After a week spent trying out material at L.A.’s Comedy Club and pre-show tweets in which he stoked the crowd with “Get Ready” and a shot of him, rainbow pen in hand, working on his monologue, Chris Rock took the stage of the Dolby Theatre and immediately put to rest any fears that he would be pulling his punches.
After the opening montage of what seemed like every movie from the past decade, Rock came on in a white tux, black pants (= diversity) and said, “I counted at least 15 black people in that montage.
“Welcome to the Academy Awards,” he continued, “otherwise known as the ‘White Peoples’ Choice Awards.’ If they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job — you’d be watching Neil Patrick Harris.”
Rock made it clearer than clear that he 1) took the diversity controversy very seriously and 2) that he thought it was slightly ridiculous,
In earlier decades, he said, there also were plenty of black people overlooked for Oscars, but back then, “we had real things to protest at the time, we were too being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.” Rock also took aim at Oscar boycotters Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, saying that while it might be unfair that Smith was overlooked for his performance in Concussion, it was also unfair “that he got paid $20 million for Wild Wild West.” As for Smith, Jada boycotting the Oscars “is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties,” by which he meant boycotting a party he wasn’t invited to.
Rock tread the line carefully between anger and humor, and it worked persuasively. He saved the serious bit for his closing, and it was effective because he’d clearly been having fun: “We want opportunity, we want black actors to get the same opportunities and not just once — Leo gets a great part every year!”
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