The news that Billy Crystal has returned to host the Academy Awards for the ninth time — and the first time since 2004 — brings back a flood of memories for many Oscar junkies: His trademark opening musical medleys and movie spoofs. His easy, joking rapport with A-list movie stars. His nimble ability to play both to the room of Hollywood industry insiders and to the worldwide television audience of movie fans.
And for anyone following the PR fustercluck that’s befallen the Oscars this week, another thought springs to mind, at least for me: Billy is pretty much the only person for the job. For practically anyone else — Hollywood icons like Tom Hanks; quick-witted comedians like Tina Fey; awards show hosting all-stars like Neil Patrick Harris; cutesy stunt suggestions like the Muppets — the question of “What would Eddie have done?” would be hanging over their heads like a fast-talking donkey in a fat suit. But when I say the words “host of the Oscars,” who immediately springs to mind? Of course: Billy Crystal. I mean, when he showed up for a quick bit at this year’s walking disaster of an Academy Awards, the audience was so grateful to see someone who actually knew what the frak he was doing, they gave the man a standing ovation.
Granted, I am a deep dish Oscar junkie. In college, I hosted my own Oscar party in my dorm’s common room, with decorations, buckets of popcorn, an Oscar pool (that I won, natch), and me in my dad’s old sparkly tux from 1979. So maybe I’m simply too fond of Hollywood’s annual black-tie party of self-congratulation and copious excess to realize that hiring the man most synonymous with the Oscars of old is maybe not the best person to help bring the youthful edge that Murphy and producer Brett Ratner were obviously hired for in the first place.
Still, check out these clips of Crystal’s Oscar gigs of yore — and a bonus clip of Crystal from our Princess Bride reunion shoot — and then tell me, are you happy with Crystal returning to host the Oscars?
Adam on Twitter @adambvary