The funniest moment at last night’s Oscars was entirely missed by 99% of the audience.
Trevor Noah, host of the Daily Show, introduced best picture candidate Black Panther by absurdly pretending to have known the movie’s lead character T’Challa.
‘Growing up as a young boy in Wakanda,’ he said, ‘I would see T’Challa flying over our village and he would remind me of a great Xhosa phrase ‘abelungi abazi uba ndiyaxoka’ which means ‘in times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.’
The funniest moment at last night’s not very funny Oscars was entirely missed by 99% of the audience, when Trevor Noah pretended to say a phrase in the Bantu language Xhosa
The star-studded crowd roared their approval.
Some punched the air.
A few wiped away imaginary tears.
Others hugged each other.
This was exactly the kind of stirring, unifying, inclusive message everyone had been directed to crave at the most politically correct Academy Awards in history.
But viewers in South Africa reacted rather differently.
Because what Noah actually said in Xhosa – the Bantu language related to Zulu – was this: ‘White people don’t know I’m lying.’
I burst out laughing when I found out about this, hours after the event.
Which was truly ironic because I barely laughed once during the actual 3-hour ceremony.
Noah’s very clever subliminal prank so perfectly epitomised what Hollywood has become – a place so terrified of laughing, at anything or anyone, that it’s incarcerated itself inside a dour tomb of virtue-signalling ‘wokeness’.
Had he said what those Xhosa words really meant, the same crowd cheering him would have crunched their faces (Botox permitting…) into stony disapproving silence.
None of them would have wanted to be seen laughing at a joke that sounds even potentially racist.
We know this because that’s exactly what happened when Noah DID tell a risqué race-tinged gag about Mel Gibson, notorious for unleashing a disgusting N-word tirade against his former girlfriend.
Joking about how everyone says ‘Wakanda Forever’ to him, as a homage to the Black Panther salute, Noah quipped: ‘Even backstage Mel Gibson came up to me like “Wakanda Forever”. He said another word after that but the Wakanda was nice.’
The cameras cut to three professional comediennes, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler, all of whom looked like Noah had just said he’d killed all their pets.
When the camera cut to Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler in the audience after Noah made an off-color Mel Gibson job, none of them even smiled (they are show backstage earlier here)
None of them was even cracking a half-smile, let alone laughing.
They couldn’t be seen to find it funny lest someone somewhere might be offended.
What the hell has happened to Hollywood?
It used to be a town where inappropriate jokes were not just encouraged they were mandatory.
Bob Hope and Billy Crystal, who hosted the Oscars 27 times between them, littered their performances with near-the-knuckle jokes.
But that brand of humour all came to a crashing halt after Seth MacFarlane’s hosting performance in 2013.
The Family Guy creator was savaged for singing a song entitled ‘We saw your boobs’ about actresses who’d gone topless in films, and for a series of other non-PC jokes about race, sexism, Jews, domestic violence and the Lincoln assassination.
It was all very sharp and funny, as befits a comedy genius, but MacFarlane’s mistake was to host an awards show in an era and town that no longer tolerates sharp and funny jokes.
Since the faux-outrage that exploded, the Oscars has become ever more humourless, fuelled by the frenzied career wrecking trial-by-Twitter culture that has targeted anyone trying to be funny about anything.
This dreadful trend culminated in the recent and utterly inevitable Kevin Hart debacle in which a man who would have been a perfect and hilarious Oscars host was forced to step down because of controversial tweets he posted years ago and for which he had subsequently expressed regret.
The Academy reacted by announcing that this year’s Oscars would have no host at all, presumably because nobody can reach the clean, moral, ethical, inoffensive joke bar that has now been established, short of Mother Teresa being brought back to life.
And so I watched last night’s with a heavy, grim heart.
I didn’t hate it.
In fact, I thought some of it was great – notably, Olivia Colman’s gloriously ebullient Best Actress speech, Rami Malek’s equally endearing response to winning Best Actor for his superb portrayal of Freddie Mercury, Spike Lee behaving in the same lunatic way he does courtside at New York Knicks games, and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s suspiciously sizzlingly intimate performance of Shallow.
