Minutes before the big show kicked off, Oscars host Chris Rock was in his trailer, still working on his monologue (with a rainbow pen no less).
When the time came for him to make his entrance, he was ready—and we were ready for Rock to set the stage ablaze with a stream of scorching witticisms about #Oscarsowhite and the stunning lack of black nominees. Instead, Rock played it right down the middle, balancing the hard jabs with pulled punches in a monologue that came across as a friendly roast of what he dubbed “The White People’s Choice Awards”.
Here’s our ranking of Rock’s jokes from the softballs to the hardballs to the one where he actually hit it out of the park:
The second-time host opened by expressing relief over the fact that hosts don’t have to be nominated—otherwise we’d have NPH. Again.
Rock called Creed the “black Rocky” and described it as “a science fiction movie” that takes place in a world where white athletes are as good as black athletes. Heh.
Addressing his reasons for not quitting after finding out there were no black nominees this year, Rock said he thought about it—but the last thing he needs is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.
The real problem with the Oscars, said Rock, is that black actors aren’t being given the good parts. Six-time nominee Leonardo DiCaprio gets a good part every year, so why doesn’t Jamie Foxx? asked Rock, adding, “He was so good in Ray they unplugged the real Ray Charles. ‘We don’t need two of these!'”
Rock offered up a remedy for #Oscarsowhite: add black categories—after all, there are categories for women. Of course, he was being facetious. It showed when he suggested a “Best Black Friend” category.
Here’s where the jokes start to have a bit more spin on them. What kind of racist is Hollywood? asked Rock. It’s not “burning cross racist” it’s “sorority racist.” Rhonda’s nice, but she’s not a Kappa.
Apparently Rock wasn’t impressed with the boycott spearheaded by actors like Jada Pinkett-Smith. “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna‘s panties: I wasn’t invited.” Ouch.
Why protest THIS one? Rock wondered, pointing out that this 88th Academy Awards is likely just one out of approximately 71 other Oscars that didn’t celebrate black actors. “Why didn’t they protest in ’61 or ’62? 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 its hard to care about who’s going to win best documentary short.” Now we’re talking, Chris.
And the award for hardest hardball goes to: this joke about this year’s In Memoriam Montage: “It’s just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies… yes I said it!” And that’s how you take down the elephant in the room.