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Oscars 2012: Comics on why Billy Crystal rocks the Academy Awards

February 9, 2012 |  1:13 pm

Billy Crystal at the 2004 Oscars
With Billy Crystal set to host this year’s Academy Awards, a sense of dread over the show's prospects has been lifted: With eight previous telecasts under his belt, Crystal is considered to be the consummate Oscar host.

Of course, as fellow comic Paul Rodriguez notes, familiarity is a good thing in awards host jobs: “Everybody in the business is watching,” he says. “It’s the Super Bowl of show business. He’s safe.”

It’s also necessary, says comic Tom Papa, to be able to have experience with a difficult audience, as comics often do: “As the night goes on, four out of five people in that audience are losers, and disappointed. Halfway through that show you have a very tough crowd to make laugh.”

PHOTOS: Billy Crystal at the Oscars

And you have to be fast on your feet. “It’s not like you can take ad lib classes," adds Patton Oswalt, costar of “Young Adult” and host of three ceremonies himself this awards season. "Someone can’t train for the Oscars. You’d better have been doing the training for decades before you ever get there, or it’s going to be bad.” See the full story on what else the comedians have to say about Crystal.

Throughout his previous appearances, Crystal has proved to be fast on the draw, able to pick up on unexpected failures (technological and human) and completely willing to look ridiculous in pursuit of the laugh. Whether being wheeled out on a dolly as Hannibal Lecter, having a conversation with Yoda or letting us know what’s really on Judi Dench’s mind mid-show, Crystal makes the whole hosting gig look easy. Given his track record -- view some highlights below -- this year should be no different.

Billy as Hannibal Lecter (1992): After being wheeled onstage wearing the face guard from “The Silence of the Lambs,” Crystal heads straight for that night’s eventual lead actor winner, Anthony Hopkins (who played the cannibalistic Lecter) and says, “I’m having some of the academy over for dinner. Care to join me?”

Billy in the Movies (1997): Classic example of Crystal as a character in several of the films being celebrated, plus a little song and dance.

Billy the Psychic (2000): Billy lets the audience in on “What the Stars are Thinking.”


PHOTOS: Billy Crystal at the Oscars

With Billy Crystal hosting, have the Oscars given up on youth?

— Randee Dawn

Photo: Host Billy Crystal at the 2004 Oscar ceremonies. Credit: Gary Hershorn / Reuters.

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