Not since 1994 has anyone opened the Oscar ceremony with an Oprah Winfrey joke. It didn’t go well then, when David Letterman attempted it. Ditto tonight when Neil Patrick Harris bravely gave it another go. Fortunately, Harris’ Oprah gag came after an opening song-and-dance number, “Moving Pictures,” that was greeted with wild applause.
“That whole thing was improvised,” NPH said as the number ended. “Congratulations to all of the nominees, in particular the eight best-picture nominees. They have all grossed over $600 million. American Sniper alone is responsible for over $300 million of that. To put that in perspective: everyone on this side is the seven other nominees. And, American Sniper is — Oprah,” he said, as the camera zoomed in on her, feigning surprise.
“Because you’re rich,” he explained. (Hopefully, Steven Spielberg was not seated in that “other” side of the hall — he’s worth more than Oprah, according to Forbes. Ditto George Lucas, David Geffen, Sumner Redstone, etc.)
It’s Harris’ first time hosting the Oscars, he’s an old hand at trophy show hosting, having helmed the Tony Awards four times and twice emceed the Primetime Emmy Awards. Technically, it’s Harris’ second time opening the Academy Awards, having kicked off the ceremony in 2010 when he performed, by way of introducing Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, the song-and-dance number “No One Wants To Do It Alone.”