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Oscar hosting: Not for the faint of heart

Even the unflappable Jon Stewart may find a bit of flop sweat on his brow
/ Source: contributor

It’s all Will Rogers’ fault, you see. The Academy Awards was formerly a straightlaced affair: No laughing! No swag bags! No dresses fashioned of credit cards! No fun of any kind!

Then Rogers, one of the most famous comedians of the Great Depression, did the honors at the sixth version of the event in 1934, cheerfully waving the best director trophy in the general direction of the audience while giving the aside, “Come and get it, Frank!”  Up to the stage went Frank Capra, who immediately sat back down again when the actual winner, Frank Lloyd, also appeared.

But Rogers was the first comedian to act as host, and he otherwise did not suck, and so was born the tradition of Big! Fun! on Oscar night. Thanks, Will. 

Why the suckage?  Why do otherwise amusing people spontaneously combust when faced with a table of little gold statuettes and pretentious people in hairspray? Is it the pressure?  Why must every Oscars broadcast degenerate into a yearly reprise of the deadly “Seinfeld” finale?

Jon takes the plungeOn Thursday morning, the Academy named its latest victim: “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart.  Because when you think the ultimate in Hollywood glitz, you think… fake news. Jon! I loved you in “Death to Smoochy”! 

Steve Martin and Billy Crystal were… busy, by which I mean “not stupid enough to do this to themselves again.” David Letterman just unfolded from the fetal position. You kind of had the feeling the Academy was on the brink of busing in people from the Flying Dubmo line at Fantasyland. (“You’d look absurd in a Ralph Lauren tuxedo! You’ll do!”)

Well, best of luck to you, Jon. You could win the mayorship of New York City while figure-skating for the Olympic gold and not endure this much pressure.

I fear for Stewart’s soul. What we need to do is put the comics in a cool, dry place and remove the onus until the generation that witnessed “Oprah… Uma” has completely died out. A different direction might save us all.

I would have enjoyed seeing Mike Myers, but not without Kanye West. For Mike has never been funnier than when standing next to West throughout his off-the-charts hurricane relief rant, after which Myers carefully returned to Teleprompter World, clearly praying for a meteor or spontaneous combustion or something.  You’d watch the Mike ’n’ Kanye show. 

Mike Myers:  Here are the nominees for best supporting actress.Kayne West:  Also, George Bush doesn’t care about black people.

Conventional wisdom dictates that a bad host appearance can end a career, in which case I heartily wish Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson had gotten the call, divorced or no. 

Something to be thankful forThe anointing of Stewart, though politically controversial for some, has rescued us from the following members of the Please God, No, Category.

Joan Rivers: Last time I saw Joan, her face was stretched so tightly you could use it as a trampoline. I would tune in just on the off-chance that all the ear-staples could come undone at once.  

Donald Trump:  “John Williams, you’ve done a fine job scoring “Episode III:  Revenge Of the Sith,” but I also like Harry Gregson-Williams’ work on “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” so would you mind sharing? Thanks, you’re a doll. Okay. Who wants the privilege of eating this muffin I just licked?”

John Madden: He would bust out his stupid write-on-the-screen tool and start circling people in the audience: “What these guys here… here... and here need to do to win is make a really good movie.”


Tom Cruise:  If Oprah would consent to loaning out her couch for the evening, you know he’d do it, perching there atop the cushions while attempting to start a hair-pulling fight with Brooke Shields.

Janet Jackson: Would there be any other moment in our collective national history in which we would all focus so intently on one pair of nipples? We could throw the Earth off its axis.  

There's always RegisIf Stewart vapor-locks, we can always have an Emergency Back-up Host in the wings: Regis Philbin. America can trust Reege, who has many times over proved his manhood in hosting live events, most recently Fox’s New Year’s Eve coverage.  Favorite moment: Random drop-in screecher Jillian Barberie suggests that Regis sing a duet with ODB, currently DOA. Does the horror that is Jillian stop Regis? No! Regis and his world-ending white teeth keep smiling! For there is no stopping Regis! 

Jeff Probst: I would only let him do it if he promised to rip on the losers the way he does on “Survivor,” as in, “Oooooohhhhh. Ron Howard? Why weren’t you able to hurl the tiki head as far as Spielberg? How ‘bout it, Opie?” 

Me:  Look. I teach college for a living. All I do every single day is lean on a podium telling hungover people when to shut up and when to look at the pretty pictures on the wall. I don’t see how hosting the Oscars is any different. I’m qualified and I’m available, is all I’m saying.

Will Smith: The man could shoot rubber bands across the stage and it would be funny.  Particularly if some of them hit Streisand.

Bob Newhart: It’s a four-hour telecast. Bob would take that long to get through one list of nominees, but you look at Bob, and you just feel happy about life.  He’s a human cardigan sweater.

The world is watching, Jon.  But we have a failsafe — if the whole thing’s debacle, we could just have George Lucas digitize Jon out of our collective memories and insert Will Smith in his place.

College professor and freelance writer Mary Beth Ellis runs .  She awaits the Academy’s call.