Host controls show’s tempo

Emcee has to sense the flow, Steinberg sez

When Billy Crystal announced in December that he had to pass on hosting the Oscars, he suggested an alternate: Jim Carrey.

No joke. The seven-time Oscars emcee, who has put his stamp on the proceedings with his trademark opening song-and-dance montages of film nominees, said the host should be “someone associated with the movies.” No one would argue that Carrey doesn’t meet that requirement, but the creator of characters like Fire Marshall Bill (“In Living Color”) and Ace Ventura could be a strange fit as the master of ceremonies for Hollywood’s biggest night.

David Letterman’s attempt to strait-jacket his ironic wit into the host’s tuxedo (“Uma meet Oprah. Oprah meet Uma.”) in 1995 led to some unflattering reviews. Despite pulling in healthy ratings (32.5, 53 share) the latenight talkshow host’s voyage into big-time primetime is an indication that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences needs to look beyond fame and humor when tapping its master of ceremonies.

David Steinberg, Crystal’s longtime manager who has helped write for the Oscarcasts, believes the host needs to be someone who can sense the ebb and flow of the show. “It’s a three-hour-plus broadcast, and to host it, you have to ride the wave,” Steinberg says. “Billy can ride with the silences of comedy.”

Steinberg notes that a good host should never forget that the show and the awards are the star of the evening.

“You have to have an innate love and respect for the movies and the TV show,” Steinberg says, adding his belief that Steve Martin should do a terrific job come March 25.

Ironically, Carrey’s move into more serious Oscar-worthy fare could be a drawback if he were to agree to serve as host, as being present onstage all night could take away from that statuette-win moment.

“From a manager’s standpoint, if I had a client that was going to win an Oscar, I don’t think that I’d want him to host,” says Dave Rath, a manager at 3 Arts Entertainment whose clients include Janeane Garofalo and Patton Oswalt.

Using a metaphor he attributes to Garofalo, Rath says that these kind of awards evenings are like the high school prom, and the host is the class clown. The school quarterback and the head cheerleader can’t be the emcee, because that would take away from them being crowned king and queen of the prom.

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