Chris Rock Gets Ho-Hos About Hos

New York -- Has enough time passed for comics to make “nappy-headed ho” jokes in a formal setting? Or has too much time passed since Don Imus uttered that infamous phrase for any such joke to be funny?

Whichever, or neither, Chris Rock got a huge laugh at the Gracie Allen Awards Monday night by walking out and asking, “How you nappy-headed hos doing?”

Rock, at the black-tie event to present an award to fellow HBO comic Wanda Sykes, went on to explain, “You know, when rappers are talking about hos in records, they’re really talking about hos. Not talking about Oprah ... They like hos.”

And hos are everywhere, he said. “There’s hos in this room right now. You can’t tell who they are ’til it’s late. They’re kind of like Canadians -- they fit right in with everybody else.”

By the time Sykes came on to claim her Gracie, she seemed to have no comic ammunition left. “You said nappy-headed ho,” she told Rock. “I got nothing.”

Jill Hennessy, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, came out next to present an award, and quipped that when she heard the words ho and Canadian, she took that as her cue to come on stage.

Her dress, a striking multi-colored affair, was joke fodder later. Robert Verdi of Style Network’s Fashion Police referred to it while honoring Style’s Clean House host, Niecy Nash.

Trying hard to be amusing, Verdi compared Hennessy’s dress with Moroccan teepees. “Omigod, I love a girl that takes a risk. That was a risk. And I loved it.”

Hennessy had her supporters, though. Former Law & Order castmate Sam Waterston was there to (of course) give her a Gracie. Waterston said he liked the dress.

The Crossing Jordan star got the last word. She wrapped her (serious) Gracie acceptance remarks by commenting, “I’ve come a long way from the Moroccan brothel where I got this dress.”

American Women in Radio & Television gives out Gracie Allen Awards to honor electronic-media programs “by women, for women and about women … as well as individuals who have made contributions to the industry.” Monday night’s gala was at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. More Gracies will be awarded at a luncheon today at Tavern on the Green.