HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The producer of the Academy Awards defended emcee Chris Rock's critical comments about the Oscars and urged everyone to "lighten up."
Rock riled some members of the Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Academy with disparaging comments about the awards and the audience for the annual TV event, E! Online reported.
Producer Gil Cates, however, said he had heard "no grumbling" from Academy members and looked forward to a "very funny evening" with Rock in his first outing as emcee.
"At some point you've got to lighten up and take the fact that what he's saying is for the purpose of making us laugh," Cates said.
Widespread media reports about Rock's comments led pundits to note that could translate into audience gains for the Feb. 27 telecast on ABC.
Billy Crystal led last year's Oscars to its best rating in four years with 43.5 million viewers.