Chris Rock was entirely tight-lipped about what he’d say as host of the most controversial Oscars in recent history—and he nailed it. He walked the fine line between poignant observation, rapier wit, fearlessness, and activism. It was one of the most hilarious opening monologues in memory to boot.
From the get-go he dove right into the #OscarsSoWhite minefield by calling the Academy Awards the “white people’s choice awards,” then he noted the number of black faces shown in the opening montage of film clips.
“Man, I counted at least 15 black people in that montage.”
Here are more of his memorable zingers.
“You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t get this job! You’d be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now.”
“Why are we protesting this Oscars? It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this no black nominees thing happened 71 other times. You got to figure that it happened in the 50s, 60s. One of those years, Sidney Poitier didn’t put out a movie. … Black people didn’t protest, because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. When you’re hanging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary short.”
“This year, things are going to be a little different. This year, in the In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies … yes I said it!”
“It’s not about boycotting anything, we want opportunity. We want the black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it. Not just once. Leo gets a great part every year. All you guys get great parts all the time. But what about the black actors. Jamie Foxx is one of the best actors in the world. Jamie Foxx is 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.'”
— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) February 28, 2016
— Chris Rock (@chrisrock) February 29, 2016
Taking a page out of Ellen DeGeneres’s book when she ordered pizza for the audience as host of the 2014 Oscars, Rock’s daughter and friends worked the Dolby Theatre selling Girl Scout cookies. The gag was they wanted to raise more money than the family that beat out the Rocks last year. The $65,243 raised certainly must have done just that.