Hosted: once (2004)
Rock has the requisite big ego, but he came into the job with a huge chip on his shoulder, the surety that his crass sense of humor would not play well in Peoria. He was right. His shrill opening monologue suggested that he has no use for the Oscars. That’s fine, honey, but some of us losers out here very much look forward to swilling wine and shouting at the television. The last thing we want is someone shouting out at us. Rock started off on the wrong foot by going on at length about Bush’s re-election. Cardinal sin: bringing us down before the Dead Academy Member Montage. Political humor is great, but at the Oscars we want it in small, sharp doses, not as the icebreaker for the evening. Some irreverence is necessary, but Rock’s was so random. Picking on Jude Law? Was there trouble when they co-starred in A.I. or something? Then there was that crack about Nicole Kidman deserving an Emmy for keeping a smile on her face the year Halle Berry won for Monster’s Ball. Ungentlemanly and untrue (if anything, Botox was responsible). Simple rule: The host has to play to two audiences, the one in front of him or her, and the one watching at home. While they can seem like very different breeds, they are composed of famous people and people who care about famous people. Make jokes for those people, not against them. On the upside, Rock does get points for ticking off that grump Sean Penn, which is why Rock has been spared the designation of the absolute worst host of all time.
Overall impression: Painful like a toothache.