Chris Rock’s Oscar Monologue Review: Scathing and (Mostly) Effective

Chris Rock's Oscar Monologue Review: Entertaining
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Despite repeated protests about its lack of diversity over the years, Hollywood does a fine job of engaging in repetitive amnesia about its pervasive and longstanding biases. Chris Rock, in other words, was in a target-rich environment on Sunday, and he didn’t waste the opportunity.

Rock’s scathing and generally well-crafted monologue at Sunday’s Academy Awards recalled the episode of “Black-ish” that aired on the same network just a few days ago. Rock’s opening minutes were entertaining, but they made an array of serious points.

“Is Hollywood racist?” he asked at the mid-point of his withering monologue, which had the audience laughing and occasionally cringing as well. It’s not “cross-burning racist,” he acknowledged.

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“Hollywood is sorority racist,” he said. “‘We like you Rhonda — but you’re not a Kappa.’”

He recalled meeting President Obama at a Hollywood fundraiser, where Rock was one of only a few black attendees. In the few seconds he had with the President during a photo op, Rock quickly sketched out the slippery yet pervasive racism that pervades the entertainment industry.

“You see all these writers, producers and actors?” Rock remembered asking the president. “They don’t hire black people — and they’re the nicest white people on earth. They’re liberals!”

Rock was unafraid of going to uncomfortable places, to his credit. The In Memoriam segment this year, he joked, would be a montage of black people shot by cops on their way to the movies. Mixed amid the awkward laughter were some “oohs,” but Rock, a skilled stand-up comic of remarkable dexterity, wasn’t fazed.

In the least-successful parts of his monologue, he digressed from his main theme. At one point, he riffed on Jada Pinkett Smith’s boycott of the Oscars, noting that she’s more known for her TV work than her film roles of late.

Pinkett Smith staying away from the ceremony would be like “me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited,” Rock said.

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The crass, unpleasant joke didn’t quite land, nor did a rather tired joke at the end of his monologue about how actresses are protesting the superficial questions they’re typically asked on red carpets. His mockery of “Ask her more” seemed out of place in a monologue that otherwise asked pointed questions about Hollywood’s systematic biases.

“Everything’s not sexism, everything’s not racism!” Rock said, but it was hard not to wish he’d trained a little of the firepower he brought to the topic of race on the hurdles faced by actresses in a town with a long history of gender bias.

In the main, however, Rock was there to riff on how white Hollywood is, and on that topic, he was remarkably effective, which was no surprise (and those jokes were reinforced by some effective pre-taped segments starring previous Oscar host Whoopi Goldberg). There may not have been many protests like #OscarsSoWhite in the sixties (as he noted, “When you’re grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short”), but it’s not likely that anyone will forget about the issues of inclusion and bias in the coming year. Or will they?

Whatever happens in the Oscar race this year, as Rock noted, it’s quite likely that Leonardo DiCaprio will get another great role in this year, and next year, and the year after that. Jamie Foxx and other black actors aren’t likely to be as lucky.

“We want opportunity,” Rock said. “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors, that’s it.”

It wasn’t a joke, but it came amid an array of jokes that gave no quarter to Rock’s pampered audience. Let’s just hope Rock doesn’t have to say it all again next year.

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  1. Lance says:

    It seems we saw a different monologue from Chris Rock. It came of as unrehearsed, undirected, and unfunny. How many times can you beat a dead horse? Throughout the evening Rock showed us. Aren’t the Academy Awards supposed to be entertaining? Not only weren’t they entertaining, they were downright boring.The WORST Oscars ever, bar none!

  2. Ozky Puduk says:

    “you’re grandmother”?
    Unlike whoever wrote this article, Chris Rock is not illiterate.

