Hosting the Oscars can’t really kill your career, but when a gag flops in front of Hollywood’s elite, the vultures swoop in. Here’s a look at some memorable gaffes in emcee history.
Jerry Lewis, 1959
DANCING WITH THE STARS, THE PREQUEL
It seems impossible, but once upon a time the Oscars actually ended too early. Cohost Lewis had to find a way to fill about 20 minutes of screen time. His solution? To drag actors up on stage and make them sing and dance. We’re sure they hated it as much as the audience did.
Chevy Chase, 1988
YOU LOST THEM AT HELLO
Chase strode onto the Shrine Auditorium stage and greeted the audience with ”Good evening, Hollywood phonies.” Hollywood loves to laugh. But at themselves? He’d have had better luck with a gag about starving kids in Africa. Chase never hosted again.
David Letterman, 1995
DUDE, THEY’VE MET
Letterman did a semi-comical but slightly tone-deaf riff about introducing Uma Thurman to Oprah Winfrey: ”Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah.” It didn’t go over well, so he kept doing it. Again. And again. And again. And introduced himself to the list of Oscar hosts who never got invited back.
Whoopi Goldberg, 1996
DOES ANYONE SMELL GAS?
Whoopi, God bless her, has never cared much for subtlety. After Vanessa Williams performed the Oscar-nominated song from Pocahontas, ”Colors of the Wind,” Goldberg took the stage and cracked, ”The question I really want to answer: What color is my wind?” Um, ick.
Chris Rock, 2005
Rock pushed the wrong buttons when, while riffing about Hollywood being out of touch with the mainstream, he asked, ”Who is Jude Law?” The audience blanched, and so did Law’s All the King’s Men costar Sean Penn. Penn defended Law later in the show, and he and Rock hugged backstage, but the damage was done.