Expectations are sky-high for Neil Patrick Harris when he hosts the Oscars this weekend.
This is the guy, after all, who has won Emmys for hosting. Among other events, he’s hosted the Tonys and Emmys to great acclaim. But the Academy Awards are a bit different: The audience is considerably bigger, he’s following a well-received turn by last year’s host Ellen DeGeneres, and — as Harris himself pointed out on Jimmy Kimmel this week — the Oscars may be the biggest awards show of all, but they’re also the last of the year. People have been making jokes about these films for months now — finding a unique, fresh angle about Boyhood can get rather difficult.
But there’s no reason to think an old pro like Harris is going to go the way of James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Just as long as he follows these simple hosting tips.
Do start the show with a musical number.
Some people don’t, and that’s fine. But when it’s in your wheelhouse, flaunt it. Harris is working with the Frozen team to write original songs for the show, and anyone who has watched Harris host the Tonys knows this is his strong suit. Yes, the Tonys are different from the Oscars (the whole show doesn’t need to be a musical theater extravaganza), but give the people at least a bit of what they want.
Don’t be afraid to tease.
Past hosts have discussed how it can be hard to find a balance between making jokes about the nominees (what the audience at home wants) and being more reverent (what those nominees want). Harris doesn’t need to go full Ricky Gervais, but there are ways to make fun of Oscar craziness without picking on individuals — Jon Stewart‘s “Campaign ads” (narrated by Stephen Colbert) managed to mock the process, while still allowing everyone in-house to laugh along.
Do make the best use of your special guests.
This is more on producers than Harris specifically, but let’s not leave fans disappointed by a two-second appearance. People with their own big fan bases — like Lady Gaga and Anna Kendrick — have been announced as “special guests,” so here’s hoping that means a fun moment in the spotlight and not a gone-too-soon cameo.
Don’t bring up the How I Met Your Mother ending.
Yes, it’s your best-known part, but people still aren’t thrilled about the less-than-legendary ending. Feel free to make self-deprecating jokes about your own not-exactly-Oscar-worthy films like Smurfs or Beastly, though.
Do acknowledge your own role in Gone Girl.
One small potential problem about the Oscars this year is that so many of the films nominated for best picture don’t have big box office numbers. A lot of people watching the show will not have seen the films. You know what movie people have seen? Gone Girl (not nominated for best picture, but Rosamund Pike is nominated for best actress). It’s a giant swing and a miss if Harris doesn’t at least mention his own bloody death via Pike’s hands — or ideally recreate in some way.
What do you hope to see when Harris takes the stage Sunday?