  3. Mimi Waters says:

    As a minority, I have learned not to blame every disappointment in my life on racial discrimination. Did I not get the job because of my skin color, or because I wasn’t qualified? Is that unfriendly cashier a racist, or is she just having a bad day? Yes, there were some great performances by Black actors in 2015, but there were also plenty of white actors who were not nominated either. Look it up. It’s always been that way. Btw, with the Black population at 13.2% in the US, I’m not sure what percentage of nominees is considered ‘acceptable’ for future Oscar nominations.Will there be a minimum quota of 13%?
    Hell yes, there is plenty of racism in this country, but why not fight the real battles? I don’t see Jada and Chris Rock protesting the KKK rallies, or hear Al Sharpton raising hell about the Black on Black crime that takes thousands of precious lives each year. To bring this issue to the Oscars is shallow and ridiculous, and makes us look like a bunch of spoiled, self entitled whiners. What about the recent years of Black Oscar winners and nominees? This is the same generation of Academy voters who in the past 10-15 years have chosen best actor nominees Jaimie Foxx, Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard, Forrest Whitaker, Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor. And best actress nominees Gabourey Sidibe, Halle Berry, Viola Davis, Quvenzhane Wallis, and for supporting roles; Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Monique, Lupita Nyong’o ? How could the Academy suddenly become racist in the past two years after nominating all of these and more in the past 12 years or so? I guess you can spin anything to fit your agenda, but for me as a Black woman, to see the Oscar attendees graciously endure Chris Rock’s crass ‘scolding’, shaming, and non funny jokes made me sad and ashamed.

  4. P. Anderson says:

    I don’t know of very many people who watch the Oscars anymore–maybe people did back in the 50’s and 60’s but who stays up that late when most people have to be up for work the next day. I’ve almost never agreed with the choices the Academy makes either. To me it’s yet another awards show so the stuck up snotty celebs can blow sunshine up each others backsides. Awards have never been fair, they’ve never been equal in any sense. I did watch the beginning to catch Chris Rock and he made his point very well. Equal rolls for black actors, equal opportunity for black directors and other movie professionals.

  5. Cecil says:

    The amount of racism in the comments remind me why Trump is having support in US. Numbers of dumbass white people.

  6. JustThinkin says:

    I want to know what everyone means by “Hollywood” when they call Hollywood racist. Does that not include the independent studios that are owned and overseen by the big studios? The same studios that supported black and transgender performers who won indie spirt awards? I’m not sure the preverbal Hollywood is racist or even sorority racist.

  7. Wizzer says:

    Maybe the current black actors just suck just like Chris Rock did. Blacks have had 2 generations to get their shit together and they still have to parade the race card. IT WAS PATHETIC.

  8. I wish someone that is white would have said “I,m WHITE” and why can’t I be proud of my heritage why are we always apolozing for it. We are made ashamed of it. We are all not racists and do not use the poor me I’m white race card

    • zachs says:

      Yea you sure have to apologize it, you held a whole race down because.. You are white.. It doesnt matter how long ago, the demeaning psychological effect on the black man is something nyou can and will never understand. You know why? You are white. You have it easy.

      • Your ancestors who gave up so much for you by what they had to endure would be ashamed of you by not working always using excuses and the like I will not be ashamed of being a white person because my ancestors came from overseas worked hard and made a living the hard way not always excuses

  9. Heather Hollywood says:

    Chris Rock was sickening to tune into – 10 mins of a hateful lecture before we get to the point of the gathering? Fuck this ignorant tantrum throwing twit who lectures women about what HE thinks sexism is – fuck the academy for letting these hateful blacks steal the show which SHOULD have focused on victims of sexual violence, FUCK YOU DEMOCRATS FOR ENCOURAGING THIS HATEFUL SHIT AT EVERY EVENT

    • zachsitodo says:

      Pissed my pants laughing at your dumbass tantrum. Deal with it. Gert used to it. The white man can and will never be Superior to a black. We taking all your shit. We did not steal the show. We simply took it from you dumbasses.way to go rock.you know what set your head on fire maybe you will feel better. Racist

    • loverboy says:

      How do you really feel?

  10. Cole says:

    The worst show ever with the numbers to boot. The Academy has never been fair nor has the industry. This isn’t AYSO where everyone gets a trophy.

  11. Tracy says:

    Chris Rock was no more diverse than the Oscars. He spoke only of blacks and ignored every other minority group.

  12. Wu says:

    How odd! There seemed to be many more black people on camera this year than in previous years. Oh they weren’t there to accept rewards of course!

    That’s Hollywood for you though. Appearance over actual substance.

  13. JW says:

    If the Jada joke didn’t land, it’s only because nukes are more effective as air bursts…

  14. loverboy says:

    they have thier Black Entertainment awards. We need an all white awards show. Fair!!

