Chris Rock hosts the 88th Academy Awards ceremony at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 28, 2016. (Patrick T. Fallon/The New York Times)

Chris Rock hosts the 88th Academy Awards ceremony at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 28, 2016. (Patrick T. Fallon/The New York Times)

PATRICK T FALLON/NYT

Chris Rock, clad in a white tuxedo, kicked off the 88th Academy Awards -- "the White People's Choice Awards," he called them -- in a rip-roaring opening monologue that confronted head-on the uproar over the lack of diversity of this year's nominees.

"Is Hollywood racist? You're damn right it's racist," said Rock, who then took a measurement of the problem. "Hollywood is sorority racist. It's like: We like you Wanda, but you're not a Kappa."

Rock immediately launched into the topic Sunday. "If they nominated a host, I wouldn't even get this job," he said.

In a racially controversial Oscars year, the show played it safe

Rock had stayed quiet before the ceremony as the diversity controversy raged over the second straight year of all-white acting nominees, leaving Hollywood and viewers eagerly waiting his one-liners. Rock, drawing largely hearty laughs at the Dolby Theatre, didn't disappoint.

Aside from pleading for more opportunity for black actors, Rock also sought to add perspective to the turmoil, which included a protest outside the Dolby on Sunday led by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Rock said this year didn't differ much from Oscar history, but black people in earlier decades were "too busy being raped and lynched to worry about who won best cinematographer."

By Jake Coyle, AP Film Writer

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