If I Ran the Oscars: Comedian Jon Manfrellotti takes a shot
In this interview series, we ask a host of famous free thinkers to recast the Oscars in their own image. Please direct your attention to our next presenter: actor-comedian Jon Manfrellotti, who steals scenes weekly as Manfro the bookie on TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age”:
Now that the nominations have been released, which films and performers do you think the academy voters will pick to win the Oscars this year?
For best picture, I think it’s going to be “The Social Network.” Everybody and his brother is on a computer, so now they can go online and tell each other, “I TOLD you it was going to be ‘The Social Network’!”
They’re probably going to give best actress to Natalie Portman. She made a weird face into the camera, and had a lesbian scene, so she’ll get it. On the men’s side, it’ll be Christian Bale for supporting actor, because he lost weight, and it’ll probably be Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech.” You gotta feel bad for a king who lisps.
So if you were in charge of the academy, who would go home with Oscars this year?
Me personally, I’d give it to Jeff Bridges, because I love him. I think he’s great. I know he won last year, and he’s playing the same character but this time with an eye patch. But he still pulled it off. And Hailee Steinfeld blew me away. She was phenomenal. But man, where do you go from there? Better go right into rehab and get it over with.
Which films and performers from the past do you feel deserved the Oscar but didn’t receive one?
Glenn Close should have won for “Dangerous Liaisons.” She lost to Cher in “Moonstruck.” Come on, was Sonny stuffing the ballot? And “Raging Bull” lost to “Ordinary People.” It should have been called “Ordinary Movie.” You talk about a boring movie -– instead of anesthesia, they should show “Ordinary People” before surgery.
Since we’re talking about deserved Oscars and Martin Scorsese, what’s your take on him winning the award for “The Departed” and not “Raging Bull” or “Goodfellas”?
It’s like one day they woke up and said, “Whoa, we [messed] up. We better give this to him. Hurry up and give it to him while he's still aware that he's getting an award."
Let’s move on to the ceremony itself. Which categories would you add if you were in charge of the telecast, and which would you delete?
I’d add most pretentious [jerk].
I almost don’t want to ask who your nominees are.
All of the above. And I’d delete any category involving a foreign film. No one gives a ... about foreign films. If I wanted to read, I'd go to the library. I’d also get rid of best original song. Do I really need to see Shrek singing a love song? Nobody should be put through that.
I’d also remove all of the acceptance speeches. Nobody cares about your agent, no one cares about who helped you, and no one cares about your cause. Shut up and get off –- I want to watch SportsCenter.
Which part of the telecast would you remove, and what would you replace it with?
If a speech goes too long, then instead of the band playing them off, I’d open a trap door. Get out of the way so I can see the hottie handing out the statues.
Which part of the Oscars would you never change?
The part when it’s over. When they say, “Thank you, good night.” Why don’t they open with that? They can run the winners like credits, in a tableaux.
The fashion parade on the red carpet seems to have become as important a part of the ceremony as the awards themselves. What dress code rules would you mandate there?
They haven’t tried see-through dresses yet.
Who’s your dream host?
Alex Trebek. When he says, “And the winner is…” the band can play [hums “Jeopardy” theme]. “What is True Grit?”
How about presenters?
What about Joe Namath, the only Jet to ever win a Super Bowl?
I’m amazed that he wasn’t on it in the past. He was on everything else.
Well, he doesn’t know how to find the Kodak Theatre.
Any musical performers you’d like to see?
Yeah, how about Eric Clapton playing the music from “Enchanted”?
Who would receive your Lifetime Achievement Award?
Robert Duvall is one of my favorite actors, so I’d give it to him. Has Bugs Bunny ever won anything?
He hasn’t, but “Knighty Knight Bugs” did in 1958.
Unbelievable. Who would accept it for him –- a pen? A paintbrush?
Do you have a favorite Oscar moment (good or bad) from the past?
The first thing that pops into mind is when Brando sent the Indian to accept his statue. They melted it down and gave it to Meriweather Lewis.
And lastly, Jon, let’s give you an Oscar for all of your hard work this year. So let’s hear your acceptance speech.
“How much can I get for this statue on eBay? Thank you, good night!”
Manfrellotti will perform his stand-up with Ray Romano and Kevin James on Feb. 25 and 26 at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
-- Paul Gaita
Photo of Jon Manfrellotti by Jason Kempin/Getty Images