Billy Crystal, Minstrelry and the Academy Awards

February 22nd, 2012, byJeremy Freed

It’s no secret that the Oscars are in trouble of late. Shrinking attention spans, marathon runtimes and the ubiquitous of everything on the YouTubes have pushed the annual celebrity lovefest into sagging, bloated obsolescence.

It looked like things were off to a good start initially, when Eddie Murphy was tapped to host by event producer Brett Ratner. Although Murphy hasn’t made anyone laugh this century without “doing a voice,” there was a chance he could bring back just a teensy bit of that foul-mouthed irreverence that so endeared him to us in the good ol’ days. A sort of Ricky Gervais effect. Ratner’s big mouth put an end to that when he uttered a gay slur at the premiere of Tower Heist, and the ensuing furor forced him to step down. Murphy followed, which is appropriate, considering his affinity for gay slurs back in the Delirious days.

Anyway, scary-looking super-producer Brian Grazer is in, and he’s bringing Billy Crystal–who will be unfrozen and carefully spraypainted to resemble a live human–with him. Because, really, what better way to enliven a franchise on the brink of sagging, bloated obsolescence than with a sagging, bloated, obsolete comedian. Speaking of not making anyone laugh in the 21st century.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have enjoyed Billy Crystal’s work in the past. When Harry Met Sally? Gold. Throw Momma from the Train? Classic. Morty The Mime, too. But considering Crystal’s last noteworthy performance was pre-Internet age, one must question the logic of this move. There’s also the man’s affinity for shuffling around onstage as his “Jazz Man” character, saying things like “Can you dig it?” and pronouncing “toilet” “terlet,” which it seems fewer people know about than really should. Seriously, you need to listen to this. Ted Danson‘s got nothing on Billy here.

In light of all this, I think the best we can hope for this year is that the Oscars will be short, somewhat amusing and free of racial stereotypes. Which in 2012 does not seem like an unreasonable request.

 

Last modified: February 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm