The comic addressed the #OscarSoWhite controversy head on, taking dig after dig at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Hollywood’s diversity crisis in his monologue.
“Well, I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” he said.
Rock then surprisingly slammed Jada Pinkett Smith‘s decision to boycott the Oscars.
“Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited,” he said, leaving the room in stitches.
Rock also revealed that he was pressured to drop out of the show by those around him and “thought about quitting” before ultimately deciding that he would be able to wield greater influence as host.
He also wondered aloud why the industry decided to boycott this year’s Academy Awards when African-Americans have been under-represented “at least 71 other times.” However, they had real things to protest in the 1950s and 60s.
“We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. When your grandmother is swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short,” he said.
His message then turned political, focusing on the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
“This year, the In Memoriam package is just going to be black people who were shot by cops on their way to the movies,” he added.
Rock ended the monologue on a slightly hopeful note.
“Things are changing. We got a black Rocky this year. Some people call it ‘Creed,’ I call it black Rocky,” he said.
The comic said black actors should simply be allotted the same opportunities as white actors.
“It’s not about boycotting anything. We just want opportunities. Black actors want the same opportunities. That’s it. Not just once. Leo [DiCaprio] gets a great part every year. But what about the black actors? Look at Jamie Foxx. Jamie Foxx was so good in ‘Ray’ that they went to the hospital and unplugged the real Ray Charles. They’re like, ‘We don’t need two of these.'”
The Academy nominated only white men and women for the second year in a row in the 20 acting categories, leading several A-listers, including Will Smith, Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee, to sit out the ceremony in protest.
Rock wasted no time in cracking a joke about the issue, tweeting “The #Oscars. The White BET Awards” on Jan. 15 — the day after nominations were announced.
“See you Sunday… #blackout #oscars,” he wrote in a cryptic tweet on Thursday night.
Rock also stressed how out of touch the Oscars are with African-American audiences during his first Academy Awards hosting gig in 2005.
The Academy took historic action last month to promote Oscar diversity, overhauling membership and voting rules in order to double its number of women and diverse members within the next five years.