After weeks of being asked to not host the Oscars, Chris Rock is standing firm. He'll be at the helm of Sunday's 88th Annual Academy Awards, facing the #OscarsSoWhite controversy head-on. But how exactly will he do it?
Reportedly, the comedian threw out his monologue after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members produced yet another crop of all-white nominees. Presumably, he'll be taking the bull by the horns — but how exactly he'll do it remains to be seen. Here are a few ideas.
He could turn the entire thing into jokes.
Certainly, he'll tell jokes no matter what. But Rock could really lean into the comedy to try and deflate the tension in the room a bit. He could focus the harshest jokes on broader Hollywood or non-nominated films, while keeping his jokes about the actual nominees and the academy itself relatively tame.
This is probably the smartest play from a public relations perspective for the Oscars, if not for Rock: They'll get the credit for being self-aware, while he'll probably get knocked for not being harder on the academy for its failings.
He could grill hard in the monologue, but then let it go.
Rock's last monologue — when he hosted a decade ago — was pretty pointed in comparison to more genteel hosts. One joke about Jude Law earned him a rebuke from Sean Penn later in the show. Still, this is probably the closest blueprint to what he'll do this year: perform a strong monologue, and leave it there.
He could go after the academy all night long.
But what if he just never lets the audience in the room off the hook? What if he makes the sharpest possible joke every time he comes onstage? This would make for brutal viewing, but would make the point #OscarsSoWhite critics want him to make: Don't invite people of color to perform and host but exclude them from the actual awards.
He could sneak in just one joke — while making it sting.
Two years ago, when 12 Years a Slave was nominated for best picture, Ellen DeGeneres delivered a pretty sharp monologue — a noted change from her previous hosting gig. Yet all the barbs were just target practice before she unleashed the last. 12 Years a Slave could win, she noted, or "Possibility two: you're all racists."
It was a remarkably strong warning to the academy from a comedian significantly nicer (see: her syndicated talk show) than Rock. One well-placed jab from Rock could be even more potent.
He could avoid referencing it at all.
There's a 99% chance this isn't going to happen. Rock would (rightly) get eviscerated for it by not just critics, but fans looking for him to show up and hold the academy accountable. But if the academy suddenly decides to restrict what he says, and Rock finds himself silenced, not all the diversity initiatives in the world could stop the impending backlash against the Oscars.