  15. P. Anderson says:

    Chris Rock had to more or less talk about “the big white elephant in the room” to justify his not boycotting the Oscars. By now we should know that affirmative action doesn’t work–not in the work place and certainly not in pictures. However, I do agree that it’s time to dust out the cob webs of the members of the academy and get some new bodies in there of all races, gender and ages. Hopefully, people would vote for whats good and NOT base awards on skin color because racism is a two way street.

  16. Sharron Hammer says:

    We all can riff on racial inequities. That’s because we don’t have other huge problems like a war or serial murderers in So Cal. If you want to talk inequities, let’s talk about how long it’s taken women to make strides in the workplace . . . we’ve been talking about that since the mid ’70’s and we still don’t make equal pay for equal work. Just sayin’ . . . we all feel there are some things that are not fair!!

  17. colig says:

    where was all the diversity when chris rock brought out only black girl scouts.black hypocrisy as usual.

  18. Jo- Wisch says:

    It’s a shame that we no longer can enjoy shows like tonight’s “Oscars”. In my opinion, Chris Rocks comments & script distracted from the Awards show. The film clips were not funny, Hart’s comments also did not belong.. To carry the “Racist/ Boycott ” situation over into the show itself, was totally offensive. Not as to anyone’s feelings of right or wrong in reference to the problem, this did not matter. It did not belong in the show, the Academy spent millions to produce & honor everyone achievements and as an audience, this is not what we watched. The racist problem, should not have been made part of the show, we watch the awards to see the top list movies & actors, see our favorite actors, the gowns, the excitement! I know I’m not the only one who is sick of the fighting…the drama. There are many important issues to fight & promote, but I don’t expect to turn on my favorite show and have to be force fed today’s problems. There are plenty of show where I can take part in that drama, if I choose! What happened to honest entertainment? Chris’s comment at the end of the show just put it over the line.. We know black lives matter, but it did not belong as part of Acdemy Awards…Fight the fight! Do what you feel is right! But use the right venue…Next year I’ll wait til the Monday news to find out the winners. Academy I think it’s time you re-think your show priorities.. If you want to use the show to fight a cause, advertise it, so we don’t waste our time…

  19. Jan Biasella says:

    I know much of this night’s Oscars were predesigned by what transpired w respect to the “white” oscars. I am a 61 year old white female, & certainly was not oposed to that, but what the hell happened when the larger black, & the much smaller white boy came onto the stage? Where the microphone was placed or where the boy’ mark was on stage was certainly not correct! Chris Rock brought out the boxes for the boys to stand on, & suprisingly didn’t make the correction! Really??? No one could hear what the little white boy was saying! Since the experts in sound know everything that’s happening on that stage, that certainly seemed pretty contrived! Shame on them for allowing that to happen to a child!! If I had done that to any child, my job would have been on the line. I treated everyone equally!! I am a retired music teacher who knew EACTLY where her students were to be standing on stage from kindergarten on, & those people “missed” the mark!
    That whole show was a “make up” scam, & I don’t mean Revlon! That’s not the best way to deal with talent that’s not there this year! Didn’t have any problem with it until they did that to a child. Doesn’t matter to me if he’s purple, it’s a child!!!!! Worst Oscar show ever!!!!!!! How could they do that ?? Don’t EVEN tell me it was a mistake!!!!!! Yes, things should change, but they better change for ALL humanity!!! Instead of fighting amongst ourselves, shouldn’t we trying to unite our country for the betterment of ALL…US Congress included!!!! Just sayin!!

    • Victor says:

      But you’re missing the point The Academy did not honor everyone. All the top list movies were not recognized. Some of the top attended movies were not recognized and minority actors who in fact did perform well were not recognized. Fact is, no one wants to talk about race. We want to pretend all is ok. Sorry it’s not. I’ve seen it all. Things DO have a long way to go before it get’s better. The Academy is definitely a good place to start. We need to talk as a nation. Then again everyone has their own opinion.

    • What the hell is wrong with you? You launch into an apoplectic tirade because you don’t know how to use the volume control on your remote? Sheesh, some people’s kids.

    • Sharron Hammer says:

      Your comments are right on! I couldn’t agree more. Keep politics out of the Academy Awards. I think it all started with Marlon Brando and the American Indian he sent to pick up his award.

