The 88th Academy Awards began after a long three hours of red carpet coverage, but eventually the music began and we were whisked into a montage of the year’s nominees. Shots of The Martian, Inside Out, Star Wars and others filled the screen to an building orchestral soundscape. Welcome to the 88th Academy Awards. The lights come up and our host Chris Rock enters the stage.
The mood immediately shifts to one of a stand-up comedy club, as expected. He immediately launches into a diversity skit, calling it the “white people’s choice awards”. Though it was no surprise this would be a major part of his material, diving into it straight away was a bold move, and one that in part paid off. It helped that he made a dig about Kevin Hart.
“Why this Oscars?” Asked Rock. “It’s the 88th Academy Awards, it’s happened at least 71 other times and black people did not protest because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who wins cinematographer”. A stark and blunt observation which was hard to challenge, but was similarly met with laughter with slightly uncomfortable undertones.
Then of course he starts to digress to the usual cheeky jokes about his lack of success with the opposite sex – standard kinda stuff for a comedian, and the atmosphere certainly picked up with it… until the joke about black people being shot by white cops.
Rock was expected to tackle the diversity issue, and indeed had to, but he struggled to get away from the subject and frankly there’s a reason why a little innocent ribbing goes a long way – it’s harmless, it’s cheeky and it’s inoffensive to the A-lister and all their entourage who you’re expecting to laugh along with this.
Ten minutes in and he’s still going strong on the race jokes:
“Some call it Creed, I call it Black Rocky”
And just when you think he’s moving on to something a little more generic about Paul Giamatti, it’s straight back to the black jokes. However, at the end of this little semi-tirade, Rock made a poignant comment about opportunity – this is of course the real issue, and it successfully won back the crowd who could concur with each other that it’s not actually their problem but the world as a whole.
Make no mistake, everybody likes a host that will stir things up and not be afraid to tackle the scandals, but you need to work the crowd as you would a small town club, and Rock seemed to realise that at the end, after an opening speech which was almost entirely comprised of race infused jokes.
Then again, what did we expect?