‘I Couldn’t Tell a Joke to Save My Life’: Will Smith Lost His Comedy Touch Going Into Season 4 of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’

Will Smith spilled all the tea in his recently released memoir, “Will,” including tales about his time on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” The actor starred on the hit sitcom from 1990 until 1996.

Smith noted that after he’d starred in the drama “Six Degrees of Separation” during the sitcom’s hiatus, he’d lost his sense of humor and comedic timing. The funnyman wrote in his memoir that he’d forgotten how to play his character and could no longer tell a joke.

Will Smith
Will Smith discusses his memoir “Will” with Oprah Winfrey on Nov. 4, 2021. (Photo: @willsmith/ Instagram)

“I couldn’t tell a joke to save my life,” he wrote. “The scary part was that I couldn’t see what everybody else saw. But if enough people tell you that you’re drunk, then you should probably sit down.” He also wrote that his ability to improvise and ad-lib had also disappeared when he returned to the show.

Smith said his mojo returned midseason after he’d hired writers from his hometown of Philadelphia to help him get back into character. The former rapper described a scene he was filming where his character tries to get Hilary, played by Karyn Parsons, to go on a date with his teacher. Hilary was being petty because the teacher had a mole on the side of his nose, and Smith’s comedic skills re-appeared during the scene.

“In a moment of career-saving comedic inspiration,” said Smith, “I ad-libbed, ‘Come on, you’re making a mountain out of a mole, Hil.’”

He also revealed that he struggled so much returning to comedy that the show’s writers had to focus the scenes on supporting characters. Smith said his co-star Alfonso Ribeiro picked up the slack and became the comedic relief, in more ways than one. He said that Ribeiro rose to the occasion and shined in his moment. Ribeiro was the comedic relief for 10 episodes, according to Smith.

“For the first few episodes the writers had to write away from my character and toward Carlton,” wrote Smith. “Alfonso stepped up and took the comedic weight. No one knew what was happening, no one was relating my behavior on the set of ‘Fresh Prince’ to my ill-conceived foray into the dangerous psychological world of method acting in ‘Six Degrees.’”

HBO Max aired a reunion of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in November 2020. The unscripted special also included a sit-down between Smith and Janet Hubert, who played the original Aunt Viv. The two had a 27-year-long feud after Hubert blamed Smith for her troubles on the set and with the network.

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