  20. IT--2--IT says:

    Decades STALE
    ——————–creatively bankrupt
    ——————————100% INTEL RUN
    ——————————————Hollywood frnachise slum
    ———————————————————–and its 100% INTEL scripted and RUN
    ————————————–conflict creation
    —————————————————————————‘DISS–ant’.
    *
    — — —-BULLLLLEH—- – – –

  21. I think Chris Rock did a good job addressing the issue in a way that was relevant and yet not preaching. I don’t think that the repeated black comments were needed throughout (we’ll be right black) a little over done. Surprised more of the actors didn’t speak out.

    • Luis says:

      Not at the OSCARS – I did shut the TV off and went to Sleep. Pick the right time, pick the right moments to speak up………this guys are very off when it become to shows, glamour, style, and entertaining.
      I bet the many people was dissapointed….Sad…..

  22. BillUSA says:

    Don’t get me wrong. There is racism and sexism in Hollywood (for the purpose of the length of this diatribe, let’s just focus on Hollywood). I’ve responded in the past about the sexism issue by saying that instead of whining about it, the women should do something about it. I just recently read where some powerful female actresses formed a consortium to address such issues.

    I don’t like how the blacks have approached their issue of racism. They come off sounding like they expect a handout when forming a fledgling motion picture industry of their own to compete with the current powers that be would stand as a greater accomplishment. Instead of expecting a sympathy card and an invite to the very ranks they protest, they should themselves birth an industry they can be proud of.

    Now pick that apart all you want, because, as worded, it is ripe for it. But don’t let the simplicity of the statements I’ve made steer you away from the fact that I hear the wailing about sexism and racism. I also support the notion of equality. But I differ on how to accomplish it.

    • Black Community Representative On The Only Two Comments Thus Far says:

      BillUSA, your comment doesn’t offend me (speaking as a black man) but you do leave a lot for narrow-minded people to pick apart – but your honesty is appreciated. However, I disagree wholeheartedly for a lot of reasons I don’t care to get into. The one flaw in this ideal I will point out is until there are more black financing and distribution film companies and heads of studio, building an industry of “all black movies” would be nearly impossible. We can’t rely on Oprah and George Lucas to bring every black filmmakers vision to life. Every now and then, one slips through and breaks box-office records (eh-hmm…Straight Outta Compton) but we’re not talking about a BAFTA or Golden Globe award – we’re talking the OSCARS, a moment to celebrate ALL great film-making. In my opinion, a BET Awards is just as viable as a SAG-AFTRA award, but it’s not a Oscar – ask Leo. But unlike Leo, those awards haven’t afforded the same opportunities as the golden Ptah replica statue for the black community. All we want is recognition for our accomplishments…Very apt to tie it all off is a joke from Chris Rock, “A black man has to fly to a place a white man can walk.” Half of the nominees for Best Actor were just as mediocre as Will Smith or Idris Elba’s performances in their roles but Matt Damon nominated as “Matt Damon on Mars”? C’mon. Good Will Hunting was way doper and so was Michael B. Jordan in Creed…AND for the record, Tom Hardy was the real snub of the tonight – that was a true performance. Best Acting is about being somebody else.

      Jan’s comments frustrate me more. She’s the type of person who doesn’t get that there is real issues happening…and might not ever get it. To agree with the issue of equality but find the ONLY thing wrong with tonight’s ceremony, a simple mistake of a kid not being close enough to a mic – thus warranting the title “WORST OSCARS EVER”? is simply absurd. If you feel like that was “racially” motivated – which it clearly was not, consider that your tiny dose of what black people experience on a day to day – every, and all day basis. Something as simple as if someone doesn’t hold a door or doesn’t speak back – gets ruminate over in my head on if this is racially motivated or not. It’s fuckin’ exhausting..Trust me, as a white person, I’d feel more uncomfortable with all the jokes and addresses about race…if I felt it as a black person, I could only imagine how you felt – unless you only see these as jokes and not a stark reminder of my reality.

      In closing, we’re not mad about not getting any nominations – we’re mad about having to work 5x as hard to get those nominations. There’s a reason we’re batting 80-90 somethin’ percentage of wins. Cause we have to be undeniable to be even be considered.

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