Chris Rock used his Oscars opening monologue to take on the controversy surrounding the lack of diversity in this year's shortlists, and attacked it from several novel angles, including jokes at the expense of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Chris Rock was daring, mischievous, and thoroughly relaxed during his opening montage in a tense year for a black host
The comedian, on hosting duties for the second time, laughed at the clips of this year's films that opened the show, and his first comment was:
"I counted at least 15 black people on that montage."
He continued: "If they’d nominated a host, I wouldn’t even have got this job."
Chris went on:
"This controversy… no black nominees… some people saying to me, 'Chris you should boycott'... how come it’s only unemployed people who tell you should quit something?
"I thought about quitting, I thought about it real hard, I thought they’re going to have the Oscars anyway, and I thought the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart."
He continued musing on the subject of the non-diversity protests that have dogged this year's Awards Season:
"Why this Oscars? It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole no black nominees must have happened at least 71 other times.
"Those other years, black people did not protest, and why? Because we had real things to protest, too busy being raped and lynched to worry about who won cinematographer. When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s real difficult to care about best documentary foreign short."
As to the boycott of this year's event by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock had this to say:
"Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties… I wasn’t invited. It’s not an invitation I would turn down.
"It’s not fair that Will was this good (in the film 'Concussion') and not nominated. It’s also not fair that Will was paid £20million for Wild Wild West."
Perhaps the most political joke of his opening speech was this one:
"This year's In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people who were shot by the cops on their way to the movies."
That drew a respectful clap from the likes of Matt Damon and co. Chris went on, clearly at home with his subject...
"Everybody wants to know, is Hollywood racist? You’ve got to go at that the right way.
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"One night I was at a fundraiser for President Obama, it was me and all of Hollywood, about four black people there, the usual suspects. Every black actor that was not working. At some point you get to take a picture with the President. You get a little moment with the President, and you say... 'Mr President, they don’t hire black people and they’re the nicest white people on earth, they’re liberals. Say cheese.'
"Hollywood is sorority racist, it’s like, 'We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a kappa.' But things are changing. We got a black Rocky this year. Rocky takes place in a world where white athletes are as good as black athletes, so it’s a science fiction movie.
"It’s not about boycott or anything. We want opportunity. We want black actors to get the same opportunities, and that’s it. And not just once. Leo gets a great part every year, but what about the black actors?"
And then it was on with the show...