Talkback: After Billy Crystal's Tepid Turn, Who Would Make the Ultimate Oscar Host?

Some folks out there may have enjoyed Billy Crystal's ninth outing as host of the Academy Awards last night, but his turn was as tepid as James Franco's 2011 "performance" was bizarre. Crystal's Oscars-themed song and dance routine? Dated. The weak banter and soft barbs at Hollywood's gathered illuminati? Snoozeville. Given that the previously and frequently great Crystal was upstaged by the night's random moments (Angelina Jolie's leg, J. Lo's boob, those Cirque du Soleil acrobats) and young, actually funny presenters (the Bridesmaids crew and Emma Stone) it's time to start anew and refresh what's already known as the fussiest night in the film calendar. In other words: Who would make the ultimate, charismatic, hilarious, non-sucky Oscar host?

Let's start by taking anyone who already hosted the Oscars off the board, for freshness' sake; that includes 2005 host Chris Rock, who provided last night's telecast with a much-needed jolt of real talk hilarity as he presented Best Animated Feature. Or, say, Ellen Degeneres, Emmy-nominated for her 2006 turn, who was nonetheless all over the tube Oscar night in those movie-themed JC Penney ads.

The tradition of hiring comedians to host is a longstanding one that paid off in spades in the days of Bob Hope (who hosted a record 18 shows). But these days even the most daring, subversive stand-ups (read: the funny ones) run up against the stifling sense of decorum perpetuated by the older-skewing Academy; it seems you either get an "edgier" host who dares to push the envelope and draw in the coveted younger demographic -- Bieber alone can't cut it, even if the ill-advised blackface gets press -- or you hire a safe host who won't go too far and bore everyone to death. In fairness to Crystal, he was saddled with an awfully boring script. The few sparks of life only came in the odd ad-lib or when he roasted celebs in the audience, but even that devolved into easy mean jokes. (Leave Nick Nolte alone!)

Another past Oscar trend was to cast a slew of famous actors to host the night -- charismatic personalities who split hosting duties and draw in diverse viewers. In 1974 it was the eclectic mix of John Huston, Burt Reynolds, David Niven, Diana Ross; a year later the Academy tapped Sammy Davis Jr, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Shirley MacLaine. Why not get the modern day equivalent of an A-lister superteam to host? I'm not talking Anne Hathaway and James Franco, but George Clooney! Robert Downey Jr.! Sandra Bullock! Cute little Emma Stone, for goodness sake!

Then again, maybe there are celebrities out there who could reinvigorate the Oscars solo: Oprah, for one? The talk show titan was batted around last year as a potential Oscar host before then-telecast co-producer Brett Ratner hired Eddie Murphy (who would also probably be great, if he were to come back). I'd watch an entire telecast hosted by Zach Galifianakis, even if it was a three-hour parade of weirdness on par with his and Will Ferrell's crash cymbals gag. If the Academy's older membership and demographic knew who the hell he was, Louis C.K. would be fantastically entertaining. And then there's Sacha Baron Cohen...

I'll turn it over to you, Movieliners -- who would make the perfect audience-grabbing, attention-holding non-snoozeworthy Oscar host... and would the Academy ever bite?


  • Brett says:

    Flight of the Conchords should host.

  • The Winchester says:

    It should be Christopher Guest and his company. Their Wizard of Oz test screening was brilliant, far more entertaining than the rest of the show that it kinda had nothing to do with.

    "More flying monkeys!"

  • Lee Ross says:

    First I need to say that I actually bumped into EDDIE MURPHY yesterday around 3pm at the Ventura Coffee Bean, he was in his black matching tracksuit getting a set of latte's-- I asked him if he was glad to not be doing the hosting gig and he turns to me with that sly grin and says... "Ohh, that's right I forgot they were on today..." really. He seemd perhaps a little miffed it didn't all workout due to Brett R, consuamte hack that he is;) This said there is ONLY one person who should be HOSTING the Oscars next year nomatter who anyone says should host, & that MAN is ROBERT DOWNEY JR. His personal relationships, his singing & comedy chops etc, there's nothing to discuss here folks. Let's face it Billy is the past, and thanks for the memories, but RDR is the only choice!

    • Jen Yamato says:

      Haha, amazing. And yes - RDJ would possess just the right amount of charm, humor, and swagger to host! But would he hog the limelight on a night honoring other actors? Better get him for next year's Oscars before he moves on from Iron Man/Avengers and does something that might actually put him up for consideration...

  • Martini Shark says:

    I'd get behind a RDJ telecast.

    Another consideration would be the Emma Stone / Ben Stiller tandem. They worked it just right last night to the extent that James Franco must have had a Blackberry exploding with "That's how it's done" messages last night.

