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Will the Oscars Reel With Host Chris Rock?

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, October 15, 2004; Page C01

How lucky for ABC that it already has set a precedent of using a five-second delay on its live telecast of the Academy Awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced yesterday that Chris Rock will host the 77th Academy Awards ceremony for the first time this February.

Chris Rock was chosen to host the Oscars in a bid to draw more young male viewers. (Ampas Via Reuters)

Entertainment Weekly recently called Rock "America's most incendiary comedian" when it also named him No. 1 on its list of Funniest People.

Bill Cosby, in that same article, likened Rock to Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory and George Carlin -- none of whom was ever asked to host the Oscars.

In its announcement, Academy Awards producer Gil Cates said Rock was picked because "he always makes me laugh and he always has something interesting to say."

Academy Executive Director Bruce Davis was a bit more honest when he spoke to the Los Angeles Times, telling its reporter that academy officials had asked Rock because they hope he will bring to the trophy show the young male audience that it has had a hard time attracting.

You want to know what also really attracts young male viewers to the Academy Awards? "Titanic."

The year "Titanic" swept the Oscars, the show attracted the most 18-to-34-year-old men in at least the past 12 years and probably longer.

Do you know who hosted the Oscars that year? Billy Crystal.

You know what else attracts young men to the Oscars? "The Lord of the Rings." This year, when the film swept the Academy Awards, another big young-male crowd showed up. Host: Billy Crystal.

And "Gladiator." The year "Gladiator" won the Best Picture nod, the trophy show also did a good young-male number. Steve Martin hosted that year. The next time Martin hosted, in '03, the musical "Chicago" was named Best Picture and the male demos stank.

Davis, who apparently has been hiding under a rock all year, told the L.A. Times that while producers of other live events may be moving away from risky performers -- you know, like Janet Jackson -- the Motion Picture Academy embraces performers with "edge."

At the same time Cates insisted that it's still up in the air whether that five-second delay will be repeated this February, when the Oscar broadcast will be hosted by a guy who likes to take on such issues as racism and abortion in his routines, who sometimes uses slurs when referring to African Americans, who appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in '98 in whiteface makeup, and who inspires people who write about him to call him the funniest man in America paired with words like "caustic" and "profane."

Really, Cates and Davis make a hilarious team.

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