Comedy has long been a way to tell the truth – or at least what everyone is thinking – with a laugh.
As controversy continues over the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees for the Oscars acting categories, comedians from the "Saturday Night Live" cast and writers to Jimmy Kimmel have weighed in. And many are now wondering what Oscars host Chris Rock will say.
Of course, some celebrities – including rapper 50 Cent – have asked Rock to step down as Oscars host. But he reportedly isn’t going anywhere.
Reginald Hudlin, a producer for the Oscars, recently told Entertainment Tonight that Rock is still planning to host and that he’s preparing some new material about the discussion around the lack of diversity among the acting nominees.
“Chris is hard at work,” Mr. Hudlin said in an interview. “He and his writing staff locked themselves in a room. As things got a little provocative and exciting, he said, 'I'm throwing out the show I wrote and writing a new show.'… You should expect [#OscarsSoWhite jokes]. And, yes, the Academy is ready for him to do that. They're excited about him doing that. They know that's what we need.”
Rock had previously commented on the issue, tweeting soon after the nominations were announced,
While his previous stint as Oscars MC in 2005 was not universally praised (has any Oscar host been?), reviewers noted that Rock took few prisoners with his jokes.
“Host Chris Rock came out swinging Sunday night, unleashing his acerbic wit on anyone and everyone in Hollywood – including himself,” Associated Press staff wrote at the time. “He slung the mud in a way that kept the audience laughing.”
When he took the job for this year's Oscars show, Salon's Anna Silman wrote that he exhibits “edgy, acerbic humor… he’s just himself, no matter what stage he’s on. In fact, his rawness could be exactly what we need to shake the Oscars out of their stupor.”
Unsurprisingly, other comedians have shared their view on the Oscars omissions, including the cast and the writers of “Saturday Night Live,” whose program included a sketch that took place at the “Screen Guild Awards” (held at the Dolby Theatre, no less, which is the real-life home of the Oscars).
In the latest “SNL” sketch, white actors scored nominations after appearing in movies dominated by a more diverse cast. Movie names included the thinly veiled “All the Beasts of Heaven” (presumably based on the real movie “Beasts of No Nation”) and “Shut ‘Em Down” (which bore a resemblance to “Straight Outta Compton”).
“It’s a five-way tie!” the presenter (Cecily Strong) exclaims when she goes to read the winner. “All the white guys!”
Meanwhile, comedian Marlon Wayans recently told People Magazine in an interview:
There needs to be more diversity within the Oscars. I can't blame the Academy so much as I can blame ... everybody holds some accountability. It's the Academy, it's the gatekeepers in Hollywood… We don't get the budgets. We don't get the opportunities to film those big luxurious films that you get 120 days to shoot. We don't have those types of budgets, so some of it is Hollywood… But you have to place the onus on yourself to understand that in Hollywood you don't knock on the door and ask to get in. My brother taught me you kick that door off the hinges and you make your way in… We all step up and start making more movies of that cloth and then the audience, you guys come out and you support these movies. This way we have a shot at doing it.”
And on his show, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel recently had actor Tom Virtue portray the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s public relations director, whom Kimmel quizzed about the controversy.
“Our plan is to make this right,” Virtue said. “Not just in the future – now.”
The program then showed posters of Oscar-nominated films such as “Room” with actors including Queen Latifah and Kevin Hart added.
It seems assured that Rock will address the lack of diversity during his Oscars hosting stint. If he does, he’ll be far from the first host – a job that often goes to comedians – to poke fun at Hollywood.
Last year, when the acting nominees were again all white, then-host Neil Patrick Harris opened the show by saying, “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest.”
Other hosts have sent up the show itself and how important it’s considered to be, including Ellen DeGeneres, who recently hosted a show that was preceded by a red carpet where rainy weather threatened. “It has been raining,” DeGeneres said during the show. “We’re fine. Thank you for your prayers.”
One of host Billy Crystal’s jokes was in a similar vein when he last hosted, with the comedian commenting, “Nothing takes the sting out of these tough economic times like watching a bunch of millionaires giving golden statues to each other.”
And when actress Anne Hathaway and James Franco, star of such comedies as “This Is the End,” hosted, they riffed on the Academy’s ongoing quest to engage younger viewers. When Franco complimented Hathaway’s appearance, she replied, “You look very appealing to a younger demographic as well.”
All eyes will be on Rock when takes the stage on Feb. 28.