Hosted: eight times (1989-1992, 1996-97, 1999, 2003)
America doesnât want to sleep with Crystal and probably wouldnât rush to buy a magazine with him on the cover, but the vast majority of us would be more than happy to sit back every year and let Crystal steer the Oscar ship. (A poll in USA Today named him the favorite Oscar host of all time.) His humour is not too kind, but never too mean. His sense of comic timing is stellar and, perhaps most important, he loves and understands movies (ahem, Letterman). More than any other host, he brought the Oscars into contemporary times by injecting himself into the yearâs classic footage (a whole generation of mash-up artists owes him a debt). Tellingly, that shtick of his hasnât grown old, even though you know itâs both the best part of the broadcast and over in the first five minutes. Crystal never seemed daunted by the task, which is absolutely crucial to doing it well. Such a level of confidence is perhaps to be expected for a man whose breakthrough came playing a gay man on television (on âSoapâ) way back in 1977. Crystal revealed the secret to his own success in a 2003 interview with Mike Wallace, shortly before his last (to date anyway) appearance as host. That first time hosting, he appeared onstage with a toothbrush in his pocket, a symbolic reference to his childhood, when he had stayed up as late as he could to watch the seemingly endless ceremony, toothbrush clutched in a small hand to serve as a microphone for his imaginary acceptance speeches. âI wanted that big audience to feel like the living room,â he said. He made himself feel comfortable, so he could make us feel comfortable. It worked. Please come back some day, Billy.
Overall impression: Fits like a glove.