The Oscars’ opening montage ended, Chris Rock took the stage and in less than seven seconds, he began to tell jokes about the awards’ diversity problem.
It’s a tough task to enlighten viewers about an important issue like #OscarsSoWhite without lecturing them or causing them to change the channel. Rock handled it by alternating between lighthearted jokes that poked fun at audience members like Hart, and funny but brutal comments meant to make the audience squirm.
The audience was filled with nodding heads — far different than the reaction Rock received when he made similar jokes in 2005, as even Morgan Freeman raised his eyebrows when Rock opened with, “It’s a great night. We have, like, four black nominees tonight. It’s kind of like the Def Oscar Jam tonight!”
This year, Rock brought up the race issue again and again. Here are his best jokes of the night:
- Back when the nominees were announced, many loud voices demanded that Rock boycott the event. “I thought about quitting. I thought about it real hard,” he said in his monologue. But when he realized they would have the Oscars without him anyway, he decided, “The last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.”
- On Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting the show: “Jada got mad. Jada says she’s not coming. Protesting. I’m like, isn’t she on a TV show? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.”
- “You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’”
- “Hey, if you want black nominees every year, you need to just have black categories. That’s what you need. You need to have black categories. You already do it with men and women. Think about it. There’s no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting. It’s — come on! There’s no reason! It’s not track and field. You don’t have to separate them. You know, Robert de Niro’s never said, ‘I better slow this acting down so Meryl Streep can catch up.'”
- “Things are changing. Yeah, we got a black ‘Rocky’ this year. Some people call it ‘Creed,’ I call it ‘Black Rocky.’ And that’s a big — that’s an unbelievable statement, I mean, because ‘Rocky’ takes place in a world where white athletes are as good as black athletes. ‘Rocky’’s a science fiction movie. There are things that happened in ‘Star Wars’ that are more believable than things that happened in ‘Rocky.'”
- The annual “in memoriam” section, which typically honors actors who have died in the last year, “is just going to be black people shot by the cops on the way to the movies.”
- Why didn’t black people protest about the lack of Oscars diversity that also existed long ago? “Because we had real things to protest at the time,” Rock said. “We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematography. When your grandmother is swinging from a tree it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short.”
That last joke prompted backlash on Twitter, where many were quick to remind Rock that there are a lot of “real things” to protest in 2016.
Did Chris Rock just undermine what people of color are experiencing today by stating that, "back then people had real things to protest?"— going NAKED TV (@SOTVproductions) February 29, 2016