Chris Rock did a great job tackling the race issue as host of Sunday's Oscar ceremony. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Chris Rock did a great job tackling the race issue as host of Sunday's Oscar ceremony. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Scoop: Chris Rock rocks Oscar ceremony

In a night with a few surprises, it wasn’t surprising Chris Rock rocked the job of hosting the 88th Academy Awards ceremony.

His opening monologue wonderfully blended humor and gravity, bringing the diversity issue — rather, lack of racial diversity of the nominees — to the forefront.

“I counted at least 15 black people in that montage!” he said of the opening film clips.

He called the Oscars the “White People’s Choice Awards,” and said if potential hosts were nominated, “I wouldn’t have this job. You’d all be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now.”

He joked about people who urged him to boycott: “How come it’s only unemployed people that tell you to quit something?” he asked, and also made cracks about no-shows Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will Smith. Maybe it wasn’t fair Smith hadn’t been nominated for best actor for “Concussion,” he said, but it also wasn’t fair that he earned $20 million for “Wild Wild West.”

The comic, who was quiet before the ceremony as controversy raged over the roster of white acting nominees, did joke that he deliberated over joining the Oscars boycott and bowing out as host, but concluded: “The last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.”

He got heavy, too, saying protests at the Oscars didn’t happen in the 1960s, when there were years with no black nominees, because, ”We had real things to protest. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.”

He quipped that this year’s in-memoriam package was “just going to be black people shot by the cops on the way to the movies.”

In related funny bits throughout the show, Angela Bassett offered a “Black History Month Minute” paying tribute to a “black” actor — Jack Black, and in a joke montage, Rock played an astronaut left up on Mars, a la Matt Damon in “The Martian.” But this time, Jeff Daniels and Kristen Wiig at NASA debated bringing him back and decided not to, since it would cost 2,500 “white dollars.”

And hooray for political acceptance speeches: Sam Smith, who won for best song from “Spectre,” dedicated his win to the LGBT community and said, “I stand here tonight as a proud gay man and I hope that we can all stand together as equals one day.”

Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (who won best documentary short for “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” about a survivor of an attempted honor killing in Pakistan) said, “This is what happens when determined women get together” and acknlowedged “all brave men out there … who push women to go to school and work.”

In his moment, Leonardo DiCaprio said, “Climate change is real. … It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity.”

Adam McKay, who won with Charles Randolph for best adapted screenplay for “The Big Short,” thanked Paramount Pictures for taking a risk on a movie about “financial esoterica” and gave an election-year warning to the power of “big money” and “weirdo billionaires” in the presidential campaign.

Talk of election was otherwise largely absent the ceremony, though Vice President Joe Biden was met by a standing ovation before talking about sexual assault on college campuses before introducing best-song nominee Lady Gaga.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Singer Mark Foster of Foster the People is 32. … Rapper Ja Rule is 40. … Actor Antonio Sabato Jr. is 44. … Author Tony Robbins in 56.

— Wire report

Got scoops or Bay Area celebrity gossip? Email scoop@sfexaminer.com.

Adam McKayChris RockdiversityLeonardo DiCaprioOscarsSam SmithSharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

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