chris Rock on stage. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters

The vicar went on to describe the kind of work he did, such as consoling the bereaved.

“I diffused the situation and and I think he realised how lovely I was,” O’Hanlon said.

But he said the incident highlights how comedians can become targets.

"I have enough to worry about when I’m up there,” said Mr O’Hanlon, who is best known for portraying the dim-witted priest Fr Dougal McGuire on the hit comedy series Father Ted.

But he said Chris Rock’s joke poking fun at the bald appearance of Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia which results in hair loss, was in very bad taste.

"The joke was terrible. It was a cheap, crass joke,” he said.

Smith appeared to take offence to a gag Chris Rock made about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s short haircut (Doug Peters/PA)

But he said that was no justification for Smith’s violent reaction in which he slapped Chris Rock hard across the face and then angrily uttered an obscenity to him from his seat just seconds before the actor won the Best Actor gong for his role in the biopic King Richard.

“That’s an example of a warped sense of male masculinity. I don’t think there’s any justification for it,” O’Hanlon said.

"We’re living in a world where people are on a hair-trigger. Social media is toxic.”

But he said Smith, who has a massive worldwide audience, didn’t do himself any favours by his behaviour.

"People like Will Smith, I think, should be trying to lower the temperature,” he said.

"We’re living in this febrile time at the moment.”

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