Chris Rock Pulls No Punches When It Comes to Race and the Oscars

An opening monologue for the ages.

Chris Rock
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As the host of the Oscars the same year as the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Chris Rock didn't have an easy road ahead of him when it came to navigating the notoriously hard-to-nail opening monologue. But damn if he didn't pull it off. 

"Well, I'm here at the Academy Awards," he started his monologue, and then launched immediately into the jokes: "Otherwise known as the White People's Choice Awards. If they nominated the host, I wouldn't even get this job. You'd be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now."

"Everyone kept telling me, Chris you should boycott, you should quit. But how come it's only unemployed people to tell you to quit something? No one with a job tells you to quit," he continued. "They're gonna have the Oscars anyway, they're not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit—I don't want to lose another job to Kevin Hart."

Then, after some laughs, Rock launched straight into the racist history of award shows, and didn't hold back.

"Why are we protesting? Why *this* Oscars? It's the 88th Academy Awards. Which means, this whole no black nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times. You gotta figure that obviously happened in the 50s, 60s, in the years Sidney [Poitier] didn't put out a movie. I'm sure there was no black nominees that year. Because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about the Best Cinematography. When your grandma is swinging from a tree, it's a bad time to care about The Best Foreign Documentary Short."

Next, he addressed the boycott. 

"Jada went mad, Will went mad—Jada said she's not coming, she on a TV show?" he said. "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties—I wasn't invited! But I understand you're mad. Her man was not nominated for Concussion, I get it. It's not fair he was paid 20 million for Wild Wild West, okay?" 

"This year, this Oscars, things are going to be a little different, in the 'In Memoriam,' black people who were shot by the cops on their way to the movies. Yes, yes, I said it. If you want black nominees, every year, you need to have just black categories. You already do it with men and women," Rock continued. 

"Is Hollywood racist? You know, you gotta go at it the right way. Is it 'burning cross' racist? Is it 'fetch me lemonade' racist? No, it's a different type of racist. They're sorority racist. They're 'We like you Rhonda, but you're not a Kappa.' But things are changing. We gotta black Rocky this year. Yeah some people call it Creed, I call it Black Rocky. Because Rocky takes place in a world where white athletes are as good as black athletes—it's a sci-fi movie."

Then Rock got poignant. And said what you needed to hear. 

"But what I'm trying to say is, you know, it's not about boycotting anything, it's just, we want opportunity. We want the black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That's it. That's it. You know? Just—you know, not just once, you know? Leo gets a great part every year, and all you guys get great parts every time. Jamie Foxx, he's 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, was like we don't need two of these. But everything's not about race. You're not allowed to ask women what they're wearing anymore. Ask Her More, you have to ask her more. You could ask the men more! Everything's not racism, it's not always sexism. They ask the men more because all the guys are wearing the same thing!"

Finally, he introduced the first presenters—with a flourish. "You want diversity, we got diversity. Here's Emily Blunt and someone whiter: Charlize Theron."

Bravo, Chris, for addressing the elephant in the room—even if it did make some people uncomfortable. (Good.) 

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Samantha Leal
Senior Editor

Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.