One year after Laura Ziskin presided over the blandest Oscar broadcast in my lifetime (as opposed to the most disastrous broadcast in my lifetime, which entailed Rob Lowe warbling "Proud Mary" with Snow White), producer Gil Cates is back in the saddle for the 754th time, and he’s wisely bringing back Jon Stewart, who, in 2006, handled the duties as smoothly as anyone since Bob Hope – which, of course, means he wasn’t asked back in 2007. The key to Old Ski Nose’s success was his insider status; he may have been a clown, but he was still a member of the club. The same could also be said of Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and even Whoopi Goldberg, who leaned way too heavily on the catty humor of Bruce Vilanch.
Despite memorable appearances in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, The Faculty and Death to Smoochy (which made me laugh, so fuck you), Stewart is still viewed as an outsider. What’s worse, he was at the height of his popularity with The Daily Show when he hosted the Oscars back in 2006; if there’s one thing Hollywood hates, it’s being upstaged on its night by a beloved personality. To his credit, Stewart didn’t bully or demean; I’m at a loss to recall anything edgier than the Chuck Workman-edited montage of vaguely (hell, sometimes overtly) gay moments from classic westerns. But the rank-and-file were unimpressed for whatever reason, which led to the comedy vacuum that is Ellen DeGeneres (while I have nothing but respect for Ellen as a veteran stand-up, she hasn’t been funny in years*).
Thankfully, Stewart has cooled off sufficiently to take up emcee duties once again (Stephen Colbert is more now… now), so there’s a very good possibility that the 2007 broadcast will be almost watchable. I’m actually looking forward to it. And while he’s bound to be on his best behavior, I’ll mail Stewart my spleen if he goes into the audience and fucks with Tommy Lee Jones.
*Finding Nemo notwithstanding.