Chris Rock questions Hollywood in opening monologue

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LOS ANGELES – Everyone knew it was coming. And sure enough, Academy Awards host Chris Rock didn’t waste any time.

“This is the wildest, craziest Oscars to ever host because there are no black nominees,” he said at the start of his monologue Sunday night, in reference to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. “People are like, ‘Chris, you should boycott. Chris, you should quit.’

“I thought about quitting. I thought about it real hard. But they’re not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit. And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.”

Then Rock got a bit more serious. “Everyone wants to know: Is Hollywood racist? Is it burning-cross racist? No. It’s a different kind of racist.

“You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. Hollywood is sorority racist,” Rock joked, explaining how white industry power players politely exclude minorities from their projects. “But things are changing. We got a black Rocky this year. Some people call it ‘Creed.’ I call it ‘Black Rocky.’

“It’s not about boycotting. We want opportunities. We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it.”

Rock had been widely expected to speak out on the subject, or at least crack jokes about it, after no minorities were nominated in any of the four acting categories for the second consecutive year. Critically acclaimed black Oscar hopefuls such as “Beasts of No Nation’s” Idris Elba, “Concussion” star Will Smith, “Creed” star Michael B. Jordan and the cast of N.W.A biopic “Straight Outta Compton” all were ignored. Several prominent black celebrities, including actress Jada Pinkett Smith and filmmaker Spike Lee, announced plans to boycott the show.

Although Rock had remained quiet on the issue in the weeks leading up to the show, Oscars producer Reginald Hudlin said last month that the host was rewriting his opening monologue to call out the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes on the Oscars.

The academy clearly aimed for diversity in its choice of presenters and performers, about one-third of whom are people of color.

At least one Oscar presenter addressed the controversy Sunday before the ceremony even started. Actor-comedian Hart joked on Twitter that academy voters are “Straight Out of Touch.”