When we polled Awards Tracker readers last week to ask who should host the next Oscars, Neil Patrick Harris came in first place with a 24% response out of more than a dozen choices (301 votes out of 1,236 total), and Billy Crystal came in second with 17% (217 votes). It's possible that Crystal might've done better had respondents really believed he would take the job if it were offered. After hosting eight times between 1990 and 2004, Crystal turned it down whenever it was offered again.
"It got to be too much after a while," Crystal told an audience after an anniversary screening of "City Slickers" at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on Friday night. "That's why I pulled back. And then when I thought I might want to do it again, they were on to other people."
At this year's ceremony in February, Crystal made a brief return to the Oscars stage to present a special salute to the man who hosted or cohosted the gala the most: Bob Hope (18 times).
"I came out as a surprise. It was a last-minute decision," Crystal told the crowd Friday. "They had called and said would you do this thing and honor Bob Hope and that was a kind of cool thing to do. I said OK. I did it, and people wanted to see me, they stood up, and I couldn't talk for about a minute [while waiting for the ovation]. And, um, I got a little itchy. So we'll see what happens. I can't promise anything."
Crystal usually pulled strong Nielsen ratings when he emceed. He did best at the ceremony held in 1998 (35 million viewers) and worst in 1997 (26 million). Compare those numbers to the 22 million who tuned in this year to watch the bomb dropped by co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway.
— Tom O'Neil
Photo: Billy Crystal. Credit: ABC.