Eddie Murphy, Oscar Host? No.

Yes, I do need to question the Academy’s every decision…

So have you heard?  Eddie Murphy is hosting the Oscars this year.  It isn’t as much of a head scratcher as last year’s choices, but I don’t think it’s a good one either.

I like Eddie Murphy.  When I was in college, an audio tape of Delirious circulated through my dorm for months and it was absolutely hilarious.  To this day I still bust out with an occasional “Now that’s a fire!”.

Photo of Eddie Murphy

Can Eddie Murphy defy the odds at the Oscars?

But that was in the olden days.  By my reckoning, Eddie Murphy hasn’t been really funny since the 80s.  So why drag him out as Oscar host now?  I think I know – it’s because he’s gone mainstream but they’re hoping that some of his old edgy reputation will draw viewers to the often-staid broadcast.  They want the appearance of hip irreverence without the bothersome presence of actual irreverence.

Last year’s experiment with “Youth” didn’t go so well.  Anne Hathaway did okay, but grated on some traditional viewers with her frequent “Woo-hoo”-ing.  James Franco, though he was a good sport, was just too laid back.  The pair never coalesced at all.  The year before, the Academy doubled up with Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.  I thought they were fine.  Sometimes funny, sometimes not and a good fit for those looking for the traditional.

The standout in recent years, for me, has been Jon Stewart.  He knows exactly how to respond fast and funny to the unpredictable moments the show inevitably serves up and draws in the younger crowd the Academy seems desperate to please.  He’s also smart, funny and very comfortable on camera – we see that every day on The Daily Show.  But…maybe he doesn’t want to do it anymore.  Or maybe he’s too political, or too sarcastic, or too dang hip.  Whatever the case, I dearly wish he would come back.

But it isn’t happening this year.  This year we get Eddie Murphy.  Not the Murphy of Delirious or Raw, the Disneyfied, middle aged, not very funny anymore Murphy.  The Daddy Day Care Eddie Murphy.  I do love the Oscars and tend to enjoy them regardless of who hosts.  And I hope Eddie Murphy goes out there in February and kills it.  You never know – the same talent that produced Delirious is still in there.  But my gut feeling is that he will be another in a long line of awkward, uncomfortable hosts, reigned in hard by producers who claim to want to shake up the broadcast but cave to the strident voices of old-school viewers every time that comes even close to happening.

It’s too bad – I would love to here his old raucous laugh and biting humor.  But it isn’t going to happen.  They’ll squelch him.  Congratulations, Academy, on setting the stage for another record low number of Oscar viewers.  You couldn’t do more to make the broadcast irrelevant if you tried.

Eddie, if you love us, tear it up out there in February.  We all know you can do it.  It’s time to really Shake Things Up!   Check out Delirious – you’ll see.  Anything’s possible…

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