After Janelle Monae opened the show with an elaborate musical number, two former Oscars hosts—Chris Rock and Steve Martin—came out on stage to tell some much-needed jokes. “While we were backstage watching it, Steve says to me, J. Lo’s killing it two weeks in a row!” Rock began.
Martin noted that while both men have hosted the Oscars before, “they don’t really have hosts anymore,” asking, “Why is that?”
“Twitter!” Rock replied. “Everybody’s got an embarrassing tweet somewhere. I know I do.” (A reference to Kevin Hart being fired as Oscars host over many homophobic tweets.)
Martin went on to assure that there wouldn’t be any “big disasters” like the Moonlight/La La Land debacle from a couple of years ago, “because the Academy has switched to the new Iowa Caucus app!”
And Rock roasted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for being the richest man in a very rich room. “He’s got cash. When he writes a check, the bank bounces!” he joked. “Jeff is so rich, he got divorced and he’s still the richest man in the world. He saw Marriage Story and thought it was a comedy.”
But as could have been expected, the sharpest jokes of the opening bit came at the expense of the Academy’s continued lack of diversity. This year, 19 out of the 20 acting nominees are white and all five director nominees are male.
“There’s so many great directors nominated this year,” Rock said, to which Martin replied, “I don’t know, Chris, I thought there was something missing from the list this year.”
“Vaginas?” Rock asked to loud applause from the audience. He then honored Cynthia Erivo, the one and only black actor nominated this year by saying, “Cynthia did such a great job in Harriet hiding black people that the Academy got her to hide all the black nominees. Cynthia, is Eddie Murphy under this stage?”
“Well, you know, Chris, think how much the Oscars have changed in the past 92 years,” Martin said. “Back in 1929, there were no black acting nominees.”
“Now, in 2020, we got one!” Rock said. And with that, the night’s non-hosts got the show on the road.
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