Obviously it’s too early to be concerned about who’s hosting next year’s Golden Globe ceremony. The day before next year’s Golden Globes ceremony would to be concerned about that. But the pre-weekend news that Ricky Gervais has been invited (if not confirmed) to emcee the show, in his typically irreverent manner, for a third straight year is more interesting for a disputed side note: his claim that the Academy requested his services too.
Gervais is currently playing coy about his offer from the Hollywood Foreign Press — claiming that he’s considering it, but is wary of outstaying his welcome — though I have a hunch he’ll end up accepting. He’s more adamant about refusing the Oscars gig, dismissing it as “a thankless task for a comedian.”
Oscars broadcaster ABC, however, denies that the Academy ever approached Gervais in the first place. Take whoever’s word you find more fun to believe.
Gervais further states his conviction that comedian are ill-suited to the Oscar gig, arguing that the audience “[doesn’t] want to hear jokes, they want to hear who’s won the most important award of their career.” As well as being an extra sideways jab at the Globes (subtext: “Nobody cares about those awards!”), it’s an interesting way to phrase the Oscar host’s dilemma. Though I disagree with Gervais’s belief that comic hosts aren’t the way forward, there’s truth between the lines: the implication is that his particular brand of verbal, irony-based humor, ideally suited for the shabby party atmosphere of the Globes, would be too small for the room at the Oscars.
It’s no coincidence that the most broadly liked Oscar host of recent years, Billy Crystal, is the one whose comedy incorporated the most visual gags and theatrical aspects, with a line in banter more clever than caustic. (Fans of the unadorned, anti-celebrity sarcasm that colored Gervais’s Globe stints, of which I am one, would likely appreciate a similar performance at the Oscars; it’s probable, however, that it would settle about as comfortably in the formally seated auditorium as Chris Rock’s awkward 2005 attempt.) It’s a balance that next year’s Oscarcast producers Don Mischer and Brett Ratner — who have already promised a comic emphasis — would do well to bear in mind.
Meanwhile, whether Gervais winds up accepting or not, good on the Globes for continuing to pursue an entertainingly divisive host, thereby ignoring over-sensitive media commentary: there’s little harm in ribbing amply rewarded Hollywood royalty, and I didn’t exactly notice Angelina Jolie bursting into tears because he didn’t think much of “The Tourist.” On another note, it’s canny of the Globes to seek a perennial host, thereby solidifying their brand, at a time when the Academy’s recent choices have made them look somewhat insecure about theirs.