Oscars host Chris Rock faces tricky balancing act of humor and diversity

Wed Feb 24, 2016 9:16am EST
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By Jill Serjeant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hosting the Oscars is seen as the ultimate honor in show business but no one has a trickier task of balancing humor, diversity politics and celebrating movies on Sunday than Chris Rock.

Rock, a black stand-up comedian and former "Saturday Night Live" cast member, was chosen to host Sunday's Academy Awards for a second time last October - long before the #OscarsSoWhite furor that has overshadowed the biggest annual celebration of the movie industry. He first hosted the awards in 2005.

Most award watchers agree he's turned out to be the perfect choice.

"He's really good at skewering show business and at skewering race relations in this country," said Variety's Tim Gray. "I think Chris Rock will address the diversity issue head on, which is exactly what the show and the Academy need."

Rock, 51, has kept silent during the uproar over the 20 all-white actors nominated this year.

He declined to join the fray, even after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose 6,200 members vote on the Oscars, announced it would double the number of minorities and women in its ranks in the next four years.

"It's a good idea for him to keep a tight lip and say what he's going to say when he has that big platform of the Oscars stage," said Daniel Montgomery, senior editor of awards website Goldderby.com.

The Academy has drawn on talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and actor Neil Patrick Harris in the past two years for hosting duties, but this year, having Rock return to the helm gives the Academy a chance to look good in front of a TV audience of some 40 million in America and millions more worldwide.   Continued...

Actor Chris Rock arrives for the National Board of Review gala in the Manhattan borough of New York January 6, 2015.    REUTERS/Carlo Allegri