Sunday, February 04, 2007

David Letterman hosts the Oscars

Letterman's gig at the Oscars has been held up as an example of a host bombing. I saw most of it live, and I remembered liking it, but that might have been my Letterman-worshiping adolesence speaking (I was 14). So I just assumed I had mis-remembered until someone at the New York Times (Virginia Heffernan, probably) said that Letterman was funnier than anyone remembered.

What's more, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart's hosting gigs in the last two years also got bad reviews from the mainstream press, and I thought both were quite good in a tough situation. And, what's more, I've never really liked Billy Crystal's forced, hammy hosting gigs, which got worse as he went along (his hosting in 2004 -- the ceremony where Lord of the Rings won everything, making for a boring night -- was particularly bad, turning to making fun of New Zealand in a weird attempt to make the whole night "us vs. them"). I did like Steve Martin, but he had more mixed reviews than Crystal ever got.

The problem, I think, is that the Oscars are a deliberately old school event that just doesn't mesh well with the new school of ironic commentary, which holds anything old school up for contempt and mockery. The Oscars don't want to be in on the joke. They don't even want to be in the general vicinity of it.

All of this is preamble to saying that I found some of the Letterman Oscar stuff on YouTube, and it holds up surprisingly well. It's not perfect (then, no Top Ten list ever is), but it seems to get pretty big laughs, and even the much-maligned Oprah-Uma bit ends with a pretty great punchline. Am I not remembering the truly awful stuff or something?

See for yourself. . .

First, Oprah-Uma (the YouTube commentors seem confused as to why this is vilified -- vindication!):

Now, the "Want to buy a monkey" bit and top ten list:

Here's the opening from the 2004 Oscars, which has its moments (Michael Moore, in particular), but is mostly very, very broad:

And just because I always liked it, Stewart's "gay cowboys" montage:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

do you know where i can get a video online of the "want to buy a monkey" skit?