CATEGORIES Movies, Hot Topic
Just imagining the pairing of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as co-hosts of the Oscars gave me the first laugh from a show that's still four months away! Though it's partially an act of product placement -- Martin and Baldwin co-star with Meryl Streep in the upcoming comedy "It's Complicated" -- Oscar producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman are guilty of nothing more (or less) than perfect casting.

Hugh Jackman, last year's song-and-dance host, did the right thing in declining a sequel. He was a novelty act, and a pretty good one, but Martin and Baldwin will give us the tongue-in-cheek presence that has been the host's signature since Bob Hope handed off to Johnny Carson who handed off to Billy Crystal. There have been other hosts strewn between, including on two occasions Steve Martin, but Martin and Baldwin together -- sublime. Just imagining the pairing of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as co-hosts of the Oscars gave me the first laugh from a show that's still four months away! Though it's partially an act of product placement -- Martin and Baldwin co-star with Meryl Streep in the upcoming comedy 'It's Complicated' -- Oscar producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman are guilty of nothing more (or less) than perfect casting.

Hugh Jackman, last year's song-and-dance host, did the right thing in declining a sequel. He was a novelty act, and a pretty good one, but Martin and Baldwin will give us the tongue-in-cheek presence that has been the host's signature since Bob Hope handed off to Johnny Carson who handed off to Billy Crystal. There have been other hosts strewn between, including on two occasions Steve Martin, but Martin and Baldwin together -- sublime.

Over the years, I've seen Martin in dozens of situations, beginning with his original stand-up routine as the opening act for country singer Roger Miller in a Reno lounge in the mid-70s, and including three face-to-face interviews. (At the first of those, in a boutique restaurant in West Hollywood, he greeted me by standing up and knocking over two water glasses. Neither of us laughed.) He is not particularly funny in interviews, but he is always warm and candid, and he writes nifty follow-up notes. In response to one of my stories on him, he jotted off: "Thank you on behalf of my humble, unassuming self, and also my egotistical, pretentious self."

It is Martin's self-deprecating humor that makes him an invariably welcome presence at live events, but I think his humor is best when it plays off another person, as it did between him and Dan Aykroyd on 'Saturday Night Live' and between him and the late John Candy in 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles.' Even when he was doing stand-up, Martin was a comedy actor rather than a joke-teller; he often got as many laughs for his body language as for what he said.

Baldwin, on the other hand, is simply a great actor who has developed a particular gift for comedy. He's hosted 'Saturday Night Live' 14 times, so he knows how to work a live audience, and as Tina Fey's boss on the 'SNL' spoof sitcom '30 Rock,' he's as funny as she is -- no small feat.

Between now and show-time March 7 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, the worry beads will come out because of Baldwin's outspoken political views. People will wonder whether he'll use the occasion to bloviate or stick to the script. While I believe the show can always use a little controversy, I imagine the urge to be funny will dominate Baldwin's contradictory impulses. Besides, it would be hard to be serious standing next to Steve Martin.

Watch Alec Baldwin & Steve Martin together on 'Saturday Night Live'


'SNL' episodes and clips on SlashControl

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