The 15 Best Oscar Jokes of All Time
As we get ready for this year's fest of A-list glam—let's take a look back at some of the funny moments, whether planned or delightedly extemporaneous, that have made past Oscar nights so memorable.
Misread the teleprompter?
When Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin hosted the telecast together in 2010, and their contrasting styles—handsome smoothie vs. relentless dork—made for the perfect comedic/charismatic match.
Steve Martin: And then there’s that damn Helen Mirren. (angry glare)
Alec Baldwin: See, that’s Dame Helen Mirren.
Steve Martin: Oops! Sorry.
Check out the 12 funniest Oscar moments of all times.
Pass the tissues
The Oscars are usually a place of non-stop self-indulgent ego-stroking, but when Frederico Fellini, a legit “towering force in movie history,” as described by Sophia Loren, got a special achievement award in 1993, he poked at his own legend and made himself truly lovable. His acceptance was brief, charming, and at the end, he tenderly and teasingly thanked his wife and muse, Giulietta Masini, who was flooded with tears:
“And thank you, the artist Giulietta. And please, stop crying!”
The truth hurts
Jim Carrey made his name as a funnyman, but it’s no secret that some of his best work has been in roles where he drops his mask to reveal his depths. So it was with The Truman Show, but Hollywood wasn’t ready to affirm him just yet. Carrey made a season-long hobby of pretending to be devastated about the snub, and when he came out to present the Oscar for editing in 1999, he hit that hobby’s zenith:
“Winning the Oscar is not the most important thing in the world. It’s an honor just to be nomi – HO GOD. [dramatic sobs]”
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A wry cultural comment
The early ’70s saw a ton of Native American activism, as people who had grown up robbed of their heritage began to reclaim both their culture and their place in American history. In 1971, Bob Hope made a surprisingly canny observation that wouldn’t be out of place in this year’s broadcast when joking about the Best Supporting Actor nod to actor Chief Dan George, who was also the leader of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation:
“Chief Dan George—he was all right, but why couldn’t they have given that part to an American?”
Shoulda copyrighted that one
Old Hollywood met new when Barbra Streisand tied with Katharine Hepburn for Best Actress in 1969. Hepburn didn’t show, but when Streisand, in a sparkly pantsuit, hefted the statuette, she greeted it with a line from the movie she was winning for, Funny Girl:
Check out these other movies with memorable one-liners.
Do you need a room?
The charming Ms. Channing delivered this timeless bon mot as she gave out the Oscar for sound back in 1968:
“And what a thrill it is for me to fondle an Oscar, even in transit.”
Traffic stops for no one
In 1973 when host Charlton Heston got stuck in traffic, the producers turned to an oddly adorable Clint Eastwood, who tried to do Heston’s jokes and ended up ad-libbing till Heston could swoop in and take over. He did his best:
So, Heston’s supposed to say something biblical referring to him playing Moses … come on, flip the card, man! This isn’t my bag, I’ll tell ya!
Putting ’em in their place
Jack Palance made his name as a tough-guy actor in the 1950s and 1960s, so his appearance in the Billy Crystal City Slicker comedies counted as a comeback. His hypermasculine schtick was the perfect foil for Crystal’s effete anxiety. Like Streisand, he used a line from the movie to great effect in his acceptance:
“Billy Crystal … I crap bigger than him.”
A good sense of humor always wins
John Travolta famously flubbed singer Idina Menzel’s name before she sang in the 2014 Oscars, introducing her as – random! – Adele Zazim. So the next year, Menzel introduced Travolta in her own special way:
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage my very dear friend … Glom Gazingo.”
This joke has been thoroughly mocked since Letterman hosted some 20-plus years ago, but stalwart Letterman fans still love it:
“I’ve been dying to do something all day, and I think maybe we can take care of this now. Oprah… Uma. Uma… Oprah. I feel much better!”
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Critics weren’t crazy about the all-around charmer and former TV doctor Neil Patrick Harris’s turn as a host in 2015. But love him or pan him, Harris is the kind of guy dad jokes were made for, including this intro of Reese Witherspoon:
“This Oscar presenter is so lovely you could eat her up with a spoon.”
The year Chris Rock hosted, 2016, was also the year Hollywood got irritated with the extreme monochrome cast of the nominees–the #oscarssowhite controversy. Rock had a ton to say, all of it hilarious, but his best line was a slick throwaway:
“I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards.”
Making light of things
As sole host in 2003, Steve Martin handled a lot of thorny topics with his usual aplomb, including a reference to a not-nominated-but-notorious indie film:
“There were smaller movies this year. There was a movie called Secretary, about a woman who is humiliated by her boss, is spanked and has to crawl on her knees, and carries manila folders in her teeth. And they say there are no parts for women!”
Eternally charming and innocent even when she makes dirty jokes, Ellen DeGeneres had this to say when she hosted in 2009:
“Lupita Nyong’o is here … she is from Kenya, she’s a Kenyan. And Barkhad Abdi is here. He is nominated for Captain Phillips. He’s from Somalia, he is a sommelier—so he knows a lot about wine, and that’s impressive. Who’s the wine captain now!”
Find out the eight things you never knew about the Academy Awards.