Last year Gold Derby presented Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris with a list of suggested jokes. They were traditional Academy Award jokes – designed to poke fun at the nominees without being malicious. Remember, those people are incredibly nervous at the start of ceremony. The right opening monologue can help to break the tension, and put the nominees at ease. That sets the tone for the rest of the show. But Mr. Harris and his team ignored our gags. And will he ever emcee the Oscars again?
Fortunately, our good pal Chris Rock is hosting this year. Chris, the last time you and I spoke, I told you what a great job you did in 2005. You were hysterical. This year, we know that you can be even better. So here are some complimentary Oscar jokes just for you, courtesy of Gold Derby. Use as many of them as you want. And when you’re asked to host the show next year, you can come right back here for more clever quips. Good luck – we know that you’ll rock it.
1. Good evening and welcome to the 88th annual Academy Awards. Or as it’s known this year – “50 Shades of White.”
2. So…no Best Picture nomination for “Straight Outta Compton?” No wonder. Most of you Academy people come straight out of Bel Air.
3. I had a dream about this year’s Oscars. People of every race, every ethnicity and every nationality were represented. The diversity was out of control. Then I realized that I wasn’t dreaming. I was watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
4. The last time I hosted the Academy Awards was 11 years ago. Cate Blanchett was nominated. Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated. Kate Winslet was nominated. And Sean Penn was pissed off. So everything’s pretty much the same.
5. Actually, things are a little different this year. The only thing inside a lockbox is…Neil Patrick Harris. And he’s being guarded Octavia Spencer and the entire cast of “The Help.”
6. Don’t worry. I hear that Octavia has forgiven Neil for last year. She even baked him one of her special chocolate pies.
7. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is up for 10 Academy Awards. A terrifying old man captures a group of beautiful young women and uses and abuses them. And when they leave him, he wants them destroyed. Based on the novel “Escape from the Playboy Mansion.”
8. Also nominated for Best Picture: “The Big Short.” It stars some of the funniest, most talented and best-looking actors in Hollywood. And Steve Carell.
9. “Spotlight” is competing for six Oscars, including Best Picture. Michael Keaton leads a team of investigative journalists. Their next assignment? To find out what the heck happened at the end of “Birdman.”
10. As usual, the Academy overlooked some of the year’s best comedies. “Spy.” “Trainwreck.” “Grandma.” All I can say is – thank God for “The Martian.”
11. “The Martian” was one of the biggest hits of the year. One man, all alone. Being watched by the entire planet. Everyone expecting him to fail. It’s kind of like hosting the Academy Awards.
12. There’s Leo. Tonight he celebrates his fifth acting nomination. Sixth if you count his Lady Gaga reaction at the Golden Globes. What a performance he gives in “The Revenant.” Savagely beaten. Left for dead. Determined to get revenge. Sounds like what happened after his Oscar campaign for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
13. Leo faces some stiff competition – like Bryan Cranston, the star of “Trumbo.” He plays a screenwriter whom no studio wants to admit to hiring. The working title was “Shyamalan.”
14. And we can’t forget about Eddie Redmayne. Last year he won the Oscar for “The Theory of Everything.” With his work in “The Danish Girl,” he’s suddenly the most sought-after actor in Hollywood. Charlie Sheen won’t stop calling him.
15. Rounding out the Best Actor field is Michael Fassbender. Seriously? They hired him to play Steve Jobs? That’s like doing a “Chris Rock” movie starring Michael B. Jordan.
16. 2015 was a great year for women’s roles. Just ask Alicia Vikander. She played all of them.
17. “Carol” is up for six Oscars. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are two women who fall in love, but can never be together. Kentucky clerk Kim Davis calls it the feel-good movie of the year.
18. It was a big year for Jennifer Lawrence. She finally said goodbye to those sadistic games, the torture, the bloodshed. Then the Academy nominated her again, so she’s here. Sorry Jen. At least the odds aren’t in your favor.
19. Brie Larson is a first-time nominee. In “Room,” she teaches her son that they’re the only ones in the world. That other people don’t exist. That the moon and the stars revolve around him. In other words, she’s your typical show biz mother.
20. There are five great performances in the Best Supporting Actress category. Or as it’s called this year: “Mean Girls.” That’s for you, Rachel McAdams. Don’t let a school bus hit you on the way out.
21. The meanest girl has got to be Jennifer Jason Leigh, nominated for “The Hateful Eight.” Seven suspicious men and one woman spend three hours in a single room trying to kill each other. It’s like watching a GOP primary debate.
22. Security is especially tight this year. So many things to be afraid of. ISIS. Al-Qaeda. Ebola. And worst of all…John Travolta and his face-touching.
23. Just kidding. Travolta is here to present the Best Actress Oscar. Apologies in advance to Saiorse Ronan.
24. To all of those who didn’t get nominated – Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Ridley Scott. Please don’t take it personally. Sometimes the best work of the year just doesn’t make it into the top five. Even if “Top Five” clearly was the best work of the year.
25. Let’s get the show started. Here’s to a night filled with surprises. And to present the first award – please welcome Steve Harvey.
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Photo: This article’s author Tariq Khan with Chris Rock at Paramount’s Christmas party in New York City in 2014..