Well, Hello Billy! It’s so nice to have you back where you belong!
Yesterday, in the wake of Eddie Murphy’s egress from Oscar hosting duties, I was all ready to give the Academy an FYC of several people that I thought would be suitable to step in as MC for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. I cobbled together a list that included Ricky Gervais, Steve Martin, Jack Black, NPH, and even Anne Hathaway (I’ll get to her in a minute).
One of the celebrities at the top of my list was Billy Crystal, and to my delight and pleasure, he stepped in within 24 hours for a ninth turn as host of the event. I am delighted. He has previously hosted the show in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000, and 2004, and always to great success. He hosted four years in a row between 1990 and 1993 and wisely dropped out a year before he would have to joke about Schindler’s List. When he ditched his hosted duties in 1994 – leading to snore-inducing hosts that included Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman – he was greeted with thunderous applause when he returned in 1997. His first words upon his return: “So, where was I?”
Billy has the stature (he works in the film industry), and the personality. He has the presence of a host from a by-gone era like Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, there’s a manner in which he contains himself that keeps things moving and isn’t riddled with nastiness. His act may throw a ribald joke here and there but he keeps it at a level that is, at least, a PG. Other acts have attempted to bring their own brand of humor that came off as a little self-indulgent. Billy knows how to work the room.
Plus, Billy is a trooper. Most memorably, he fielded a gaff that took place at the Oscars in 1992, when the Academy decided to pay tribute to comedy pioneer Hal Roach who was 100 years-old at the time. The academy decided to let him give his remarks from his seat back in the 32nd row. However, he had no microphone and so the home audience never got to hear what he had to say. Billy immediately responded “I think that’s fitting because Mr. Roach started in silent films.” Nice catch.
The academy’s recent hosts over the last 10 years or so have been a gallery of one failed attempt after another to liven up a deadly dull show. The worst have been those in the arena of the academy’s attempt to attract younger viewers: Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, and worst James Franco, hosting with Anne Hathaway. Hathaway had the chops and did a good job, but Franco was visibly nervous and many of his attempts at humor fell flat. I think by suggesting Eddie Murphy, the producers of the show realize that finding a true comedian who has worked in the film industry is a wise idea. Now, with Murphy gone, they realized also where their best moments in recent Oscar history have come from. Crystal is a perfect fit for the Oscars and I look forward to having him back in the spotlight once again.