Chris Rock and Steve Martin mock lack of diversity during Oscars opening

By Keiran Southern, PA Los Angeles Correspondent

Chris Rock and Steve Martin mocked the lack of diversity at this year’s Oscars as they raised the curtain on Hollywood’s biggest night.

For a second successive year, the Academy Awards went hostless, instead relying on a small army of stars to keep things moving along.

Comedians Rock and Martin were first up, following Janelle Monae’s energetic opening musical number.

Martin quipped that both he and Rock had hosted the ceremony before and that the opening gig was “such an incredible demotion”.

The duo soon turned their attention to the lack of diversity among the nominees, including the absence of female filmmakers among the best director hopefuls.

“There’s something missing this year,” Rock said.

Both men filled in the blank, saying: “Vaginas.”

British actress Cynthia Erivo was this year’s only non-white acting nominee, recognised for her role as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in Harriet.

“Cynthia did such a great job in Harriet hiding black people,” Rock said, “that the Academy got her to hide all the black nominees.

“Cynthia, is Eddie Murphy under this stage?”

Murphy earned widespread critical acclaim for his role in comedy Dolemite Is My Name, but that failed to translate into an Oscar nomination.

Steve Martin, left, and Chris Rock delivered a joke-filled opening act at the Oscars (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

“Well, you know, Chris, think how much the Oscars have changed in the past 92 years,” Martin said.

“Back in 1929, there were no black acting nominees.”

“Now, in 2020, we got one!” Rock replied.

Mahershala Ali was next to get a shout-out. He won a supporting gong last year for his role in Green Book, adding to the one he earned for Moonlight.

Rock said: “Mahershala has two Oscars. Do you know what that means when the cops pull him over? Nothing.”

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was another big name seated inside the star-studded audience.

The billionaire was targeted by Rock, who riffed on his high-profile divorce.

“Jeff Bezos is so rich he got divorced and he’s still the richest man in the world,” Rock joked.

“He saw Marriage Story and thought it was a comedy.”

Rock then asked if Martin had anything to add about Bezos.

“No,” Martin responded. “I like getting my packages on time.”