I'm here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People's Choice Awards," says Chris Rock, and you don't know whether to laugh or get nervous and change the channel, especially if you happen to be the aforementioned white people.
But frankly, I think the controversy that tore up the Academy Awards this year is the best thing to ever happen to the mess.
Imagine, something real to talk about, beside who wore what designer's off-kilter plunging cleavage gown this year.
"OscarsSoWhite." Racism is at least something we can relate to in the real world far removed from the pretentious glitz of the Hollywood red carpet.
Rock took a lot of heat for his comments, but why?
A comic isn't a candidate, a professor or a preacher, it's not important if you agree with what he or she says or not. Comedy at its best makes you think, and I found myself thinking about racism in entertainment days after the show, so job done.
Some of the great comedy minds have always pointed out things in life that we would rather ignore. They've not only made us laugh, they've made us uncomfortable. They've made us squirm. Think Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Sam Kinison, Jon Stewart, Dave Chappelle - even Charlie Chaplin's "The Little Dictator."
Who said comedy had to be sweet, or politically correct?
And, what better way to deal with racism than to laugh in its face.
"Is Hollywood racist? You're damn right it's racist! Hollywood is sorority racist - We like you Rhonda, but you're not a Kappa!" Rock said.
And sometimes, it is not a laughing matter at all.
"This year in the In Memoriam package, it is going to feature black people who were shot by the cops on the way to the movies!"
That's pretty real stuff for an Oscars opening. Agree or otherside, I doubt if we would be talking about a cute dance number cold opening with Neil Patrick Harris and Channing Tatum right now.
Are the Oscars really racist? Depends on your viewpoint, I suppose. I counted 61 Academy Awards given to black actors and actresses in lead or supporting role categories over the years, but how that compares to the ratio of roles by ethnicity is beyond me. If I was good at math I wouldn't be in this business.
There were no black nominees this year. After this crap storm, there will be next. Maybe that's the idea - solidarity. A baseball manager bitterly complains to the ump that his team isn't getting any calls, in hopes the one next inning will have to go their way.
Looking at the films and roles that were nominated (and there were actually movies real people SAW this year, not just quirky highbrow art films shown only in some socialite's basement in San Francisco or Manhattan), it would be hard to argue that they are unworthy. Is anyone really going to say that Leo DiCaprio shouldn't have an Oscar on his mantle?
Could black actors have been nominated? Will Smith had a showcase role in "Concussion," but it didn't do all that well with critics or the general public. Samuel L. Jackson killed it in "The Hateful Eight" but gratuitous violence typically won't move the Academy. Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson from "Creed," Zoe Kravitz of "Mad Max: Fury Road" or Idris Elba in "Beasts of No Nation" would have been solid choices, among others. Not one would have been a shock if they had been nominated.
Still, if you don't think there's enough diversity in entertainment, blaming an award show is like blaming a doctor because you have an STD.
What you would want to ask is why there are not more black people, or hispanic people, or Asian people, or Jewish people, or gay people, or disabled people, or whatever you happen to be looking for (where are the Norwegian nominees??) in acting?
Whey aren't a diverse crop of young actors representing all of America going into the field, or succeeding in it? Where are the great roles being written for them? It's not a question of where are the black awards, it's a question of where are the black screenwriters and producers? "Straight Out of Compton," a movie about urban black rap pioneers, was written by two white guys.
It doesn't matter so much if the Oscars are #OscarsSoWhite. In fact, awards don't matter that much.
What matters are stories. Great damn stories that make you laugh, cry, fear, celebrate, dream, and perhaps even nearly wet yourself in your seat.
Be they in novels, songs, paintings and sculptures, film and stage, whatever form artistic expression may take.
"What I'm trying to say is, you know, it's not about boycotting anything. It's just, we want opportunity," Chris Rock said.
And that's it, isn't it? Black Stories Matter. But not just.
Opportunity should be only limited by talent and effort.
In a world of dumbed-down scripts, profanity, gore, recycled sequels, 3D and computer-generation gadgetry, we need storytellers, originality, risk. The skin color isn't the critical factor, the opportunity is.