Awards-show hosts face ‘hard bal­ance’ of be­ing funny yet se­ri­ous in Trump era


Host­ing a ma­jor awards show like the Os­cars is a high-wire act that even some of the most vet­eran co­me­di­ans have failed at (David Let­ter­man, any­one?).

But the job seems to be even more treach­er­ous th­ese days, with po­lit­i­cal ten­sions run­ning high in the U.S. Some view­ers are hop­ing for fun es­capism, while oth­ers are ex­pect­ing bit­ing com­men­tary on what’s hap­pen­ing in the world.

Last month at the Golden Globes, which was the first ma­jor awards show to air af­ter the elec­tion, Jimmy Fal­lon tried to strike that bal­ance by tak­ing some broad swipes at U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump while also pro­vid­ing lev­ity. But “The Tonight Show” host got mixed re­views.

“I wouldn’t want that job right now,” says Golden Globe-win­ning ac­tress Drew Barrymore, who stars in the new Net­flix se­ries “Santa Clarita Diet.”

“I feel very in­spired by protest­ing but I feel like peo­ple in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try are just get­ting shot down and it’s a very tricky cli­mate. I feel like it’s a lit­tle bit lose-lose for en­ter­tain­ers right now.”

“It’s a hard bal­ance to strike,” adds John Lee Han­cock, di­rec­tor of the new film “The Founder.”

“Some peo­ple will say, ‘Oh, you kept the kid gloves on,’ and other peo­ple would say, ‘Why did you go af­ter him?’ So you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.”

James Cor­den is set to host the Gram­mys on Sun­day and while there’s no telling if he’ll get po­lit­i­cal on­stage, he did re­cently take a swipe at Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial travel ban in a video bit on “The Late Late Show.”

“I al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate a host who’s telling the truth about what­ever is go­ing on in the world and not shy­ing away from what’s im­por­tant, so I’m all for awards hosts talk­ing about the po­lit­i­cal land­scape and fight­ing for what’s right,” says Mi­randa de Pencier, co-ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the up­com­ing CBC/Net­flix se­ries “Anne.”

Cana­dian ac­tress Car­rie-Anne Moss says she thinks co­me­di­ans “are re­ally im­por­tant right now” and “have an abil­ity to story-tell right now in a way that is needed, where we can see clearly.”

“Oth­er­wise it feels like the ele­phant in the mid­dle of the room that you’re not deal­ing with, where ev­ery­one is just pre­tend­ing and dressed up nice and look­ing good and that wouldn’t make any sense, to not look at what’s go­ing on.”

Barrymore, how­ever, feels the po­lit­i­cal up­heaval in the U.S. is “too new and too raw.”

She says she prefers to protest for what she be­lieves in in a more pri­vate way and feels awards-show hosts should “ad­dress the ele­phant in the room, but how can we do that in a way that makes us be­lieve in the good?”

“I feel like right now in en­ter­tain­ment you can catch more bees with honey,” says Barrymore. “The anger is out there and it’s pal­pa­ble, so I feel like it’s bet­ter in masses than one an­gry voice.

“I feel like that’s just anger on top of anger and it’s an anger sand­wich and it’s just neg­a­tiv­ity met at neg­a­tiv­ity.”

Over­all, an awards-show host should be funny and ir­rev­er­ent, says Os­car-nom­i­nated Cana­dian film­maker Sarah Pol­ley, writer­pro­ducer of the up­com­ing CBC/ Net­flix se­ries “Alias Grace.”

“I thought Ricky Ger­vais was amaz­ing,” says Pol­ley. “I kind of think you want some­body that pisses a lot of peo­ple off, oth­er­wise I think the idea of tak­ing some­thing like an awards show too se­ri­ously is pretty nau­se­at­ing.

“So I think you need to have some­body who is re­spect­ful - or maybe not even re­spect­ful - but ir­rev­er­ent and able to make fun of peo­ple.”

Neil Pa­trick Har­ris, who’s hosted the Tonys and the Os­cars, thinks this year’s Academy Awards host, Jimmy Kim­mel, has those qual­i­ties.

“He’s got that unique abil­ity to be caus­tic and still be ap­peal­ing and that’s a re­ally tricky line and I think that’s a good match. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do,” says Har­ris, star of the new Net­flix se­ries “A Se­ries of Un­for­tu­nate Events.”

Han­cock re­it­er­ates Pol­ley’s thoughts on not tak­ing awards shows too se­ri­ously, not­ing: “it’s es­sen­tially a whole bunch of peo­ple that are re­ally, re­ally for­tu­nate get­ting to­gether and cel­e­brat­ing their for­tune and good deeds.”

“There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong with that and I think movies and tele­vi­sion shows have great power to change the world,” he says.

“But also, let’s be hon­est we’re a bunch of rel­a­tively suc­cess­ful, for­tu­nate peo­ple all in a room hav­ing rub­ber chicken to­gether.”


Jimmy Fal­lon, host of the 74th An­nual Golden Globe Awards, kisses a cam­era af­ter rolling out the red car­pet dur­ing Golden Globes Preview Day at the Bev­erly Hil­ton in Jan­uary. The job of host­ing an awards show seems to be treach­er­ous th­ese days, with some view­ers hop­ing for fun es­capism and oth­ers ex­pect­ing bit­ing com­men­tary on what’s hap­pen­ing in the world.

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