Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A New York comedian in LA (or "Jon Stewart at the Oscars")

(c) Hollywood Reporter

This year's Oscars began with a farcical montage of ex-hosts refusing to show for 2006, and for good reason. The way Jon Stewart has been crucified over the past 48 hours, you'd think he'd presided over the invasion of Iraq rather than the 78th Academy Awards. There's some irony in the most anti-establishment comic in America being told to keep his 'day' job by liberal bastions from Slate to the Washington Post. Especially when the only way to sit through this three-hour mediocrity-fest was to treat it as an extended episode of The Daily Show.

It seems that Stewart's years as a satirical TV host have made him forget Stand-Up-Comedy 101: the devil's in the audience. He visibly faltered at the forced rumbles or walls of silence that greeted his jokes throughout the night, or at least those at the audience's expense:

"I guess it's the one night of the year where you can see all the stars without having to donate any money to the Democratic Party."
"And it's exciting for the stars as well, because it's the first time many of you have ever voted for a winner"
"There are women here who could barely afford enough gown to cover their breasts."
"And that's why I think Scientology is right not just for this city, but the entire country."

Given that Stewart's performance was sprinkled with jibes at the media, politicians, Jews and himself, you'd think an audience of several hundred celebrities would feel secure enough to cop it in good humour. As it was, the only gag to get a bona fide response involved Dick Cheney shooting someone. Perhaps they were expecting nice, neutral Bush-bashing rather than cutting critique of their own lifestyle and politics.

The dearth of savoir-faire was epitomised by George Clooney, who followed up Stewart's jibes about Hollywood being a "moral black hole" and "out of touch with mainstream America" with an aggressive on-stage defence of tinsel town's progressive values. Apparently it didn't occur to him that Stewart might have been talking tongue-in-cheek, which is after all what the man does for a living. Either that, or Clooney seized the chance to make yet another political statement, on top of the two films for which he got nominations (and an award).

If Spielberg had the grace to praise Stewart's performance, after the crack about Schindler's List and Munich making two legs of a trilogy, we can expect a tad more forbearance from the glitterati. As it was, they seemed to prefer Ben Stiller prancing around in a green leotard. Those Hollywood sophisticates...


Jeremy said...

I'm sure you cherry picked well, but those were hilarious :).

John Lee said...

it wasn't quite as bad as the post indicates, but the tenor was clear

you know what they say - a true sense of humour means the capacity to laugh with people, not just at them