From the second he walked onstage to Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," it was obvious Chris Rock's Oscars opening monologue was going to do just that. He's hosting the biggest awards show of the season — really, the final shebang in a season that feels longer every year — and Rock acknowledged how doing so amid the second major year of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was his way of calling out the flaws in the system.
He hit the right beat from his very first statement. Before Rock's entrance, we watched a montage of clips from films that came out in 2015. "I counted at least 15 Black people in that montage," Rock noted before continuing, "I'm here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People's Choice Awards. You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job. You'd all be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now."
From there, Rock went straight into the controversy. "This is the wildest, craziest Oscars to ever host, because we got all this controversy with no Black nominees...People are like, 'Chris, you should boycott. Chris, you should quit.'" Rock says he didn't even consider listening to these people, because A. They were all unemployed, and B. Because, "They're gonna have the Oscars anyway. 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. I don't need that. Kev makes movies fast; every month. Porno stars don't make movies that fast." Solid Kevin Hart burn.
Rock then wanted to investigate why we're protesting the 88th Academy awards in particular. "This means this whole no Black nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times. You gotta figure that it happened in the '50s and the '60s...I'm sure there were no Black nominees some of those years — say '62 or '63 — and people did not protest. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time...[People were too busy] being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer. You know, when your grandmother's swinging from at tree, it's really hard to care about Best Foreign Documentary Short."
What about this year in particular, though, got people so mad? "Spike [Lee] got mad, and Jada [Pinkett Smith] got mad," Rock points out. "Jada says she's not coming...Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited. That's not an invitation I would turn down, but I understand. I'm not hating. I understand you're mad. Will wasn't nominated for Concussion; I get it...It's not fair that Will was this good and didn't get nominated. It's also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild Wild West."
Ouch. Expect Jada Pinkett Smith to also boycott Chris Rock's future comedy shows and holiday parties.
"This year, things are gonna be a little different at the Oscars," Rock continues. "This year, in the In Memoriam package, it's just gonna be Black people that was shot by the cops on the way to the movies." That one got a big, awkward pause for applause.
Rock has some ideas for how to fix the inequality in nominations: "Hey, if you want Black nominees every year, you need to just have Black categories...You already do it with men and women. There's no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting. It's not track and field. You don't have to separate 'em. Robert De Niro's never said, 'I better slow this acting down so Meryl Streep can catch up.' Not at all, man. If you want to have Black people nominated at the Oscars, you just need to have categories like 'Best Black Friend.' That's right. 'And the winner for the 18th year in a row is Wanda Sykes.'"
Then, however, Rock gets serious. "Here's a real question everyone wants to know, 'Is Hollywood racist?' You know you gotta go at that the right way. Is it burning-cross racist? Is it, 'Fetch me some lemonade' racist? No, it's a different type of racist. I remember one night, I was at a fundraiser for President Obama — a lot of you were there — you know, it's me and all of Hollywood. It's all of us there and there's about four Black people there: me, Quincy Jones, Russell Simmons, Questlove...you know, the usual suspects, and every Black actor that wasn't working. Needless to say, Kevin Hart was not there. At some point, you get to take a picture with the President. I said, 'Mr. President, you see all these writers, producers, and actors. They don't hire Black people — and they're the nicest white people on Earth. They're liberals. Cheese!'"
"Is Hollywood racist? You're damn right Hollywood is racist. But it's the kind of racist you've grown accustomed to. Hollywood is 'sorority racist.' It's like, 'We like you, Rhonda, but you're not a Kappa.'"
Rock thinks things are changing, though. He thinks that having a Black Rocky — a.k.a. Creed — is a great sign of this change. He also gets serious about how more change can occur. "It's not about boycotting anything. It's just we want opportunity. We want the Black actors to get the same opportunities. That's it. And not just once. You know, Leo gets a great part every year. All you guys get great parts all the time, but what about the Black actors? What about Jamie Foxx? Jamie Foxx is one of the best actors in the world. Jamie Foxx was so good in Ray, that they went to the hospital and unplugged the real Ray Charles. It's like,'We don't need two of these.'"
Rock also did a riff about how he doesn't understand #AskHerMore, arguing that there's no need to ask men what they're wearing, because they all wear the same thing. Agree to disagree on this topic.
Rock's final signoff was gold, though. "Welcome to the 88th Oscars. You want diversity, we got diversity. Please welcome Emily Blunt and somebody whiter, Sharice [we assume he meant Charlize] Theron!"