When David Letterman asked Chris Rock in 2005 if his guest would consider hosting the Oscars for a second time, Rock answered: “If there’s a lot of black people on it, yeah, I would do the show again.” That’s not the way it worked out, of course, and as a result – perhaps more so than ever before – the Oscars will open with the most entertaining portion of the show: the host’s monologue.
Vanessa Ramos, one of Rock’s gag writers for the 2016 Academy Awards, recently told the San Antonio Express-News that when the whole #OscarsSoWhite controversy first erupted in January, she and the dozen-plus other enlisted writers were asked to write jokes about diversity and send them along to Rock. Meanwhile, The Observer contributor Andy Wang was lucky enough to be in the audience last Thursday for a Judd Apatow event at L.A.’s Largo at the Coronet, during which Rock tried out some Oscar show material and got pointers from current dean of Hollywood comedy Apatow. To Wang’s great credit, he avoids even minor spoilers, dropping only tantalizing hints.
Ahead of the Academy Awards broadcast Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET, here are a few previous jokes uttered by Rock about the movie business, to get you in the pacing-back-in-forth mood. We’ve specifically chosen one-liners that could just as easily be spoken again Feb. 28:
1) “Here’s a rule about all civil rights movies… If you make a civil rights movie and white people like it, it’s not a good movie. OK? You don’t see Germans coming out of Holocaust movies, going, ‘That was great!’”
2) “Denzel Washington has a responsibility to his people that Tom Cruise and Liam Neeson and all these guys, they don’t have. They just make their art. No one goes, to Tom Cruise, ‘Stay white! Don’t forget your whiteness! Come back and visit white people. What you doing for white people, Tom Cruise?!’
4) “Tom Hanks does a bad movie, there’s going to be another good movie by somebody white, next week. When Denzel does a bad movie, I might not see a good black movie for a year.”
5) “You make a lot of movies for money. You make movies to get hot, and make more money. And you do other movies to get even more money. I made this movie just for black people.”
Speaking of top five’s, this time last year, Rock was campaigning for Oscar votes for his comedy Top Five. At the Variety Creative Impact Awards in Palm Springs in early January, here’s how he framed the lead-up to that equally #OscarsSoWhite event: “February 22nd is my mother’s 70th birthday. Now, if I’m nominated, I will take her to the Oscars. If not, I will take her to Fatburger. We don’t need another black woman at Fatburger. Please, vote for me!”
Source of quoted remarks: 1) 2014 BET Awards; 2) Charlie Rose, Dec. 11, 2014; 3) 1999 Oscars; 4) Charlie Rose, again; 5) 2010 NAACP Image Awards.
[Photos of billboard at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, and of Rock and Will Smith at 1997 MTV Music Video Awards, courtesy: @HandHcenter, @Historia_fotos]