At some point during Sunday's Oscars, the announcer mentioned that Saturday Night Live comedians have been nominated for nine Academy Awards and have won a grand total of zero. That's right. Zero. When my wife heard that she was shocked. "Not even Bill Murray?" Nope, not even Bill Murray. It is truly a testament to his talent that my wife was so offended for him. I had no idea she thought about him one way or another. Don't get me wrong. Mr. Murray is a genius. He should be allowed to come pick up any Oscar any time he sees one to his liking. I, however, wasn't shocked that he didn't have one, because I know that The Academy doesn't respect comedians.
Members of the Motion Picture Academy like comedians. They enjoy having us around. And if you think they don't need us then just try to rewatch last years ceremony hosted by Anne Hathaway and ... I can't remember ... Was it Joaquin Phoenix? Comedy is the lifeblood of the Academy Awards. And without comedians the blood can run dry. (I felt so sorry for every documentary filmmaker who had to wait through Robert Downey Jr.'s low-jinks so they could see whether their whole life had changed or not.)
Comedians rarely win Oscars. If there was any justice, Bridesmaids would've won Best Original Screenplay for Annie Mumolo and Kristin Wiig (woulda broken the SNL streak) AND Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy. I can't think of any movie that was talked about last year more than that. Certainly not The Artist.
The last time a comedian won was when Jamie Foxx won Best Actor in 2004. But he didn't win for comedy. He won for Ray, a near-Denzel level of star power and acting chops. And that was the same period in history when Jamie Foxx was basically the emperor of Hollywood. (Remember the song Gold Digger? Well, if you do, then now you can't get it out of your head.) If Foxx hadn't won, it probably would have led to a federal investigation.
Comedians never win for big bold comic performances. Sure, Robin Williams has an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, but are you trying to tell me that took more out of him emotionally and physically than Mrs. Doubtfire? Or that it required more range than Aladdin?
So Sunday, just as I was remaining unsurprised by Bridesmaids lack of gold, something amazing happened. A comedian won an Oscar. The singular Bret McKenzie of the fucking genius duo, Flight of the Conchords, won for Best Original Song for his song Man or Muppet from The Muppets. I didn't even know he was nominated. But as soon as they said his name I already began my sorry grapes speech, but then he won! I literally stood up and applauded. You may say, "He was only competing against one other song. And Best Song may not have the cache of Best Actor." But the important thing is that McKenzie is now halfway to EGOT-ing. (EGOT = Emmy Grammy Oscar Tony) And that is way cooler than Oscar winning. He's already got the hard ones, Oscar and Grammy. All he has left is a Tony and an Emmy. Consider it done. Comedians win those all the time. And of the 11 people to EGOT, three are comedians, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Nichols, and Mel Brooks. Take that, Academy!
Kamau's Komedy Korner is a blog column about San Francisco comedy by W. Kamau Bell. Check back next week for more.