Chris Rock at the 88th Annual Academy Awards
In his opening monologue at the 88th Annual Academy Awards Sunday night, host Chris Rock used his comedic style of humor mixed with brutal honesty to address the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, while wearing a white tuxedo jacket.
For the second consecutive year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated exclusively white actors for all four acting categories. Rock said he thought about quitting the Oscars. But then realized the show would go on without him, joking that he’d lose another job to comedian Kevin Hart.
Instead, he took the opportunity to explain why on the 88th year of the awards show people are outraged by the lack of diversity, which is nothing new.
“Now the thing is, why are we protesting?” Rock said. “The big question: Why this Oscars? Why this Oscars, you know?”
Rock’s explanation focused exclusively on the experience of Blacks in America facing racism in the 1950s and 60s with jokes that visibly make people uncomfortable.
“We had real things to protest at the time, you know?” he said. “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 then pulled no punches when addressing racism in Hollywood.
“Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. But it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to.”
Rock said the industry isn’t “burning-cross racist” or “fetch-me-some-lemonade racist.”
He said it’s a different type of racist — “sorority racist.”
“We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa,” he said. “That’s how Hollywood is. But things are changing. Things are changing.”
Rock shared that before taking a photo with President Obama during a fundraiser at the White House with showbiz guests, he mentioned to him a reason why there’s a lack of diversity in Hollywood:
“I’m like, ‘Mr. President, you see all these writers and producers and actors? They don’t hire Black people, and they’re the nicest white people on earth! They’re liberals! Cheese!’”
Rock expressed his disapproval of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s boycott of the Oscars.
“You get mad that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated [for his role in ‘Concussion’],” he said. “It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million to do ‘Wild Wild West.’”
Rock also touched upon the national controversy of the recent police-related deaths of unarmed African Americans:
“Things are going to be a little different at the Oscars. This year, in the In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be Black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies. Yes, yes. I said it. Alright?”
He said opportunity is key, “We want opportunity — give Black actors the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it. Leo gets a great part every year. What about Jamie Foxx?”
During the awards about one-third of the presenters and performers were people of color.
(Complete List of 2016 Oscar Winners)
See Rock’s complete monologue:
Diversity, Inclusiveness and the Academy
As a result of backlash and boycotts, the Academy announced in January a vague plan stating it would “double” its “diversity,” without releasing the demographics of the people who vote for the Oscars.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, took the stage Sunday night to emphasize that diversity and inclusiveness will be a high priority.
“Our audiences are global and rich in diversity,” she said, “and every facet of our industry should be as well.”
She continued, “The Academy Board of Governors recently took concrete action and sent a message that inclusion only serves to make us all stronger. It’s important that the members of the Academy and everyone in this room help deliver that message. Each of you is an ambassador who can influence others in the industry. It’s not enough to just listen and agree. We must take action.”
Isaacs then quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Stacey Dash’s Awkward Moment
Shortly after his monologue, Rock introduced actress Stacey Dash, a Fox News commentator, as the “new director” of the Academy’s “minority outreach program.”
“I cannot wait to help my people out,” Dash said. “Happy Black History Month!”
The joke was to address the recent controversy over the “Clueless” star’s condemnation of Black History Month.
The audience was confused and the joke fell flat.