Great Oscar Writing

Oscar hosts in history: 9 lines worth repeating

Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and other former Oscar hosts set a high bar for 2013’s Seth McFarlane.
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Seth McFarlane makes his debut tonight as the latest in a long line of Oscar hosts — and, while I wish the Academy had managed to secure Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for the job, I wish him well. In honor of what’s surely one of Hollywood’s toughest gigs, here are a few quotes from Oscar hosts (and one memorable presenter) in years past:

Bob Hope (1968): “Welcome to the Academy Awards — or as it’s known at my house, Passover.”
Johnny Carson (1979): “Welcome to the 51st Academy Awards, two hours of sparkling entertainment spread over a four-hour show.”
Carson (1981): “The president has asked for severe cuts in aid to the arts and humanities. It’s Reagan’s strongest attack on the arts since he signed with Warner Brothers.”
Paul Hogan (presenter in 1986): “Most importantly tonight, for most categories, the nominees will be on camera when they announce the winner. Please, nominees, let’s not have the spectacle of all four lo ... um, non-winners giving us this one [smiles and applauds]. This is the I’m-so-glad-he-won-instead-of me smile. Think of the television audience; give us a bit of variety, you know? Maybe one or two of you could burst into tears. Storming out of the building in a huff would be nice. Or what’s wrong with a bit of good old-fashion booing?”
Billy Crystal (1992), when a technical problem made a speech from 100-year-old actor Hal Roach inaudible: “I think that’s fitting, because Mr. Roach started in silent films.”
Whoopi Goldberg (1994): “To make sure you don’t get shortchanged in the soapbox department, I’m going to get it all out of my system right now: Save the whales; save the spotted owl; gay rights; men’s rights; women’s rights; human rights; feed the homeless; more gun control; free the Chinese dissidents; peace in Bosnia; health-care reform; choose choice; act up; more AIDS research; let Frank Sinatra finish; Lorena Bobbitt, please meet Bob Dole, and someone stop these damn earthquakes ... I think I took care of everything, didn’t I? Including my career.”
David Letterman (1995): “You know, last year Americans were dazzled by the singing, dancing and acting talents of a wonderfully exciting newcomer. I’m referring, of course, to United States Attorney General Janet Reno.”
Steve Martin (2001): “Maybe critics are right, maybe Hollywood movies are too violent. You know, I took a 9-year-old kid to see ‘Gladiator’ and he cried through the entire film. Now, maybe it was because he didn’t know who I was.”
Ellen DeGeneres (2007): “This has got to be your favorite part of the night. Right now is a level playing field. You don’t really know who’s going to win. Unless you’re British, then you know you have a pretty good shot.”

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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