You know times are tough when they lay off comedians. In a radical departure (what is a non-radical departure?) from its traditional format, actor, singer and dancer Hugh Jackman will serve as host of Oscar night at the 81st Academy Awards in February.


 

You know times are tough when they lay off comedians.

In a radical departure (what is a non-radical departure?) from its traditional format, actor, singer and dancer Hugh Jackman will serve as host of Oscar night at the 81st Academy Awards in February.

Gone are the comedian-emcees like Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Chris Rock, and my personal favorite, Billy Crystal. (He looked “a-mahvelus,” and he would rather look good than feel good.)

You probably won’t hear a monologue that is both satiric and funny or jokes that are woven throughout the Oscars, like the old days. That’s too bad because we could really use a laugh. Actually, we could use two laughs.

Everyone is reciting FDR’s famous line that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which he said in his First Inaugural Address, on March 4, 1933. Well, I don’t know about that line. I think the only thing we do not have to fear is fear itself, if you know what I mean. We can be justifiably fearful about the loss of jobs, the credit crunch, the bankruptcy of large Wall Street financial institutions, the brinkmanship of the Big Three auto companies, the perilous international situation, the decline of heroes, the waning of hope, the downward spiral of adequate health care, global warming and the absence of wild and crazy guys at the Oscars.

It may be that real life events are so absurd that they cannot be satirized. Take the allegations concerning Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was allegedly trying to sell Barak Obama’s Senate seat like an auctioneer at a repo car pound. Or consider the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush, who was appearing at dual podiums with the president of Iraq in the Green Zone. Bush had a humorous response: “That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want to know.”

Many of us are glad we don’t have to stay up so late to hear Jay Leno make us laugh about the world. Prime-time Jay will be most welcome before the dark, police-blotter news at 11. History and dual-blind medical studies by the University of Sequoia have shown that one of the best ways to survive terrible times is to laugh.

We used to say, “Don’t worry about poor John, he’s laughing all the way to the bank.” All the way to the bank needs to be reprogrammed on our TomTom GPS devices. It is now located somewhere near Fargo, N. D. They are all cold there, but they look-a-mahvelus.

Peter Costa is a senior editor with the Community Newspaper Company. His book, "CostaLiving: Laughing through Life," a collection of his humor columns, is available at amazon.com and Barnes and Noble bookstores.