It’s improv, stupid! How to host the Oscars

Thelma Adams
Yahoo! Movies Oscars Blog

Despite Seth MacFarlane's cheerful rapport with Emma Stone at the crack of crack last week at the Oscar nominations, the "Family Guy" creator and "Ted" director has got some big shoes to fill as host. Until last night, if MacFarlane were to be just better than the tweeting James Franco, it would be considered a win. But following the tag team of titillation, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, at last night's 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards, MacFarlane had better bring his A game -- and then some.

  • It's improv, not stand-up: Ever since they met at Improv Olympic in Chicago in 1993, Fey-and-Poehler have played together and role-played together. Poehler remembers that Fey caught her attention by writing a blue sketch about Catherine the Great and horses. Since then, they have honed their craft, and deepened their friendship. Together they joined New York's Upright Citizens Brigade in 1996. The next year, Fey joined the writing staff of "Saturday Night Live," and Poehler joined the cast in 2001. The rest is comedy history. While MacFarlane is part of "Family Guy," his experience has largely been scripted. And as the vocal star, writer and director of "Ted," he's become accustomed to having control.
  • Leave the Teddy at home: Props don't work at the big show. Leave the bad baby and naughty Ted at the office. The time has come to man up.
  • The buddy system: Fey-and-Poehler are a great tag team. They can do the good cop, bad cop comedy routine. Poehler can sling a zinger like "I haven't really been following the controversy around 'Zero Dark Thirty,' but when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron." And Fey is there to laugh it off, with a self-deprecating gag. Maybe it's time to call Emma Stone and see if she has a date for Oscar night.
  • Play to your strengths: Sing! You're up for an Oscar for your lyrics for "Everybody Needs a Friend." Make crazy new music. And Adele will probably win, so remember that they'll love you more if you're a graceful loser. It worked for Fey and Poehler.
  • It's not about you: If you make hosting about you, it will be like blood in the water. (Again, think Franco and his too-cool-for-Oscar act.) The most important thing to remember is that this isn't the Golden Globes or Vegas. The theater is filled with neurotic movie stars, writers, directors and studio chiefs with a lot at stake. Laughter is not the first thing on their minds, even if they're part of a comedy like "Silver Linings Playbook." If you can suppress your ego and pull off the almost-impossible balance of humor, humility, and respect, you may have a chance.

On the other hand, maybe the Oscars should just poach Fey-and-Poehler, the best awards hosts since Billy Crystal in his heyday.