There were jokes about old relatives, bar mitzvahs and other tried-and-true familiar shticks from the only comedian to host the Oscars nearly as many times as Bob Hope, but Billy Crystal came armed with a surprising amount of some Ricky Gervais-style bite, too.
The veteran comedic actor's ninth turn as host of the Academy Awards followed a string of headline-making turmoil behind the scenes. Crystal was drafted to replace Eddie Murphy, who walked after producer Brett Ratner (who had directed Murphy in "Tower Heist") abruptly left the show following his use of a homophobic slur at a Q&A. Producer Brian Grazer eventually stepped in.
The show began with two Crystal staples: a montage of clips from the Best Picture nominees featuring the former "Saturday Night Live" castmember and a musical number that jokingly referenced several folks seated in the audience. They were moments that were as rewarding, if predictable, as the sweep "The Artist" made of several major categories on Sunday.
A few months ago, somewhat controversial Golden Globes host Gervais tweeted a picture of him and his Academy Awards counterpart together and wrote, "Just told Billy Crystal he'd better not use any of my holocaust or pedophile material at The Oscars. He agreed (true)." And while the opening sketch did include a Hitler reference and blackface (in the form of the comedian's well-established Sammy Davis Jr. impression), Crystal mostly kept it tame, recruiting Justin Bieber, George Clooney and Tom Cruise for cameos.
Here are the top five Billy Crystal jokes from the 84th Academy Awards, as we saw them:
5. In the montage, Crystal awakes to find himself in a hospital scene from "The Descendants" being kissed by Clooney. Later in the show, he looked at Clooney's girlfriend, Stacy Keibler, and quipped: "You're a lucky girl. He's a very good kisser."
4. Before Christian Bale took the stage, Crystal began: "A 'Dark Knight,' an 'American Psycho,' a charismatic crack addict. You'll get to choose one on Super Tuesday." It was a swipe at the Republican presidential nominees, sure, but Crystal soon zeroed in more closely on the next presenter, referencing that infamous viral rant from 2009. "Academy Award winner — and be careful if you're in his eyeline — Christian Bale."
3. During the song, Crystal brought up Jonah Hill's tremendous post-"Moneyball" reduction in physical size. "It's great you shed weight," he sang to the actor. "But I think you should know, there's cupcakes after the show."
2. In recent weeks, news hit that the Kodak Theater would be changing its name, due to the longtime sponsor's recent financial troubles. "We're here at the beautiful Chapter 11 Theater," Crystal said, in one of many related jokes.
1. Much like Gervais' digs at the Globes, the Oscars themselves were the host's biggest target: "Nothing takes the sting out of these tough economic times like watching a bunch of millionaires giving golden statues to each other," he smiled.
What was your favorite Billy Crystal Oscar joke? Leave your comment below!
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