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Five Ways Host Jimmy Kimmel Can Steer a Better Oscars Ceremony

Most important of all: Expect the unexpected.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Host Jimmy Kimmel (R) speaks onstage as cast/crew of 'Moonlight' celebrate winning Best Picture during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Jimmy Kimmel following the best picture mixup at the 2017 ceremony.

Getty Images

There’s a host again. Thank God, there’s a host again. Not three hosts, like at this March’s misbegotten Oscars ceremony. One host. And it’s the same host as the last time we had just one host, almost five years ago: Jimmy Kimmel.

After back-to-back emceeing gigs in 2017 and 2018, including during the infamous Best Picture mixup that resulted in the “La La Land” team temporarily handed statuettes that rightfully belonged to “Moonlight,” the Academy decided to go three straight Oscars ceremonies without a host at all. The hope was for a leaner, faster-paced ceremony.

That never happened.

Meanwhile, ratings for the ceremony kept going down with each year until hitting rock bottom for the odd COVID-impacted ceremony in 2021 that took place at Los Angeles’ Union Station and tried to create a Rick’s Cafe Americain vibe from “Casablanca.” The only problem? There was no Rick. And so the Oscars brought back not just one, but three hosts for the 2022 edition. For multiple reasons, and not just The Slap, that didn’t work either.

2023 will return to the classic model, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically smooth sailing. Here are five things Kimmel can do to bring the ceremony back to a gold standard.

Kate Erbland and Marcus Jones also contributed to this article.

Don’t Just Stand Around If the Unexpected Occurs

For nearly six minutes during the envelope mixup at the 2017 ceremony that resulted in reteamed “Bonnie and Clyde” duo Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announcing “La La Land” as the winner of Best Picture, Kimmel was confused and absent. Look at that photo above: This is an image of someone who has lost control of a live-TV snafu. In fact, “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz himself had to take the microphone, show the card that displayed “Moonlight” as the winner and correct the situation, at a moment of crushing disappointment where he’d gotten his hopes up for nothing.

Then, only once Barry Jenkins and the “Moonlight” team took the stage, the “La La Land” folks graciously handing them their statuettes, and they had given their speeches, Kimmel stepped forward and took charge. It was too little too late, but at least he showed what to do in that situation if not when to do it.

Be Ready for Anything (Again)

Recent Oscars history – heck, probably forever Oscars history – has been marked by two cataclysmic events: “Envelopegate” of 2017 and “The Slap” of 2022. Kimmel was only host for the former shake-up, mere feet away from the drama that unfolded when Dunaway and Beatty mistakenly announced that “La La Land” was the Best Picture winner when, in fact, it was “Moonlight.” Madness ensued and confusion reigned, both on stage and off, in the ceremony proper and out in many living rooms across the world.

Could anyone else have even remotely calmed that crowd? Well, maybe, but what Kimmel lacked in the moment was more than made up for with his interest in clearing things up in the following days. As Kimmel explained after the 2017 show, the mix-up was indeed not a prank, and while that’s crystal-clear now, at the time, there were still many questions swirling about what actually happened. The host keenly recognized the impact of the mix-up and was open to transparency and dissecting it. Refreshing! In our post-“Slap” world, we all realize that anything could happen during a live show, but Kimmel seems uniquely equipped to be up to the task, having presumably learned from both his show snafu and the biggie from last year. –KE

Think Fast on Your Feet to Defuse a Tense Moment

Though in a stunned stupor for six minutes, Kimmel took the reins again in the 2017 ceremony’s final moments. “This is what happens when I host,” he quipped. “I’ll never do it again.”

OK, that was funny! Self-deprecation, acknowledging the historic uniqueness of that moment. That worked. It should’ve happened sooner, but it rescued the moment and made sure the telecast ended on (a little more, at least) than a note of bewilderment.

Thinking fast is critical: Think of that awkward moment when legendary 100-year-old producer Hal Roach stood up in the crowd at the 1992 ceremony and started speaking (unplanned and un-mic’d). Nobody could hear him, but the camera awkwardly lingered on him as everyone could see his lips were moving and he was trying to give a speech. Host Billy Crystal then joked, “This is perfectly fitting, he got his start in silent films.” The crowd lost it and the moment was rescued.

But Don’t Put Talent on the Spot

Amy Schumer almost had a moment like Crystal’s when she acknowledged “Is it just me or did the mood change in here?” after The Slap. But she and her fellow hosts Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes had their own share of stepping in it throughout the evening. Particularly when Hall invited Bradley Cooper, Simu Liu, Timothee Chalamet, and Tyler Perry onstage to verbally undress them, with even a bit of manhandling. It was a pre-scripted bit that they certainly were all in on the joke for, but it was an odd moment — especially with a joke about Will Smith’s open marriage that may have helped set the stage for The Slap later that evening.

Kimmel is no stranger to creating awkward moments for talent himself: at just this September’s Emmys ceremony, Kimmel spent the entirety of Quinta Brunson’s speech after winning Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series laying at her feet, acting as if he had passed out. Obviously, that took attention away from Brunson’s moment, let alone what she had to say.

Likewise, Cut Down on the Awkward, Time-Consuming Bits

The 2018 ceremony, which Kimmel also hosted, was notable for reuniting Dunaway and Beatty to make up for what happened the previous year. It also saw a proliferation of dumb comedy bits that ate time and surely contributed to the idea that the ceremony could go without a host altogether for the next three years. The worst of these was Kimmel leading a group of celebrities, including Mark Hamill and Brad Pitt, to the movie theater next door to surprise a theater full of “normals” expecting to see “A Wrinkle in Time.” The punchline was basically, “Oh look, celebrities!” At least they were spared a few more minutes from watching “A Wrinkle in Time.” But that was an example of how the host’s pranks have lost their luster. Even the most signature bit from “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” an annual compilation of parents telling their children they ate all their Halloween candy, closed the YouTube comments for its 2022 edition. We’re not saying pranks are completely out of the question, but Kimmel will need to go back to the drawing board for the 2023 Oscars, and hopefully avoid incorporating unsuspecting crowds. And beating a joke into the ground does not make it funnier.

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