Once again, the Oscars are without a host.
As the former "juggernaut of television broadcasting" has attempted to drum up flagging public interest in its glitzy ceremony over the past decade, the Academy has been willing to try just about anything in the hosting slot: The barbed humor of Jon Stewart, the song-and-dance of routine Hugh Jackman, or the odd-couple pairing of James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Unfortunately, nothing has stuck.
And this year, for the first time, the Oscars were upstaged by another ceremony: The Golden Globes, which tapped Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to co-host the evening. By contrast, the Academy's latest choice — Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane — couldn't measure up, with lazy, sexist jokes about women holding grudges, getting beaten, and being strippers. Even William Shatner, who beamed in at the start of the show, said he wished that Fey and Poehler were hosting.
MacFarlane was asked to return as host next year — his approach did, in the end, manage to nudge the telecast's numbers upwards by a million viewers — but the relevancy and the buzz that the Academy was striving for was lost to the Golden Globes. Fey and Poehler earned heaps of critical praise for their hosting gig, and matched the acclaim with equally impressive ratings, including a 17 percent rise from the previous year's numbers.
MacFarlane has turned down the opportunity to host the Oscars next year, which gives the Academy a unique opportunity to learn the real lesson from this year's awards season: Easy, cliched humor about sex and race doesn't win; smart humor from some of Hollywood's best comediennes does. In choosing its next host, the Academy should consider some of the following women, who boast the skill, charisma, and celebrity needed to widen the reach of next year's Oscars:
1. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
(Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)
Let's get the obvious answer out of the way. Fey and Poehler's stellar Golden Globes performance is more than enough proof that the duo — bolstered by many years of experience with live comedy on Saturday Night Live — could easily handle the Oscars. Of course, they'd be great together again, but both women have shown that they have the talent to take the reins solo. Fey proved herself an excellent writer and showrunner for seven years on 30 Rock, and Poehler has more than matched her friend's success as the star of Parks and Rec, with a history of adding extra entertainment to awards shows like the Emmys.
2. Kristen Wiig
Over the past few years, Kristen Wiig has made a killer career for herself, with everything from the slapstick absurdity of her sketch comedy on Saturday Night Live to her nuanced, emotionally honest starring turn in Bridesmaids. She's an Oscar-nominated writer, and one of the most engaging and successful comediennes to come out of SNL in years. And she's already shown she can thrive in a format that's traditionally a boys' club by making Bridesmaids the most successful film of Judd Apatow's production career. Wiig is on fire professionally, and her skill and fame would offer the Academy both star power and some much-needed comedic prowess.
3. Melissa McCarthy
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
If Wiig's too busy with her ever-growing plate of projects, Bridesmaids co-star (and scene-stealer) Melissa McCarthy is the natural choice. Her performance in Bridesmaids was so funny that she earned a rare Best Supporting Actress nomination for a comedic role, and her turn hosting the SNL premiere proved that she could tackle live television just as easily as pre-recorded comedy. The only problem is that she might be too in demand; McCarthy currently has multiple films in the works, including Tammy — a starring vehicle she wrote, produced, and directed alongside her husband Ben Falcone.
4. Jennifer Lawrence
If the Academy wants a host who could instantly bring buzz and youthful vigor, it's not too late to strike while the Jennifer Lawrence iron is hot. In a fickle celebrity culture that ravages the likes of Anne Hathaway, Lawrence courts unprecedented levels of respect from critics and audiences alike. She was labeled "brilliant" for photobombing Sarah Jessica Parker earlier this month, and everything she does — from falling up stairs to freaking out over Jack Nicholson — has been met with adoration. As an accomplished actress who takes on comedy as easily as drama, with a down-to-earth personality people love, she could give the Academy exactly what they want: A ceremony that engages a new and younger generation (which would probably, based on previous history, result in a massive viral footprint of fan-created GIFs).
5. Zooey Deschanel
(Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
Yes, Zooey Deschanel is "quirky." Yes, people love to call her a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. However, she's also shown more range than she gets credit for, as the woman from films like Almost Famous and Elf; she's the star of, and name behind, the hit comedy show New Girl; she's a musician who loves retro tunes, and who wrote all the songs on She and Him's albums; she runs a popular website for girls; and she's arguably more popular than Seth MacFarlane. Her interest in retro music would mesh well with the Academy, and her comedic and musical spin on life could take the event in new directions.
6. Bring back the Academy's old multiple-guest format
Before Chevy Chase hosted the 60th Academy Awards, sparking a long tradition of solo hosts, the Academy preferred to have as many as six hosts at the event. The split panels included everyone from Warren Beatty to Diana Ross to Carol Burnett to John Huston. There was a freedom in the mix of hosts — a blend of comedy and drama, and a way to keep the pressure of a ceremony from resting on one celebrity's shoulders.
Best of all, a mix of talent could offer the Oscars some much-needed diversity. With a single host, the Academy needs to trade on celebrity currency – a host whose talents and name can attract viewers. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a woman of color to break into mainstream comedy in recent years with the same popularity and recognition as four-time host Whoopi Goldberg. If, however, the show grabs multiple talents that aren’t contingent on any sole person’s star power, a diverse collection of women could enter the ring and prove their talents alongside their peers, increasing their profile — and, just maybe, becoming a future breakout star in their own right. (Before Chevy Chase started the tradition of solo hosts, he co-hosted alongside Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan.) For a ceremony that's constantly looking to attract more buzz, Seth MacFarlane's decision not to come back is a blessing in disguise — a win-win chance to increase ratings and turn the job into a position that actually breaks some real ground. Your move, Academy.