Oscar Night, Post 1968

12801614_10208940772499832_1078604544273274954_nI hope Chris Rock kills it on Sunday. But no matter what he does, he’ll get criticized for not being hard enough on the Academy or somehow getting the issue wrong because he’s got a wide range of angry people to please. Keep in mind, he’s got the nearly impossible task of answering the Academy’s long history of diversity issues in one monologue. It’s a huge moment in Oscar history – Rock hosting when the Academy’s whiteness finally became unbearable – that alone has to be the biggest ratings hook of the night. It’s probably the most important Oscar night since the 1968 show after Dr. King was killed. I expect viewership to crater after Rock’s opening jokes. It might be the one year they should give out the awards first and put the monologue on last. I hope it’s as good as Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner ridiculing George W. Bush to his face, but Colbert only had to be up there for his piece. Then he got to sit down. Rock’s gotta be there three hours. Think of it this way — Rock gets 15 minutes total to be funny during a three-hour show (at least, that’s what Billy got when I wrote for it). If he’s not hard enough, he’ll get critiqued for letting them off easy. If he attacks the white nominees in front of him too much – making clear that white privilege makes many of them less than legit nominees – or hammers the Academy as outright racists – he’ll most likely lose the audience for the night. That might sound good. But then there’s still 2 hours and 45 minutes to go! When the show lags after hour one, it’ll look to ppl like he’s bombing, like it’s his fault the show is slow or dull. This is one of those moments when they say of pols “It’s the political speech of his life.” I’d say that’s what it is for Rock. No white host would have that weight to carry. And few other black comics. Anyone would have to address it. Billy ripped the Academy voters when we did jokes about THE HELP, but Rock’s one of the smartest guys on race anywhere. The bar has never been higher for anyone hosting this show.

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