5 lessons Neil Patrick Harris should learn from previous Oscar hosts

The How I Met Your Mother star will be presenting the showbiz event of the year, but before he gets too excited he should take heed of the highs and lows of his Academy Award predecessors...

It’s been a big year for Neil Patrick Harris. How I Met Your Mother ended after nine series, he played a creepy stalker role in the much-hyped Gone Girl and he’s just been booked for his glitziest gig yet as the host of this year’s Oscars. 


A four-time Tony Awards host and two-time Emmys host, Harris, who played Barney Stinson in HIMYM, has had a bit of practice at delivering witty monologues (not to mention song and dance numbers). But the Oscars is a different breed of showbiz beast, and Patrick Harris needs to sit down and memorise our five crucial tips before he goes anywhere near that podium.

1) Make fun of the stars  but don’t make them hate you

In 2000 and 2004, Billy Crystal did a “What the Stars Are Thinking” gag. “You know a lot of people want to know what the stars are thinking about during the show, and I’ve done this show a number of times and I can tell you, looking into everyone one of these faces, what they’re thinking,” said Crystal. As the camera zoomed in on Judi Dench, Crystal groaned, “Ahh, this thong is killing me”. Luckily, Dench laughed and everyone was happy. 

One host who didn’t judge it right was Seth MacFarlane. One of the Family Guy creator’s many Oscar lows in 2013 was an unfunny and deeply offensive joke about how the extreme violence in slavery film Django Unchained makes it a great date movie for Chris Brown and Rihanna. Nobody liked it, least of all Twitter who slated MacFarlane for days afterwards. We didn’t get a glimpse of Judi Dench at that moment but we’re sure she wished that the joke was about thongs instead. 


2) Don’t behave like a twelve year old…

Sorry Seth, but your opening monologue wasn’t much better… It featured a musical number called We Saw Your Boobs, in which he and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (MacFarlane stressed he was not a member of the group) sang about the films in which famous actresses have taken their tops off. “Meryl Streep, we saw your boobs in Silkwood/
Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive/
Angelina Jolie, we saw your boobs in Gia/They made us feel excited and alive…”. Being juvenile isn’t always bad, but being cringe-inducingly immature and sexist really is.

3) Do a selfie with as many famous people as you can find

The world experienced peak selfie-mania when Ellen DeGeneres took her Oscar snap with Jennifer LawrenceBrad PittJulia Roberts and Meryl Streep last year. She even broke the record for most retweeted photo of all time, garnering almost 3.5 million retweets. Who cares if we can’t remember Degeneres’ (probably) hilarious jokes? Her celebrity selfie is all that matters. It would work this year too because the world never tires of star-studded narcissism. 

4) Use your jazz hands

When Hugh Jackman opened the Oscars with a musical jamboree celebrating (and mocking) the Oscar-nominated films in 2009, people loved it. “Due to cutbacks, the Academy said they didn’t have enough money for an opening number,” Jackman declared. “I’m going to do one anyway.” And he did, with a musical tribute to movies, using tatty, school-play props and help from Anne Hathaway. So remember, it doesn’t matter how cheesy it gets, sing a song and people will like you. 

5) Don’t look like you’d rather be watching reality TV repeats at home


James Franco might be a good actor but he was a dubious Oscar host in 2011. As his co-presenter Anne Hathaway endured a sisyphean struggle to get through the experience with as much dignity as possible, Franco seemed unbothered. We know the guy is a workaholic, grad student, filmmaker, novelist and actor but the Oscars is not the time to have a rest. Be cool but not too cool.