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Billy Crystal to Return as Oscar Host
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Reuters) – Comedian Billy Crystal, who bowed out of the Oscar spotlight for the past three years, said on Wednesday he is returning to the “big show” as host of the upcoming 76th Academy Awards.
But he added that he still gets nervous.
“It’s a big show. It’s a big responsibility,” he said. “There’s a world watching and the world is a rough room.”
The 56-year-old comic actor, a favorite of Oscar audiences and critics alike for his deadpan humor and Hollywood send-ups, last hosted the Oscars in 2000. His upcoming Feb. 29 ceremony in Hollywood marks his eighth appearance as master of ceremonies for the U.S. film industry’s highest honors.
“I’m really excited about coming back,” Crystal told reporters at a news conference held by Oscar organizers at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
“I’ve had a nice little sleep, and since my grass-roots run for governor didn’t take hold, this felt like an option,” he joked, referring to the California governor recall election.
Film executive Joe Roth, making his TV debut as Oscar telecast producer, said Crystal was his first and only choice for emcee. Comedian Steve Martin hosted the show this year and in 2001, and did a wonderful job, while Whoopi Goldberg presided in 2002 and was the worst host the show ever had.
Crystal, star of such films as “When Harry Met Sally,” “Mr. Saturday Night,” “City Slickers” and “Analyze This,” said he had not missed being a part of the show until the most recent awards, in March, while the United States was at war in Iraq.
“I wanted to be up there. I wanted to help,” he said. “It was a sign that I was starting to get itchy again.”
Crystal has yet to decide whether he will put together another of his famed film-parody montages, saying one factor will be the added rush in production caused by holding the upcoming ceremony a month earlier than in the past.
“Those films took a lot of time,” he said. “And frankly, I’d like to find new things to do.”
For his part, Crystal said he sees his main job as helping a roomful of tense stars relax and have a good time, while counting on unpredictable moments to keep the show lively.
“The best Oscar shows in the history of the Academy are when there are moments. And those are unpredictable sometimes, and you can’t manufacture them,” he said. “You just pray for something to go wrong, or very right.”
Crystal said his own favorite Oscar moment was seventysomething actor Jack Palance performing one-armed push-ups on stage after accepting his 1992 Oscar as best supporting actor for “City Slickers.”
“I was in the wings, saying, ‘Thank you. This is the greatest setup in the history of the Oscars,”‘ recounted Crystal who sprinkled the rest of that evening with one-liners about Palance’s physical prowess. Crystal said he was suffering from pneumonia that night.
Likewise, when centenarian movie pioneer Hal Roach delivered an inaudible impromptu speech from the audience without a microphone, Crystal quipped, “I think that’s fitting, because Mr. Roach started in silent films.”
Crystal also revealed that he planned to continue one little-known Oscar tradition that began with his first stint as host in 1990. He always goes on with a toothbrush tucked away in the breast pocket of his tuxedo, a personal reminder of imaginary acceptance speeches he delivered before the bathroom mirror as a boy growing up in Long Island.

“It’s a great remembrance of where (my) love of performing started, and that was in my house,” he said.