I think Napoleon would do well. From all accounts, he had the gravitas to host the Academy Awards. Unlike so many of today’s performers, Napoleon was not a pleaser. So when a joke didn’t land, he’d just plow ahead, as if heading for Volgograd.
Because that’s what hosting the Academy Awards has become — a Russian winter, the deepest chill of a performer’s career.
You could hologram Napoleon — the options grow each day. You could create a robotic Bonaparte, or snatch a snippet of DNA from his Paris tomb and clone him, as per “Jurassic Park.”
“Hey, Nap baby,” you’d say, “I’ve got a project for you.”
“Quoi?” he’d ask.
“The Oscars,” you’d tell the bigheaded little punk. “It’ll be good for your career.”
Picking an Oscar host these days seems nearly impossible, so why not go back and go big.
In all of human history, whom would you pick to host? Moses? Aristotle? Alexander the Great?
Jesus could hold a room. Picking him would be thinking outside the box office, and he’d give off a hipster vibe. He’d probably arrive on a beat-up old bike, wearing a man bun.
And the audience would wonder: Is that really Jesus, or Daniel Day-Lewis? Once they realized he was the real deal, bloggers would still critique every facet of his perfect performance.
Then you’d worry: “What would Jesus make of Joaquin Phoenix?”
Of course, what do any of us make of Joaquin Phoenix?
Cleopatra would also be a terrific Oscar host. You think J-Lo can rock a gown, wait till you see what Cleopatra can do with a bunch of snakes and double-sided tape. It would take an Egyptian army of press people to get her dressed, sober and to the Dolby on time.
If I know Cleopatra, and I think I do, she would be a sucker for selfies. She’d own Instagram. She’d out-Twitter Trump.
Given the audience, Sigmund Freud would make an interesting host. Einstein would also be an option.
“Too smart for the room,” the critics would say later.
Abraham Lincoln? Probably too dry for a mainstream audience, and he wouldn’t appeal to the millennials, who would question his social media cred.
I mean, the guy didn’t even carry a phone.
“We’d like you to Snapchat as much as possible.”
At that point, you’d lose Lincoln. He was prone to honesty, introspection and enlightened thought, traits no one ever looks for in an Oscar host.
But Genghis Khan could host an awards show, assuming he passed the background check, which he never would (nor, these days, would Jesus).
I’d love to see Shakespeare perform an opening monologue, where he poked fun at all the shiny celebrities in the front seats.
“Oprah? You hath more hair than wit, and more faults than hairs, and more wealth than faults,” he’d tease.
But look, what do I know? I never produced anything except foot odor. My mustache dates to the Ming Dynasty. My professional résumé arrives by way of fortune cookie.
“Another day … nothing,” it reads.
But I know Oscar telecasts, having seen the last 50 or so. Like a Super Bowl, the Academy Awards belong to the boldest of the bold. To save the Oscars requires chutzpah and greed, which were my majors in college.
As for a non-historic host, my preference would be the fiendish Sarah Silverman, who is the funniest American, though she is originally from New Hampshire, which makes her nominally a Canuck. Canadians are usually funnier than Americans, but they’re white as mashed potatoes and tend to wash out on most high-def screens.
I agree with Jamie Lee Curtis, who recently suggested Key and Peele would make excellent hosts. They are smart and zany, though — as with Lincoln — half of Georgia would wonder who they are.
But what I would probably do if I were producing the Oscars is to keep the host a secret until the very last minute.
Then I’d roll out holograms of our historical hosts, from Moses to Cleopatra, with Billy Crystal having provided many of the quips (a Borscht-Belty Cleopatra would sound very much like my Aunt Melvin).
This would lead to the big host reveal: Barack Obama and George W. Bush walking out on the Oscar stage in tandem, showing that we can put aside significant differences and pull together after all.
Too soon? Too political? Or just right?
Get them on the phone.