Host tackles lack of diversity in the nominations head-on in a pointed and rousing opening monologue that mocks both industry prejudice and ceremony boycotters such as Jada Pinkett Smith
Oscars host Chris Rock opened the show on Sunday night with an opening monologue that tackled the controversy about the lack of black acting nominees head-on.
“Is Hollywood racist?” he asked. “You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist.” Rock qualified his comments by saying that the industry was not “burning cross racist … it’s a different type of racist”.
The host then told a story about attending a fundraiser at the White House, and telling the President that his fellow – white – showbiz guests “don’t hire black people and they’re the nicest white people on earth; they’re liberals.”
Their prejudice, he continued, is “sorority racist, like ‘We like you, Ronda, but you’re not a Kappa.’”
However, Rock also mocked Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, high-profile boycotters of the event. To a roar from the audience, Rock said: “Jada got mad, she said she’s not coming. Doesn’t she have a TV show? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties – I wasn’t invited!”
He added: “You get mad that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated” [for his role in Concussion]. “It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20m to do Wild Wild West.”
Rock had begun his monologue by pointing out that he could “count at least 15 black people” in the audience, before welcoming viewers to the Oscars, “otherwise known as the White People’s Choice awards”.
Rock added, in a reference to last year’s host: “If they nominated hosts I wouldn’t even get this job so you’d be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now.”
The comedian went on to make direct reference to the many calls for him to resign in protest from the hosting job, saying, “‘Chris, you should boycott, you should quit’ – how come it’s always unemployed people that tell you to quit something?” Rock joked: “I thought about it really hard but they’re not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit, and the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.”
As Hart laughed in the audience, Rock pointed out how prolific Hart is, saying, “Porno stars don’t make movies that fast.”
Rock added that it was strange so much controversy had attended this Oscars when, presumably, many of the previous ceremonies had been all-white. “It’s the 88th Academy Awards which means this whole no-black-nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times. You got to figure that it happened in the 50s, in the 60s, one of those years Sidney [Poitier] didn’t put out a movie, and black people didn’t protest because we had real things to protest at the time.
We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short.”
He joked that the Oscars could have specific black categories, saying: “You have men and women, there’s no real reason for there to be a man and woman category in acting – it’s not track and field; you don’t have to separate them. Robert De Niro’s never said, ‘I have to slow this acting down so Meryl Streep can catch up.’” Rock sarcastically suggested one of the new categories: “Best black friend – Wanda Sykes for the 18th year in a row.”
Rock concluded by taking aim at another controversy, the #askhermore hashtag protesting against women being asked only about their outfits on the red carpet. Said Rock:
“You’re not allowed to ask women what they’re wearing any more. Everything’s not sexism; everything’s not racism. They ask the men more because they’re all wearing the exact same thing. If George Clooney came in a lime-green tux with a swan coming out of his ass they’d say, ‘What are you wearing George?’”