Chris Rock Fails to Deliver Ratings
March 2, 2005

I tuned in rather distractedly to this year's epic-long pageantry known as the "Oscars." I say "distractedly" because while the events carried on, I attempted to do many other more important things like file my nails and re-count the specks on my ceiling for accuracy. More than anything however, I also found myself praying that Chris Rock wouldn't completely make a fool of, um, everybody. I've always classified Rock as the "crazy cousin" at the family reunion. He shoots from the hip, oversteps boundaries, and makes everyone feel uncomfortable.

Strangely enough, there are parts of our society that need this. Celebrydom is one of those parts. That is why at the very least, I gave Rock points for pulling celebrities down from the mountaintops of their own vanity.

Chris Rock has the uncanny ability to make you teeter on the line between discomfort and humor. One writer correctly noted it as "offensive charm." That said, by modern standards of "offensiveness," I don't particularly think this to be a good quality in anyone, and it's certainly not appropriate for the Academy Awards. "Offensive charmers" would be much more useful to society if they could clean up their offensiveness.

Offending people isn't always bad. The simple name of "Jesus" offends to this very day. In fact, if you're not offending someone, you're probably playing it too safe. On many levels, I understand the emotional location from which Rock's humor comes. It's a valid location, but I believe it's the delivery that kills Mr. Rock.

While Chris Rock may be a talented comic material-wise, the language in his stand-up routine has always bothered me. See, I am one of those Americans who has bought-in to the lofty notion that the English language has far more to offer than some simple-minded four-letter words. So when I found out some weeks ago that Chris Rock would be hosting this year's Academy Awards ceremony, I was certain the "Academy" was suicidal.

Except for a few jabs at the President (a safe bet in a room with Tim Robbins and hundreds of DNC supporters) and some tasteless racial humor (yes, it does exist), Rock managed not to be "bleeped" (from what I saw), and maintained some level of decorum. Although I maintain the standard of "decorum" is entirely relative when it comes to Chris Rock.

Still, for all the hubbub surrounding Rock's appointment, this year's televised ceremony failed to deliver the ratings for which executives had hoped. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Oscar organizers wanted higher ratings, and all they could get was Chris Rock? Maybe they should have just … waited.

At his much-anticipated debut hosting Hollywood's biggest night, Rock didn't utter any naughty words — as some had feared he might — but he didn't boost ratings, either.

Average viewership of the 77th Academy Awards telecast on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC slipped 5% to 41.5 million viewers compared with last year's show, according to preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research. Save for 2003's telecast — when the outbreak of the Iraq war depressed ratings to 33 million viewers — Sunday's was the least-watched Oscars since 1997.

The Drudge Report, however claims the opposite. Whatever. It all boils down to one thing: the Oscars are boring. By the time they show is over, you feel like you just wasted five and half hours of your life. And guess what? You did. There's a reason why comedians have always hosted the event. Laughing, is the only way to make it through the epic saga.

I've always felt that comedians bring a very necessary element to society: they make us laugh at ourselves. Not only that, they can generally get away with saying the average politically incorrect thing that half of us have already thought anyway. They can say things like "Award ceremonies are only for gay men." Don't you dare say you never thought it.

But I think there's a balance that's missing. What continues to bother me about comedians like Rock is that instead of falling back on their talent and insights from life (read: Bill Cosby, Johnny Carson), they resort to the raunchy, profanity-laced, brand of comedy that's so popular today.

This is why I reject the modern notion of "offensive." Today, offensive=crude. The reality is, offensive needs to equal truth.

Ultimately, as a host, Rock didn't break any rules or exhibit any behavior that wasn't expected of him. But in the grand scheme of things, what bothers me is that in fact, we don't expect more.

Posted by Ambra at March 2, 2005 3:43 AM in Pop Culture
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He lost me from the "a" word in the first sentence out of his mouth. The bit with the interviews of Magic Johnson Theatre-goers wasn't humorous, and proved nothing.

What continues to bother me about comedians like Rock is that instead of falling back on their talent and insights from life (read: Bill Cosby, Johnny Carson), they resort to the raunchy, profanity-laced, brand of comedy that's so popular today.

Speaking of this, why haven't they asked someone like Jerry Seinfeld to host? He is a clean comic who basically uses his talent and insights, much like a Jewish Cosby.

I want to congratulate Jaimie Foxx and Morgan Freeman for getting the gold, naked-man, statute! Morgan Freeman has been my man since the days of Electric Company! I must add that Jaimie Foxx did his thang in Ray, but I was pulling for Don Cheadle-his talent is overlooked! (excluding the Oscar nomination) Chris Rock did an excellent job bringing some life to this long, boring, stuffy, and ancient awards show. Although the piece at the Magic Johnson Theatre was a bit much and Martin Lawrence being included in it was totally unnecessary. Halle seemed a little miffed when he introduced her as starring in ?the much anticipated Catwoman 2?-I could be wrong, but it was still funny! Chris experienced a little hateration from Sean Penn (who apparently did not get the memo that a comedian would be hosting the show), but Mr. Rock handled it with class. Note to Sean: Do something with that hair before you come on stage and try to throw salt on someone?s bit.

