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The Academy of wit

The gift of the gab isn’t the only prerequisite to become an A-list Oscar presenter.

entertainment Updated: Mar 04, 2010, 01:44 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times

Aussie hottie Hugh Jackman

The gift of the gab isn’t the only prerequisite to become an A-list Oscar presenter. And that became more than clear when Aussie hottie Hugh Jackman swaggered his way on to the Kodak Theatre stage in Los Angeles, California in 2009. Smothered with magnanimous doses of wit and sex appeal — the dimpled dapper stole hearts, and the limelight.

It’s amazing how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences handpicks its favourite funny men (and women) to bring in the biggest annual awards gala the world’s witness to. Quirkiness rules, and the Academy is a sucker for it, too. Right from the legendary Bop Hope (who hosted Oscars 18 times between 1939 to 1977) smearing heaps of dry, clean humour on the audience to Johnny Carson (hosted five times between 1978 and 1983) who scored big for being animated, the Oscar hosts have been remembered for their unadulterated jokes, and the best digs in showbiz history.

Famed comedian and Oscar fave Steve Martin (hosted it thrice) said while presenting the 2003 Oscars, “Actors can be a lot of things. They can be tall, short, fat, thin or skinny. They can be Democrats [endless pause] or skinny.”

It’s all slick and in good jest. But this tradition of adding colour to an event where dream merchants pack in ‘thank you-s’ every five minutes, takes endless hours in the making. In an interview, actor-comic artist Billy Crystal (hosted eight times between 1989 and 2003) said, “When I started hosting the show, my toothbrush (he rehearsed with as a child, thinking it’s the audience) was backstage and I put it in my pocket because I wanted that big audience to feel like the living room. And it did.”

Crystal remains the Academy’s all-time fave but there have been others who’ve made a mark. Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg, for instance, was loved for being goofy, talk show host Jon Stewart for his tongue-in-cheek remarks, jazz great Frank Sinatra for his gentlemanly charisma and actress Jane Fonda for being engaging. The coming Monday should be a riot, too. If only actor Alec Baldwin equals Mr Martin’s class, that is.

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