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Hey Oscars, Book John Mulaney for 2025 Now

Last night, John Mulaney presented the award for Best Sound at the 96th Academy Awards. Unlike every other presenter, he wasn’t there to promote a movie he’s in, he’s not a past winner like the presenters for the acting categories, and he’s not a screen legend there to symbolize the prestige and grandeur of cinema (by that we mean Danny DeVito). No, John Mulaney was promoting the idea of “John Mulaney, funny guy,” and more specifically, “John Mulaney, Oscars host.” And he nailed it. He was comfortable, funny, and, of course, old-timey as hell. Instantly, there was a rush of people suggesting Mulaney host the Oscars. And Mulaney will host the Oscars. It’s not a matter of if, but when. So, why not next year?

Mulaney’s performance at the Oscars is like a mini-monologue. Unlike the rest of the presenters who might have a quick joke or riff with their co-presenter, Mulaney ingeniously sets up a basic theme (sound in movies is good) as the basis for a few different bits on different subjects and movies. It’s a small difference, but when done with confidence, it breaks the rhythm and conveys This is my show right now to the audience. After some table-setting material about people who think films were better before sound, he builds to an opening joke that’s structurally classic: “Without sound, we wouldn’t have been able to hear such classic lines as ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat,’ ‘I’ll have what she’s having,’ and ‘He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died.’” Simple rule of threes, and more bemused than it is snarky; yes, it makes fun of a movie, but it’s smart to celebrate two others along the way.

Mulaney then goes on an extended non-sequitur riff on the plot of Field of Dreams, reminiscent of his bit about Back to the Future from his 2015 special, The Comeback Kid. While deeply silly, on display is the type of fluency in movies and show business that can only come from loving it so much. After Jo Koy’s disastrous turn as Golden Globes host in January, where he seemed to not care about a single movie he joked about, it shows why the Oscars usually go with someone who reveres Hollywood like Jimmy Kimmel. While that’s not essential for a successful host — see Ricky Gervais and Tina and Amy — it definitely helps, especially when you don’t have the gravitas of being as famous as the people you’re joking about.

Last night was not Mulaney’s only campaign stop to host the 2025 Oscars. In January, he hosted the Governors Awards, a non-televised ceremony in which the Academy gives out honorary awards. It’s hard not to see his 12-minute speech, which has 1.2 million views on YouTube only through word of mouth, as an audition, or, as he joked, “a strategic obligation.” That night, Mulaney combined a deep knowledge of film history, self-deprecation, some insider-y gossip, and moments of irreverence that are pointed but never too harsh. When celebrating Angela Bassett, one of the lifetime achievement-award winners that night, he used the fact that she was nominated for an Oscar for a Marvel movie as a point for how great she is: “That’s like getting a Pulitzer Prize for a Reddit comment.” Another impressive bit focused on how film editor Carol Littleton, another lifetime-achievement honoree, cut Kevin Costner out of The Big Chill despite director Lawrence Kasdan originally enjoying his performance. “Nahhhh,” Mulaney says, playing Littleton as a vintage street tough. “Nah, nah, nah … Fuck that guy.” Back as himself: “When I saw Oppenheimer, I was like, Did Carol Littleton get her hands on Rami Malek’s part? This has the Costner slash written all over it.” It is not easy to write a joke that good about the editingof a movie that came out 41 years ago. Imagine if he was given the time and staff that goes along with hosting the Oscars.

In fact, it feels like Mulaney has been running to host the Oscars all his life. He’s always had resting awards-show face. His voice sounds like he speaking through one of those giant cones directors used to talk through. He’s been wearing suits since his mid-20s, when he’d walk onto alternative-comedy stages that were barely stages like they were the Dolby Theatre. Now, almost 20 years later, Mulaney is poised and famous enough (thanks to both his huge Netflix specials and, for better or worse, the mainstream tabloid attention his personal life has garnered over the last three years). And he is old enough. When the Oscars have gone with a comedian to host, it is never when they are a hot new thing, but after they’ve transitioned fully into the Establishment. Mulaney will be 42 by next year’s awards, around the age Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer, and Billy Crystal all were when they first hosted.

That said, unlike most of those names, Mulaney doesn’t have much of a movie career. Crystal didn’t host until 1990, the year When Harry Met Sally was nominated, even though he had already been a famous comedian for years by then. Even though Rock never really hit as a movie star, by the time he hosted, he had been the lead in a few films and was about to headline an Adam Sandler movie. But Hollywood really doesn’t make comedies starring comedians anymore, so if we’re waiting for another Bob Hope–style stand-up/comedy leading man, Kimmel will have the gig until the Oscars are hosted by A.I. and broadcasted directly to our brains via microchips. There has always been the late-night-host workaround, from Johnny Carson to David Letterman to Jon Stewart, but over the last 20 years, the networks have favored company men for their high-profile hosting gigs. Disney is not going to want to give Stephen Colbert such a platform for promotion. Mulaney is an unaffiliated host-type person.

After two years of Kimmel — who did fine this year but felt like he was edging into monotony — why do we need Mulaney next year? To paraphrase Crystal, because when you realize, like the country did last night, you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody hosting the Oscars, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.


  • The Highs, Lows, and Whoas of the 2024 Oscars
  • Let John Mulaney Host Everything
  • Jo Koy Couldn’t Stay the Course

Jesse David Fox , 2024-03-11 19:33:41

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