When it comes to the Oscars ceremony, it takes a certain kind of person to successfully steer the Academy Awards to safe waters.The following article lists the qualities in past hosts, and some suggestions for the Academy Awards for future hosts that will bring such a large and complicated show to great ratings and good public relations.
When it comes to the Oscars ceremony, it takes a certain kind of person to man the helm and successfully steer the Academy Awards to safe waters. The following article lists the qualities in past hosts, and some suggestions for the Academy Awards for future hosts that will bring such a large and complicated show to great ratings and good public relations.
Sense of humor (self-deprecating a plus)
To be a successful host, wit is an absolute must. Comedians do generally make the best Oscars hosts, since it’s their job to be funny. They’re generally better at it than most.
However, it has to be the right kind. Not too edgy, not too raw. Chris Rock and Jon Stewart may know funny, but apparently not the right kind of funny for the Academy Awards. No, a good host’s sense of humor must be softer, and more subtle. It must be more inward-directed, since those who are the targets of your humor have very large, yet tender egos. Past hosts who excelled at this (and who merited repeat performances) included Bob Hope, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Johnny Carson. Each of these comedians could certainly dish it out if they chose to, but instead softened their humor and turned it inward for the Oscars and returned again and again.
Good looks are really a plus, but it doesn’t hurt. After all, it’s a three-hour show, and we like to have a little eye candy to look at when we have to watch for three hours to find out Best Picture of the Year. If we had a higher tolerance for ordinary faces on television, then we’d be having a discussion of who would be hosting the Nobel Peace Prize instead of the Oscars. A great host would also be easy on the eyes. This has been a consideration since the inception of the Oscars. Wasn’t their first-ever choice for host Douglas Fairbanks, today’s equivalent of Brad Pitt?
Could anyone forget Billy Crystal bringing a horse onstage to advertise his incoming film City Slickers? Or Bob Hope’s constant (and not-so-subtle) reminders to the Academy that his own Oscar had been conveniently overlooked year after year? A good Academy Awards host will not be afraid to toot his own horn, and always with a smile. No doubt this year we will hear much of Hugh Jackman’s new movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. We come to expect this, and if it’s done with humor, it’s okay. Three billion people want to know.
Able to Roll with the punches
The Oscars are an unpredictable night, simply by virtue of being a live show. From tacky and tasteless political statements to profanity that has to be bleeped to streakers to sudden lip locks with winning actresses, it’s enough to stop a poor producer’s ticker. That’s why a good Academy Awards host has to be ready for anything, and provide a good zinger to bring us back around after the shock of things. A good host will aim toward middle America at all times, for despite all of our red and blue sensitivities, a good Oscars host will agree that we all meet in the purple middle.
Have fun (or at least look like it)
This may seem the most ironic thing in the world, but there are people that actually take this stuff deadly serious. A good host says, “Hey, folks, this is fun. This is show business. Yes, we’re swimming in a lot of money, and yes, the nation is swimming in some serious problems that are much more important. Yes, some people’s careers will rise and fall on the results of what happens tonight, but we’re not taking this seriously. Come on – these are movies we’re talking about.” Even if the movie business takes this seriously, the American public as a whole doesn’t, and a good host has to acknowledge that, in word and/or deed.
From Hugh Jackman and beyond
I think Hugh Jackman will make a terrific host this year. He fits the profile – bright, witty, very talented, extremely good-looking, and a new movie to market. As long as he keeps it light and fun, he’ll go down in Academy Awards history with honor and glory.
To the Academy Awards host selection committee, I would recommend a good future in splitting the duties and offering dual hosts each year. Take Will Smith, for example. He would make an excellent host. He has just the right touch of humor and fun, has developed a wide and devoted following. Throw his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith in there as co-host, and you have the chance for some lovely back-and-forth rapport. Other possibilities might be Ben Stiller (if paired with Owen Wilson to tone down his neuroticism), or Jake Gyllenhal paired with Reese Witherspoon. I may even go so far to suggest that Jon Stewart might pull in better ratings for the Academy Awards if paired with his partner-in-comedy-crime Stephen Colbert.
If two hosts wouldn’t be better than one, there’s still Adam Sandler (who is very popular but who might have a challenge keeping it light and appropriate) or perhaps Tina Fey or Hugh Laurie (if Brits are allowed to or interested in hosting American award shows).
Of course, the Academy has often done without hosts in the past as well. This is always an option. It takes a very delicate combination of qualities to make a successful run as host of the Academy Awards. Best of luck to Hugh Jackman in 2009!