Jimmy Kimmel / Steve Martin
This Sunday night, the 87th Academy Awards will be presented from the stage of the Dolby Theatre in downtown Hollywood, California. The red carpet blaze with diamonds, emeralds, and the bald heads of old men escorting beautiful women half their age to the show. It is Hollywood’s night to celebrate itself with glitz and glamor.
When the actual award show gets underway it will be Jimmy Kimmel who greets the assembled throng. It is Kimmel’s first go-around as host of the Oscars. Monday morning’s water-cooler talk will be about the award-winners, for sure. But Kimmel’s performance will draw conversation, as well. Here’s hoping he does as well as our first group…and better than our second.
We’re breaking down the hosts into “Winners” and “Also Appeared.”
Steve Martin: The funny-man turned serious actor hosted the Oscars three times. Twice he flew solo. Once he shared the hosting duties with Alec Baldwin. Martin’s most-challenging outing was in 2003. That year the show coincided, almost to the day, with the beginning of the Iraq War. His sharp, but not too-pointed, wit helped guide a viewing audience already weary of the the sight of bombs on their televisions.
Johnny Carson: Always dapper and debonair, the King of Late Night was also the King of the Oscars for a period of time. Carson hosted the show five times, placing him third on the list of frequent hosts. He helmed the event from 1979-1982, and was invited back again in 1993. No one could play to a live crowd like Carson. He probably elicited more laughs from the folks in the seats than any other host.
Ellen Degeneres: The comedienne hosted the show in 2007 and received good reviews. But her better effort, by far, was her 2014 gig. That night she took the most re-tweeted photo in Twitter history, as she posed in front of a phalanx of high-ticket stars.
Billy Crystal: Nine times! That’s how many times Crystal has hosted the world’s most-watched award show. His first time was in 1990, and his last time, so far, was in 2012. He was the first Oscar host to make the opening movie montage his signature. His ostensible appearance in every notable film of the year made the viewing audience tune in on time. How appreciative was the network for that?
Bob Hope: Ah, but the once and still champion is Leslie Townes (Bob) Hope. Nineteen times the host, Bob Hope began his hosting career clear back in 1940, long before most of the world could see the show live. His last time as host was in 1978 when, at the age of 75, Hope still had the audience eating out of his hand. His signature bit was his desire to receive an Oscar.
James Franco and Anne Hathaway: The Academy always wants to lure young viewers to the show. In 2011, James Franco and Anne Hathaway were chosen to attract youth. It seemed a good idea at the time. Franco is handsome and bankable. Hathaway is proven and likable. But, it didn’t work. Franco came off as disinterested and Hathaway was over-the-top enthusiastic.
Chevy Chase: Too be fair, Chase had a tough gig in 1988. The Hollywood writer’s strike was underway, which impacted the show’s content. It was also the longest Oscars in history, dragging on an interminable four hours. Of course, Chase was also his own worst enemy, opening the show with “Good evening, Hollywood phonies!”
David Letterman: At the time the most-popular late-night host on TV, David Letterman seemed like a safe choice in 1995. But, his quirky 11:30 p.m. humor fell a little flat with the crowd in the auditorium. It wasn’t the worst Oscars in history. But a three-hour show that’s a little off starts to chafe.
Seth MacFarlane: It seems every time Oscar tries to be edgy, a failure is in the offing. MacFarlane is the creator of some of televisions funniest, and most scatalogical, shows out there. But, he’s a good-looking guy! And he can sing! So what could go wrong? Well, a whole song dedicated to actresses who were naked in movies that year, titled “We Saw Your Boobs” went sadly awry in 2013. MacFarlane doesn’t expect to be invited back. His instincts, in this case, are accurate.