Remembering The (Weird) Time That Paul Hogan — AKA Crocodile Dundee — Hosted The Oscars

For the second year in a row, the Academy Awards will have no host, which is kind of a bummer because last year’s show had no personality. There’s no one there to be our representative; to point out whatever absurdity may arise. Like, just imagine if the La La Land and Moonlight fiasco had happened with no host. Some corporate suit would have walked out, stoically announced the error, then the credits would have rolled. The Oscar host is what gives each one of these ceremonies a distinct personality, for better or for worse. (I’d argue even the “for worse” is better than “no personality whatsoever.”)

Anyway, back in 1987, one of those hosting personalities was Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan, which just sounds absurd. So absurd it’s been my favorite go-to line anytime people do that whole Twitter, “Who should host the Oscars?” game. It’s me who will say things like, “Bring back Paul Hogan,” because it sounds fake, even though it’s not. The thing is, I’m sure as a kid I watched the Paul Hogan-hosted Oscars, but for the life of me I don’t remember them. So, through the magic of the internet, I rewatched it to know for sure what a Paul Hogan-hosted Oscars actually felt like before I throw out more Twitter jokes. Not surprisingly, it’s kind of weird.

Technically, when the host of the 59th Academy Awards is listed, it’s listed as a group of three hosts: Paul Hogan, Chevy Chase, and Goldie Hawn. Now, I just assumed these three would all be on stage together cracking jokes or doing some dumb song. This was never the case. These three never once appear together on stage. But the weirdest thing is, the show does begin with three people cracking jokes and singing a dumb song, but it’s, for reasons I will never understand: Telly Savalas, Pat Morita*, and Dom DeLuise.

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*Strangely, The Karate Kid Part II had a large presence at this Oscars. There’s Pat Morita, who actually got his own solo as he danced down the stairs at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, singing about the magic of Oscar night. And as the broadcast started, one of the big, “Hey, look what big star just arrived” shots was of Peter Cetera, who was nominated for his song from that film, “Glory of Love.” Cetera would wind up losing to Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.” (Top Gun was somehow nominated for four Oscars. Poltergeist II: The Other Side was nominated for one.)

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Look, any older Oscars ceremony probably seems strange looking at it from future eyes. But this one seems particularly strange because it’s hosted by Paul Hogan, a man most people didn’t know existed until just a few months before. The best example I can think of is if this year’s host were Baby Yoda. Does Baby Yoda have experience hosting any kind of ceremony? Who knows! But people love him, so let’s just see what happens.

So after Savalas, Morita, and DeLuise finish their song and dance routine, Academy president and famed director Robert Wise introduces Paul Hogan by saying, “TO start it all off, let’s throw another shrimp on the barbie, and welcome a nominee from down under, Mr. Crocodile Dudnee himself, Mr. Paul Hogan.” So, as it turns out, Hogan gives a fairly okay monologue that got some laughs. He delivers a joke about winners saying, “I don’t deserve this,” suggesting if they really feel that way then just wave it off from their seat. Hey, I’m sure in 1987 this kind of meta-joke wasn’t as common. Good on Paul Hogan. Though, Best Actor nominee James Woods wasn’t impressed at first…

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But the comedic styling of Paul Hogan eventually won Woods over…

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So here’s the really weird thing. Now, you’d think we’d see our co-host Hogan again at some point. But other than a shot of him when he loses the Original Screenplay Oscar to Woody Allen, that’s it. Hogan never returns. The next host we see is Chevy Chase, who just looks irritated he had to follow Paul Hogan, at one point referring to Hogan as “Kangaroo Dundee.” It’s weird because Chase does a whole other opening monologue, as if to just pretend the one before him didn’t exist. It’s The Rise of Skywalker of Oscar monologues as Chase makes more jokes about Australia and some timely zingers about Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. About halfway through the Oscars we finally meet our third host, Goldie Hawn. And Chase and Hawn kind of trade off hosting duties for the rest of the show.

Again, there are a lot of weird things going on in this Oscars. First of all, Steven Spielberg gets an honorary award. More specifically the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for “creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” Keep in mind, this was 1987. Spielberg only made Jaws 12 years before. This would be like Jason Reitman winning some sort of lifetime achievement award this year. (This is not a statement on any kind of quality, just more that it seemed pretty early!)

Then Rodney Dangerfield comes out to present Best Makeup and launches into a riff about a girl he met last week and how ugly she is. It’s very strange! After he mentions this, a plant in the audience shouts, “How ugly?,” and Rodney goes to town. The shots of the audience reacting are, well, maybe you should just watch it.

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But he keeps going on, what seems like forever, and he actually starts to get bigger and bigger laughs. (I can’t imagine this routine going over well on Twitter today.) But James Woods was loving it. Anyway, The Fly wins the award.

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The other very strange thing about this particular Oscar is both winners for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor wound up being no-shows. Michael Caine was infamously filming Jaws: The Revenge and when Robert Wise accepted on Paul Newman’s behalf, winning for The Color of Money, he hinted that Newman was sick of showing up for these ceremonies only to lose. (Honestly, this used to happen all the time, actors just not showing up when they were nominated. The only time Harrison Ford was nominated, for Witness, he was off filming The Mosquito Coast. More people should just not show up. I wholly support this.) Well, anyway, congrats to both Newman and Caine. But the biggest travesty here isn’t that the late, great Paul Newman wasn’t there to pick up his Oscar in person, it’s that he didn’t get to see Paul Hogan host the Oscars.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.