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Mr. Sunday Night?

Patrick McManus | Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Billy Crystal will host the 84th Academy Awards live from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre on Sunday.

Crystal was tapped to host this year’s Oscar ceremony after a series of events complicated the original show. The original producer, Brett Ratner, resigned after making homophobic comments. The host he recruited, Eddie Murphy, followed him out the door.

Between 1990 and 2004, Crystal hosted the event eight times. Only the late Bob Hope has hosted the Oscars more, doing so 18 times over a span of 38 years.

It’s hard to say what Billy Crystal is best known for. He was a standup comedian and a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” where he famously said, “You look mahvelous” as Fernando Llamas. Crystal starred in Hollywood movies like “When Harry Met Sally…” and “City Slickers.” He was also the voice of Mike Wazowski in Pixar’s “Monsters Inc.” But maybe it is in fact Crystal’s long and successful career hosting the Academy Awards that first comes to mind at mention of his name.

For anyone of my generation, however, that is probably not the case. I wasn’t alive the first time Crystal hosted the Oscars. I don’t think I cared very much at all when I was 12, the last time he hosted. However, since then I have taken an interest in the biggest night of the year for Hollywood. I’m definitely excited now, because everyone seems to make a big deal about how well Crystal hosts the Oscars.

In the past, he made a video inserting himself into the nominated films. He offered his humorous take on “What the Stars are Thinking” and came out dressed as Hannibal Lecter. It all sounds very funny, but I’m not rolling over laughing. The humor of the Academy Awards comes from the timeliness of it.

These were movies everyone talked about for a year, especially in the last week or so before the Awards telecast, and one of them was about to win the most prestigious prize in the film world. The Academy Awards offers the perfect opportunity to skewer the year’s movies and the people who made them. Looking back years later it can still be funny, but nowhere near as funny as it must have been the first time around.

I’m glad Crystal is hosting this year. Obviously he has the skillset and experience necessary to host the Oscars well. He is the type of person who ought to host, not whoever it is that some executives think will get more young people to watch.

Even though Crystal is the safe, noncontroversial, fallback option this year, he still has the attributes that made him good at the job in the first place. He is respected enough by the Hollywood community to be able to make fun of them, funny enough to make everyone laugh along and quick enough on his feet to be able to handle any situation that could arise.

Hopefully by Sunday night I’ll be able to share with my parents and all the other old people the experience of watching Billy Crystal hilariously host the Oscars.