Producers of the upcoming Academy Awards are getting what they paid for when they hired sharp-tongued comic Chris Rock to host the Oscars — a bit of pre-show controversy that could boost TV ratings.
Recently published remarks by Rock poking fun at the awards sparked talk in Hollywood that the Oscar host-in-waiting was living up to the title of his celebrated 1996 HBO special “Bring the Pain.”
Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge posted an item on his Web site over the weekend quoting unnamed members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expressing outrage at some Oscar-bashing comments by Rock in an Entertainment Weekly interview. Rock said he had rarely watched the Oscars, and called award shows “idiotic.”
“Come on, it’s a fashion show,” Rock told the magazine. “What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one. And they don’t recognize comedy, and you don’t see a lot of black people nominated, so why should I watch it?”
Drudge, whose item ran under the headline, “Host Chris Rock Shock: Only Gays Watch Oscars,” cited unnamed sources as saying angry academy members were privately calling for Rock to be removed as host.
But Oscar producer Gil Cates issued a statement Monday saying he and the academy stand behind Rock, and denying that anyone at the academy had taken offense.
“The Academy is excited about Chris Rock hosting this year’s Oscar telecast and looking forward to a very funny evening with him,” Cates said. “Chris’s comments over the past few weeks are meant to be humorous digs at the show that some people, obviously including Chris himself, think may be a bit too stuffy.”
Likewise, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a statement in defense of Rock. “Chris Rock isn’t making fun of gays — he’s poking fun at the Oscars,” GLAAD executive director Joan Garry said. “It’s shtick ...”
Oscar organizers picked Rock as host in part because of his provocative brand of humor. Industry observers have said his selection made sense in light of efforts by the ABC network to draw more interest in the show, especially from younger viewers.
ABC, a unit of the Walt Disney Co., plans to broadcast the 77th Academy Awards on Feb. 27, with a time delay of several seconds.