Steve Martin approached his stints as Oscar host in 2001 and 2003 like a guy who had taken a religious vow not to pander or suck up to his audience, both the star-studded one inside the Kodak Theater and the millions tuning in globally. During his 2001 monologue, his joke about how Ellen Burstyn gained 20 pounds and aged up for her role in Requiem for a Dream and “Russell Crowe still hit on her” was so deadpan and dead-on, the camera caught a reaction shot of Winona Ryder covering her mouth and gasping in horror (see video after the jump).
A host who’s not blinded by the wattage on Hollywood’s most glamorous night? The horrors, indeed. Pound for pound, Martin’s jokes were far funnier than any host before or since: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sounds like something Siegfried and Roy does on vacation.” You just can’t dispute the genius in that. But his approach to hosting and the Big Night in general seemed to be guided by a kind of anti-Sally Field ethos as if to say: “I don’t care if you really, really don’t like me.” That’s fine if you’re writing Shouts and Murmurs pieces for the New Yorker. But c’mon, on Oscar night, you’ve got to buy into the hype in order to stay invested in anything more than what Halle Berry’s wearing. Last year, he found his perfect foil in his delightful and delovely co-presenter, Tina Fey.
Seeing this makes me think that Martin just needs to be paired with someone who can add a little pizzaz or emotional unpredictability to the show. His bone dry humor needs a little gravy, that’s all. And who better to do that than that great geyser of unpredictability, Alec Baldwin. I’m psyched, Popwatchers. I have high hopes that this pair could be an inspired comic duo. You with me on this? And since it’s been a while since we’ve had a great comic double-act come along, what are some of your favorites from the past?