• Comedy at the Oscars: Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis and more

    Many of us tuned in last tonight to watch the 84th Annual Academy Awards ceremony (even if only to #TweetRoast it live). Billy Crystal hosted the ceremony for the ninth time, returning after an eight-year hiatus. After recanting Eddie Murphy as host (and Brett Ratner as the show’s producer), the award show’s brass went with a safe choice in Crystal, who had hosted spectacularly in the past. Although an improvement from last year’s FrancAthaway Debacle, Crystal didn’t quite live up to his previous performances. Maybe it was his increasing age– or all the jokes devoted to the nominees’ ages throughout his bits.

    Many critics slammed Crystal as doing a poor job during a poor ceremony featuring poor movies, but I say that the City Slickers star got the job done in keeping things light-hearted and upbeat. The producers weren’t trying to take major risks with an unpredictable host (á la Ricky Gervais) nor were they attempting to snag a younger audience with an unproven host. Instead, they chose a simply satisfactory master and commander and focused on booking funny presenters to punch-up an oft-bleaguered night.

    Although Bridesmaids stars Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy didn’t bring home golden statuettes, the two women gussied up with co-stars Maya Rudolph, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rose Byrne and Ellie Kemper to present the short film awards. Our favorite raunchy ladies were a highlight during a category most people use as a bathroom break. Wiig and Rudolph humorously debated whether size mattered, although it became ambiguous if they were talking about film or sex. “Hate to tell you guys, but it kinda does,” said Wiig. Rudolph countered, “As my grandma used to say, it can be short and still make my toes curl.” Following the sexual innuendoes, McCarthy and Byrne brought back their drinking game from the SAG awards, where they took shots of vodka out of their cleavage any time someone yelled out the word, “Scorcese.” As McCarthy said during the SAG awards, “You’d be surprised how often that word comes up during regular, casual conversation.”

    Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis presented best original song together, “playing” the cymbals. Galifianakis announced that, “Man or Puppet” (Bret McKenzie, of Flight of the Conchords fame), joined the ranks of other Best Song winners, “When You Wish Upon A Star,” “Moon River” and “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”.

    My favorite appearance was by my favorite comedian, Chris Rock, who came out to present best animated film, which was noteworthy in itself. You may remember that during his 2005 Oscar hosting gig he made a joke about how Jude Law is in so many movies because producers just couldn’t get Tom Cruise. “Who is Jude Law?” he shouted. “Why was he in every movie I’ve seen for the last four years?” Since that time, Rock hasn’t been back to the Oscars.

    And last night, Rock held back no punches, delivering a tight minute and a half set on the “magic” of doing voice-over work. “In animation, you can be anything you want to be. If you’re a fat woman, you can play a skinny princess…If you’re a white man, you can play an Arabian prince. If you’re a black man, you can play a donkey or a zebra…’I can’t play white,'” he jests.

    It was a big year for comedies and comedians at the Oscars, with representatives in the fields of best supporting actor and actress, best original screenplay, best original song, and best picture. Woody Allen, who chose not to attend the ceremony and never attends, was recognized by the Academy for his amazing writing of Midnight in Paris. The slapstick comedy in the tradition of silent film, The Artist, won best picture, as well as four other awards.

    The best adapted screenplay award went to the writers of The Descendants: Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne, and…our favorite Community college dean, Jim Rash! When Angelina Jolie was on stage to present the category, she showed what my grandmother would call ‘too much leg’ in a sexy pose. Rash told Entertainment Weekly after the show, “Honestly, as soon as I saw her pose like that, I was like, ‘I’m going to do that.” It certainly gave him a moment Community fans could appreciate, since director/writer Alexander Payne spoke on behalf of the three writers.

    Lastly, one of the most talked about Oscar moments took place before the ceremony even started. Sacha Baron Cohen showed up to the red carpet dressed as his title character from his upcoming film, The Dictator (in theaters May 11). In full dictator garb, accompanied by his “glamorazzi” and holding an urn filled with the “ashes” of his deceased friend Kim Jong Il, he was interviewed by Ryan Seacrest. The American Idol host mistakenly thought Cohen would be professional…yea, that didn’t happen. The dictator of Wadiya “accidentally” spilled the ashes all over Seacrest’s tuxedo. When apologizing, he spilled them on Seacrest again! Cohen continued his faux apology as security dragged him away.

    The Oscars were not what they have been in the past, but they certainly had their moments this year. Rather than rag on Crystal or Hollywood or the Academy, why not recognize the people who were funny, even if most of those people were on Twitter?

    Billy Procida

    Laughspin editor-in-chief Billy Procida is a stand-up comedian in New York City. He hosts The Manwhore Podcast where he talks to women he's hooked up with about sex, dating, and why they didn't work out. Reach him on Twitter.

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