Yes, but was he funny, Ambra? For me, what B said ('cept, of course, i don't mind the a-word).

When he praised Michael Moore I turned him off.

"By the time they show is over, you feel like you just wasted five and half hours of your life. And guess what? You did."

Ain't that the truth!

Kristen

I agree with your post. Especially the last part about 'we' as people not actually expecting more. i think Chris Rock is a good comic, in the sense of the word. I do admit I enjoyed his latest DVD Never Scared, because he brings out some great points, from the first on drugs, to rap songs, I do think sometimes his delivery is not the best, but to each his own. My whole look at the Oscars'...i'm glad Jamie and Morgan won.

While I don't care for Chris Rock's approach, I didn't watch simply 'cause I never do. By the way I do agree with one thing he said that seemed to anger a lot of people: I don't know any straight men that have ever watched the Oscars of their own volition.

Mark:

Been hetero all my life, and have watched the Oscars since Brando spurned his. Don't see where film fandom is a ladies' (or gay) thing, what with "Midnight Cowboy", "True Grit", "Patton", M*A*S*H" and "The Godfather" being in the running when I was a kid (and "Rocky", "Raging Bull" and "The Deer Hunter" when I was older).

???

No claims made as to anyone's sexuality, but that still doesn't change my situation: I don't know any straight males who go out of their way to watch. I'm not saying there aren't any.

As far as why I don't watch, I've just never really cared who won because it isn't a real gauge of what the "people" think, only what the peers of the winners think, and I'm always more interested in those polls that reflect more of a public view.

It doesn't matter to me if actor/actress "X" won twelve Oscars in a row. If I don't enjoy their work, I ain't payin' the $9 to go see them.

What does, "go out of their way to watch" mean? Run across a 6-lane highway? Sure, prolly most (straight) guys don't go on about the Oscars as they might the Superbowl, but you can't tell me that the next day you couldn't find one guy in your workplace who could say, "yes" in response to, "did you see Rock last night?"

C'mon, buddy. Really.

Here's a quote from the first time I said it which I thought was pretty clear:

"I don't know any straight men that have ever watched the Oscars of their own volition."

Since you don't know who I know, you can't call me wrong. I clearly stated OF THEIR OWN VOLITION. Plenty watched with girlriends/wives, some somewhere watched on their own but I DON'T KNOW THEM.

I didn't ask anybody in my office about the Oscars because (as I already stated) I don't much care. Nobody else brought it up so I don't have a clue who watched, but in the 5 years I've been here None of the single guys has ever (to my recollection) brought up the Oscars unless something big happened and made news.

Some of the married guys have talked about it but most of the time they'd have preferred to watch something else.

I had no idea that this was so important!

By "going out of their way" I mean setting aside time and/or effort specifically for a specific event.

"I go out of my way to watch PBR on Sunday nights when I'm home."

Wow. I wish some of you fellow Rock detractors were on my comment thread when folks were jumping all over me. My post was a bit more edgy, I confess. ;) I may have used the word "Negro," too.

Mebbe in your neck of the woods making a statement like that doesn't raise eyebrows. But out here, the world where Chris Rock lives, there are any number of people who might take offense to the implications in that 'innocent' comment -- and they'll call you on it.

You're being disingenuous. There are things your average straight male will straight up admit to (like passing wind among his buddies) and things he will not (like "pleasuring" himself). Just because he doesn't admit to it publicly, doesn't mean he doesn't do it at all. I think you know what I mean.

Hardly anybody gets all giddy about a show the night before anyway (Superbowls, 7th games, Sopranos and reality show finales excepted). You hear about it the next day though.

You even said it yourself that if something controversial happened at the Oscars, the guys invariably saw it, even though they hadn't announced intent the night before. If you've never discussed it with them, how do you know they wouldn't have watched some (if not all) of it anyway? Pre-event office buzz is just not a reasonable gauge.

They may not have wrestled wives/girlfriends for the remotes, but I'll bet hardly any of them (if even a one) kicked up a fuss about it either.

p.s. LaShawn, quit poachin Ambra's commenters, will ya ;-)

unfortunately, comics are cursing go together...i don't curse but i am surrounded by people that do, from co-workers to the man on the street...as a survival technique, i translate...i treat profanity as a foreign language...so when someone uses an expletive, i simply go past it to what they REALLY are trying to say...i will say this: if folk in general rebelled against all of the profanity, comics would clean up their act...they KNOW that people are lazy, so they use cursing as a cheap way to get a laugh...the FUNNIEST man i have ever met is Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago...the man will have you in stitches, all while keeping it squeaky clean...as for the Oscars themselves, i did tune it because i wanted to see Jamie Foxx win and to see what Chris Rock would do with that (rumored) 7-second delay...he was funny enough i guess, but i have always thought of Chris Rock as more of an AGITATOR than a comedian...he makes you think...ask Sean Penn...

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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