13 Award Show Hosts Dos and Don'ts
Do Keep Your Cool When the Unexpected Happens
Perhaps the most infamous moment in Oscar history happened in 1974, when a man wearing only an expressionless face and a peace sign ran across the stage. Host David Niven was unfazed by the burst of nudity and joked: "Probably the only laugh that man will get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings."
Don't Trash an Actor's Career
Who is Jude Law? That's exactly what Chris Rock asked at the 2005 Oscars, saying that the British actor has been in every movie he's seen in the last four years. The jab cemented a beef between Rock and Law. Luckily, Sean Penn came to Law's defense during the show, and fans of Alfie were able to sleep easy that night.
Don't Subsitute Rob Lowe and Snow White for Real Hosts
There are low moments in award-show history, and then there are low moments. At the 1989 Oscars, Rob Lowe and Snow White did not do Mary proud in the worst-ever performance of "Proud Mary." There was no official host for the night, but by the time the opening duet was over, it did not matter. The damage had been done.
Do Interact With the Audience
When it comes to the Oscars, Billy Crystal is as good as it gets. His eight years as host of the show put him second to only Bob Hope. Crystal usually did a song and dance number involving the year's nominees and often journeyed into the audience to have some fun with those in the front row. In this clip from 1998, Crystal sits on Jack Nicholson's lap and serenades him.
Don't Take the Awards Too Lightly
Apparently hosting your own late-night talk show does not guarantee success as an award-show host. In 1995, David Letterman and his irreverent style famously bombed as host of the Oscars. Maybe it was his joke that relied on the way that "Uma," "Oprah," and "Keanu" sound? The show had stellar ratings—but Stedman and the rest of America were not impressed.
Do Be Sensitive and Funny
Two months after 9/11, and after the show was rescheduled twice, Ellen DeGeneres took to the stage at the Shubert Theater to host the 53rd Primetime Emmy Awards. She showed remarkable sensitivity toward the fears of the American people, while also having fun. Her winning joke of the night: explaining that her hosting the awards was in fact a strike at the Taliban since she was a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews.
Don't Tell Inappropriate Holocaust Jokes
When in doubt, don't tell a Holocaust joke. At the 2009 Golden Globe Awards, after Kate Winslet's Best Supporting Actress win for her role in the World War II drama The Reader, host Ricky Gervais joked: "I told you, do a Holocaust movie and the awards come, didn't I?" (He was referring to Winslet's 2005 cameo in HBO's Extras, during which she joked that she wanted to star in a Holocaust film to win an Oscar.) The audience, including Winslet, laughed. Then Gervais mentioned how Holocaust films never have a gag reel on the DVD. Awkward silence.
Do Set Your Ego Aside
Teen idols Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond co-hosted the first American Music Awards show in 1974 in what was described onstage as a historic meeting on the level of Roosevelt and Churchill. While it may not have been that epic, the King of Pop and other half of Donny and Marie did not disappoint and on that faithful night, put their big egos aside and let their big hair come together in harmony.
Do Remember to Have Fun
Jamie Foxx my have the acting chops to nab him an Oscar, but he's not exactly known as an award-show host. But in 2003, Foxx hilariously sang a tribute to Serena Williams at the ESPY Awards. Eventually, Williams joined him on stage and playfully smacked his derriere with a tennis racket in the shape of a heart. He then proceeded to give her a lap dance in a giant tennis ball.
Don't Continuously Make Fun of Minorities
2010 Oscar hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin didn't exactly take advantage of the diverse pool of nominees for their opening jokes—instead, they relied on jabs at women and African Americans. On the biggest night of the year for an industry that often gets criticized for being run by white men, it was a very tone-deaf opening.
Do Let Others Know This Is Your Show
Singer and actress Queen Latifah began the 2010 BET Awards with some self-deprecating humor that named other potential emcees for the show. Naturally, the options included Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, and current "It Girl" Betty White. Latifah then reminded everyone that her roots are in hip-hop by breaking it down and letting her own lyrics flow to the tune of a song by rapper Drake.
Don't Force Jokes
Throughout the 2010 VMAs, host Chelsea Handler made some family-friendly jokes, like the one about Mrs. Bieber giving birth to her 401(k) plan. But it was when she was making crass jokes in a hot tub with the Jersey Shore cast, however, that she seemed to fit in fine. And by fit in, we mean the skit seemed to be trying to hard to capitalize on Jersey Shore's popularity.
Do Get Your Viewers to Put Down the Remote
Neil Patrick Harris opened the 2009 Emmys with a song and dance number aptly titled "Put Down the Remote" to remind those at home that if they did indeed change the channel, they'd be missing out on something legendary. The former star of Doogie Howser, who was also a producer and nominee at the Emmys, also received rave reviews for hosting the Tony Awards.
Sujay Kumar works at The Daily Beast. He's written for MTV Splash Page and The Daily Illini.