Book Jimmy Kimmel to Host Next yearâ€™s Oscars: NOW!
For more than a decade John Corcoran covered the Academy Awards for KABC-TV and later KCAL television. He was more than happy to not have to do so this year. Instead he found next year's Host.
I am proud to say that not once, not ever, even in jest, not while doing the Red carpet bit nor backstage where the winners were interrogated, did I ever ask the probing question: “Who are you wearing?” I am very proud of that fact, and list it #1 in my show biz journalistic Bona Fides.
Having seen or covered more Academy Awards than I care to remember I cannot remember a worse broadcast than this year’s. My friend and colleague Michael Russnow gave the show a gentleman’s “C+“ This proves he’s a gentleman and too kind by half. If any Oscar Broadcast deserved a failing grade, this one was it. It made long time watchers long for the halcyon days of Rob Lowe and Snow White.
The show looked market researched within an inch of its life. It didn't celebrate movies, it was a jerry-rigged paean to the boys with the clipboards in the demographics department. The Academy and ABC wanted to skew young, so they hired non-comic host-drudges who chronologically filled the bill but added nothing to the program. Perky and youthful though they may be, James Franco handled light comedy with the deft touch of an undertaker, and Ann Hathaway as a hostess would seem more at home at an auto show reciting the features of the new Buick LeSabre.
It’s not easy to be upstaged on your own show by a dead guy on tape (Bob Hope) or have the disappointment of the show driven home by the appearance of a former host. Billy Crystal got a standing ovation by those under the delusion he’d been brought out to add much needed comic relief to the show. Apparently, producers were holding Crystal’s family hostage backstage, to be summarily executed if he cracked a joke.
On the other hand, the Brain Trust must have realized how bad it was going when they failed to hook 94-year old legend Kirk Douglass when he just would not stop talking. Maybe they were hoping he’d pull a Palance, and try a one-armed pushup.
The closest thing to a memorable moment was Melissa Leo dropping an F-bomb—which was bleeped. Entertainment? When the dead actor montage is the highlight of the show, the show is in trouble.
So they have to go funny next year, please God make it so. To be funny, this naturally raises the question—who should host? Fortunately, the answer was quickly delivered on ABC’s own air following local news. ABC had the good idea (and smart promotion savvy) to run a Jimmy Kimmel Special. And Kimmel had the good idea and savvy to see it for the opportunity it really was—an on-air audition to host next year. Dude, if I was the producer, you’ve already got the gig.
Kimmel won the hearts and minds of audiences right away with something that apparently didn’t occur to this year’s writers, a funny opening monologue. He then sealed the deal with a hilarious movie parody that not only went yard on its own terms, but established Mike Tyson as the go-to guy for cameo comic relief. Yeah, apparently his turn in The Hangover wasn’t a fluke. Sure, easy target—George W. Bush—but who doesn’t love a reprise of the best of Bushisms in comic context?
More than just being funny, Kimmel had just the right energy, delivery, and sense of detached irony for a host. He can deliver the one liner a la Carson with drop dead timing, then back off and do a deadpan intro to perfectly set up a bit—as he did with the parody.
The best hosts over the years have had just such qualities. They need to be a little urbane, a little detached, yet not so far outside the Hollywood spotlight that they turn off the live attendees. They most certainly don’t need to be movie actors. While Hope and Crystal were big screen performers, Johnny Carson was not, and his stints were spot on.
But mostly the host needs to get “it.” Hosting the Academy Awards, as Ms. Leo said in another context, looks fucking easy, but it is not. True comic geniuses such as David letterman and Jon Stewart learned that lesson the hard way. Their core audience may have been satisfied, but they weren’t playing to a limited core audience. It’s a whole new ballgame, not just an away game for your own show or comic sensibility. And it’s a tough room that doesn’t easily cotton to outsiders. It’s filled with people more concerned with their own upcoming categories, or POed over losing already. That kind of audience doesn’t laugh easily.
So, ABC, don’t screw it up. Next year—make it Kimmel