How the 2019 Oscars Dealt With Having No Host -- From Musical Numbers to Comedy Routines
By Zach Seemayer
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The 91st annual Academy Awards went hostless this year, for the first time since 1989, and the show was something of a mixed bag. The night was jam-packed with top-notch presenters and hilariously bizarre comedic moments, along with a fair share of awkward transitions and seeming confusion as producers tried to fill the gaps between awards.
They started the performance with "We Will Rock You" before transitioning into "We Are the Champions," as a video tribute to the late Freddie Mercury played in the background and pyrotechnic sparks rained from the ceiling.
Strangely, however, they didn't perform any part of their iconic "Bohemian Rhapsody," which is the song that gave the Oscar-nominated biopic its name and is the reason they opened at the Oscars this year.
Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph Stood in as Hosts
"We are not your hosts, but we will stand here a little too long so people who get USA Today tomorrow will think we are," Fey joked as they all stood side by side.
While the trio didn't perform a monologue exactly, they delivered a few intentionally cheesy jokes as they explained exactly what a host would have said if there had been a host, effectively serving as hosts. It was all very meta, but a perfect way to tackle the issue.
Legitimately Funny Presenters Take Up the Slack
When you don't have a host for your awards show, the answer is usually to just turn to the multitude of presenters to push the show along by being charming and effortlessly funny. The only problem is, a lot of celebrity presenters are really, really not good at being charming and funny on live TV. The Oscars (mostly) got around this by tapping legitimately hilarious people to pull off their comedic interstitials.
When Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry hit the stage to present the award for Best Costume Design (which ended up going to Ruth E. Carter for Black Panther), both stars stepped out rocking over-the-top regal dresses evocative of those in The Favourite -- including a whole herd of stuffed bunnies covering McCarthy's outlandish ensemble, and a rabbit hand-puppet that stole the show.
Keegan-Michael Key stepped things up when he came out to present Bette Midler's live performance of "The Place Where Lost Things Go" from Mary Poppins Returns, and he paid tribute to the film's eponymous magical nanny by flying down from the rafters on wires holding an umbrella.
John Mulaney and Awkwafina were also brought out to bring their comedic timing to the stage to present Best Animated Short and Best Documentary Short Subject, and the hilarious pair had great chemistry as two lower-tier up-and-coming celebs who couldn't believe how exciting it was to be at the Oscars with some of the most famous faces in Hollywood.
However, the chemistry between the two young comics -- as well as the chemistry between Poehler, Fey and Rudolph earlier in the night -- once again drew attention to the lack of a host, considering how great so many of these presenters could have been as full-blown emcees.
Incredible Musical Numbers Ruled the Night
Each of the night's nominees for Best Song -- except for Black Panther's "All the Stars" -- was celebrated with spectacular musical numbers. From Midler's performance of "The Place Where Lost Things Go" from Mary Poppins Returns to Jennifer Hudson's bold delivery of the song "I'll Fight" from the documentary RBG, each of the performances were beautifully orchestrated and served as enjoyable respites from the slew of awards presentations.
The performance needed no introduction. Instead, the stars simply stepped out of the audience, onto the stage, and up to a piano that had been brought out by the production crew moments earlier. Despite Cooper not being a professional singer, his voice was flawless and their romantic chemistry -- channeling their characters from the film -- was palpable. It was the kind of moment that goes down in Oscar history.
An Early Conclusion
Unlike nearly every year before, the Oscar's didn't run long. In fact, without a host taking the stage to make little quips, redundantly present presenters and bizarrely take celebs to weirdly interact with regular people off the street, the show ended early.
It also ended super awkwardly. After a bit of a rambling speech from the creators of Green Book -- which took home Best Picture -- it was up to presenter Julia Roberts to take the stage once again and wave everyone goodnight while flashing her famous smile and waiting for credits to roll. Say what you will about a host, it's nice to have it be someone's responsibility to end the show on a high note.