  • Scoop says:

    The perfect host would be Woody Allen. He loves films, he's funny, and he is so revered by the industry that he could say and do anything at all with impunity.

    That is unrealistic, of course. He has zero interest.

    And they'll never hire Sacha Baron Cohen. He would be brilliant, but the show would be about him rather than the awardees, and their egos couldn't handle that.

    On the "possible" side, Jimmy Kimmel has convinced me that he is the man for the job. In fact, he already has the job, except that he does it with a three-hour delay. He does post-Oscar schtick very similar to the standard Oscar set pieces, except his versions are actually funny. Also, he's iconoclastic without being mean-spirited, which means that he actually could be considered for the job.

    While we're at it, how about a dual hosting arrangement with Kimmel and Craig Ferguson? The frenetic Ferguson would add a much-needed adrenalin boost to the often soporific proceedings, and he's actually good at ad-libbing, which would make for excellent ongoing commentary.

    • AS says:

      I'm with you on everything expect Ferguson. He's too concerned about proving that he's a patriotic American.

      But I, unlike Ms. Yamato, thought Crystal was great. And what is it with everyone and youth? "They should go for a younger vibe." "Too many old people." Fuck that, I'm 19 and my generation sucks. I have no interest in being represented. I'll take Chris Plummer, Woody Allen, Meryl Streep & Marty Scorsese any day!

  • Scoop says:

    Just in passing, having noticed the "monkey" comments - wouldn't you love to see what Fred Willard would do as host? OK, it will never happen, but what a night of surrealism that would be! He'd be the Salvador Dali of award hosts.

  • Megan says:

    I would love, love, LOVE to see Stephen Colbert host. I don't see how the telecast would be anything short of awesome with him and a few decent writers.

  • Sean Means says:

    The Muppets. They'd have the perfect mix of irreverent and respectful, and they'd be funny.

  • Gina says:


  • Jake says:

    I guess I'm feeling quite pessimistic today because I don't think anyone can do it.

    But Chris Rock sure was funny last night.

  • Liv says:

    THE MUPPETS.... you'd get to have multiple hosts but ones that actually, literally, work together. No mismatched pairing (ala 2011).

    or TINA FEY, she's used to live TV and is always great when she presents awards. Confident and funny every time. She owns it.

  • Sue T. says:

    Jimmy Kimmel. He's been doing post-Oscars specials for several years now, has great writers, and could bring a bit of that viral video magic to the big show.

  • Iknowthingsaboutstuff says:

    Jack Black. (You're welcome.)

  • Katie says:

    I think Patton Oswald would be really great, because he's very funny but also a HUGE movie fan himself (ie. total film geek), so I think he would be perfect at finding that just right balance for the night.

    • jenyamato says:

      I saw Patton Oswalt host the VES Awards and his stuff was great. Plays better to a nerdy crowd though, I think.

  • Brooke says:

    Patton Oswalt!

  • Beeterfly says:

    Although I can second a RDJ nomination, the ultimate presenter would undoubtedly be... Will Smith!!!! he brings all the pluses mentioned for anyone, audience diversifier [younger, more ethnic] chops [previous multiple nominee himself] comic timing [think "Bad Boys" more than "Fresh Prince"] plus singingdancing ability for set pieces. The only possible knock; maybe too much of an establishment pick? However, I think that probably is needed to get Oscar to feel safe with a "new" face.

  • D.Bryne says:

    It would be great to see someone who doesn't care. Someone who isn't going to play it safe. Someone who isn't going to turn the night over to writers and who isn't afraid to be spontaneous. Someone who isn't worried about who will be offended in the audience or how it may impact his or her career. And also someone who, if going for edgy, can be edgy and funny without seeming creepy or offensive (RDJ when talking about women for example).

    Whomever they choose to host in future years, all I can hope for is that they don't ever include Justin Beiber in an Oscars telecast. Never, ever again. Please.

  • Scott says:

    Jimmy Kimmel...end of discussion!

  • Bryan K says:

    Will Smith and Jack Black would work, as previously stated, and Galifinakis is hilarious, but a perfect Oscars host would be Ben Stiller. He is willing to do anything for the show, as seen in recent years and mentioned during his presentation with Emma Stone this year, he has the comedy chops, and he has done enough movies appealing to all audiences unlike Galifinakis and Jack Black whom specialize in Frat films.

  • Wes says:

    Let's get Jon Stewart back for next year!

  • stolidog says:

    Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Kristin Wiig and Amy Pohler, together.

  • Bib Fortuna says:

    Admiral Ackbar!

  • depotlounge says:

    Neil. Patrick. Harris.

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