Some of the show was great – notably, Olivia Colman’s gloriously ebullient Best Actress speech, Rami Malek’s equally endearing response to winning Best Actor
I loved Spike Lee behaving in the same lunatic way he does at New York Knicks games
But what it didn’t do was make me laugh.
Instead, it dripped with insufferable identity politics, Trump-bashing, and a series of box ticking awards that smacked of Hollywood trying to make itself look as worthy and virtuous as possible.
‘I can’t believe a film about menstruation won an Oscar’ wept director Rayka Zehtabchi for her (powerful) film Period. End of Sentence.
I’ve have been more shocked if it hadn’t.
After all, the main winners last night were a film about a gay immigrant rock star, a film about a black superhero with an almost entirely black cast, a film about racial injustice in segregated U.S. South in the 1960s, a film about a black detective who goes undercover with the Ku Klux Klan – and Roma, a beautifully made but almost unwatchably dull, depressing and painfully slow black-and-white film about a Mexican maid, in Spanish with subtitles.
I’m not disputing the individual merits of any of the winners, but it’s hard not to avoid the conclusion that Hollywood – whose Academy voters are predominantly old white guys – is now doing everything in its power to avoid more of the‘White Oscars’ backlashes of recent years.
Even the red carpet morphed into a ‘woke’ farce as Pose star Billy Porter turned up in a tuxedo-skirt, presumably to make himself the new poster person for gender fluidity.
‘OMG! He’s magnificent!’ screamed Twitter.
The red carpet morphed into a ‘woke’ farce as Pose star Billy Porter turned up in a tuxedo-skirt, presumably to make himself the new poster person for gender fluidity.
‘OMG! He’s ridiculous!’ I screamed back.
In the end, the only real amusement came from watching people I’d never heard of, and frankly was quite happy never to have heard of, making fools of themselves on stage during the seemingly endless tedious production categories.
The hapless trio from Vice who won the make-up and hair award made collectively the worst speech in Oscars history – a bumbling, stumbling, jabbering, linguistic fiasco that became the perfect evidential argument for sliding these kind of awards into commercial breaks, as was intended this year until a massive furore from ‘the industry’ forced the producers to do a U-turn.
But at least they were riveting, for all the wrong reasons.
When Green Book won Best Screenplay, one of the writers (and the movie’s director) Peter Farrelly pulled out a sheet of paper and began dementedly reciting the names of what seemed like every single human being he’d ever met.
I counted at least 40 people on his turgid list of mainly nonentities.
When Green Book won Best Screenplay, one of the writers (and the movie’s director) Peter Farrelly pulled out a sheet of paper and began dementedly reciting names
Important to him, I’m sure – but utterly irrelevant to the billion people watching around the world.
Oh for a trap door that could have sucked him down into the bowels of the Kodak Theatre and spared us this orgy of self-indulgence.
And what about the ridiculous woman who made Free Solo, the extraordinary documentary about climber Alex Honnold? She barely mentioned the guy who actually risked his life for her bloody film, even as he stood three feet away from her on stage!
Documentary maker Chai Vasarhelyi (in gray) barely mentioned the guy who actually risked his life for her bloody film, even as he stood three feet away from her! ( second from right)
But for me, the single most depressing moment came with presenting duo Awkwafina and John Mulaney, who were unfunny, boring and unctuously sycophantic.
‘I want these people to like me to a degree that is embarrassing,’ gushed Mulaney, and you could see he really meant it.
‘Wait, why are we still here?’ exclaimed Awkwafina, as they remained on stage to introduce a second award.
The single most depressing moment came with Awkwafina and John Mulaney, who were unfunny, boring and unctuously sycophantic. Why wasn’t Ricky Gervais there to rip into people instead of these fawning clowns?
I asked myself the exact same question, with this supplementary: Why wasn’t Ricky Gervais there to rip into people instead of these fawning clowns?
Yet today, I’ve read many people raving about them and saying they were so ‘hilarious’ they should host the whole show next year.
To which I say: Hayi! Hayi! HAYI!
(That’s Xhosa for ‘What a great idea!’)