The Academy Awards

After the 2011 Academy Awards broacast, I received a note from Jan Fair, a talented actor, author of more than 50 books, and long-time friend.  She writes:

“I liked your newsletter this month [Time-Released Humor].  It had relevance to David Seidler’s Oscar acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech.   Richly deserved, I might add.

“He definitely used Time-Released Humor, giving the audience time to laugh when he opened with, ‘My father always said to me I would be a late bloomer.’  (He’s 71 and had never even been nominated for an Oscar…although I thought he should have been in 1988 for Tucker.)   It took a moment for the audience to ‘get it’ and he gave them time to laugh.   When the laughter subsided he then he went on to explain saying, ‘I believe I am the oldest person to ever receive this award.’  I also loved that he then said, ‘I hope this record will be broken quickly and often.’

Jan continued:  “David really used a “hard” set-up  when he said, ‘I would like to thank her majesty the Queen for not putting me in the Tower of London for using the Melissa Leo F-word.’  Only a few minutes earlier the audience exploded with laughter when she had been BLEEPED for saying the F-bomb as she accepted her Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for her role in The Fighter.  (She was brilliant in the role.)   And, if you’ve seen The King’s Speech, you’d know he had a lot of F-bombs in his script.”

Thank you Jan for your keen observations on the Oscar’s program.  Humor is certainly something that keeps the awards program alive and ties things together.  The program humor generally comes in two forms:  Scripted and Spontaneous.  Much effort goes into the program opening, which is usually presented in the form of skits, film clips, musical parody, or monologue.  But the highlight of the evening to me is the spontaneous humor sprinkled throughout the program.  This often takes the form of Observational Humor remarks made by the host, presenters and recipients.

Billy Crystal, eight-time oscar host, is one of my favorites emcees.  In my book, his 1992 Oscar night performance stands out as the best.  My favorite Observational Humor moment that evening was when Crystal recognized Hal Roach, American film producer and director, who had recently celebrated his 100th birthday.  Mr Roach rose from his seat and made some impromptu comments which could not be heard by most people because he had no microphone.  When the camera panned back to Crystal he said:  “I think that’s fitting, after all, Mr. Roach started in silent film.”

It’s hard to top the power of spontaneous, observational humor.