Hosting the Oscars is the worst job in comedy. Everyone at home expects you to be funny. Everyone in the Kodak Theater expects you to be respectful. And comedy and respecting people NEVER go together well.
Think of the crowd you have to play to when you’re an Oscar host: actors, writers, directors… These are some of the most self-important, humorless, thin-skinned people on Earth. They make the audience at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner look like the crowd at the Comedy Cellar. You’d run them over with your Hyundai if you could. They’re immensely irritating human beings.
Over the past decade, the Oscars have trotted out no less than seven different hosts to try and get the show exactly right: Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, and Hugh Jackman. Some of these hosts had their fair share of issues. Rock was too crude for the audience. Stewart was too subversive (“Oh no! He’s actually making fun of us? THAT WASN’T PART OF THE DEAL!”). DeGeneres was too meek. And Goldberg was too not funny.
Jackman hosted last year, in part, because the show’s producers decided to not even bother trying to find the right comedian to host the program. Thus, we were treated to a spectacularly bloated, Tonys-style affair, complete with musical numbers, tribute speeches TO EVERY FREAKIN’ NOMINEE, and more. Jackman was in charge of it all, and while he’s a pleasant fellow, I still wanted to stick my head through a plate glass window by the time it was all over.
Of all those hosts over the past decade, I’d argue only one really got it right, and that was Steve Martin. Billy Crystal is beloved by many, but his humor’s gotten juuust a bit old over the years. Do I need to hear the Fernando voice ever again? No, I do not.
But Martin. Oh, Martin was a wonder. He was funny. He was charming. He ribbed the audience and got away with it. And he kept the show’s length to a minimum. He hosted in 2001 and 2003 and hasn’t been back since. And how the show has missed him. I don’t need my Oscars revolutionized every year. All I need is a charming, funny host, and clips of the nominated movies and performances. That’s it. Nothing else matters. The rest of the show is useless crap.
Well, at long last, the show’s producers are finally bringing back Martin for the 2010 show, for the first time since 2003. Joining him will be Alec Baldwin. And while you may complain that Baldwin is a jerk, and fat, and a dirty liberal, and a voicemail child abuser, the fact remains that he can a rather charming fellow when asked to host a television program.
Together, these two men have hosted “Saturday Night Live” a whopping 29 times, and they host that program better than most anyone else (alongside Tom Hanks). Both are legitimately funny people. Plus, Baldwin’s liberal cred means he can tweak the room and get away with it. He’s one of them, and that means he can probably get a few laughs. Or, at the very least, he could induce a reaction of some sort. Better than Goldberg.
So settle in with your glass of red wine and your fleece blankets the night of March 7th. You may not end the night bored to death, and that will be a nice change of pace.
Drew Magary is the author if Men With Balls: The Professional Athlete's Handbook and a writer for Deadspin.com.