Year
2006

Jon Stewart hosts 78th annual Academy Awards ceremony

By early 2006, Jon Stewart, the irreverent host of The Daily Show, a fake television news program on Comedy Central, had seen the ratings for his show jump dramatically as a result of its coverage of the 2004 presidential election. The show spawned a popular spin-off, The Colbert Report, starring Daily Show regular Stephen Colbert, and a best-selling parody of a social studies textbook, America (The Book). On March 5, 2006, however, Stewart took on his highest-profile gig to date–hosting the 78th annual Academy Awards ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

In preparation for the Oscars, Stewart enlisted a team of writers from The Daily Show led by Ben Karlin, a former editor of the satirical newspaper The Onion and the then-executive producer of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. After the stars swanned down the red carpet, the ceremony began with a filmed segment suggesting Stewart was the last possible choice for the hosting gig and showing a series of former hosts refusing the job.

While Stewart’s deadpan humor might have had audiences laughing at home, his constant poking fun at Hollywood and the stars themselves seemed to meet with a less friendly reception from the Kodak Theatre audience. Jokes about Scientology and Hollywood’s liberal politics fell flat, but the audience did warm up to Daily Show-style fake ads mocking Oscar-campaigning tactics and Stewart’s ad-libbed running joke about the exuberant acceptance speech given by the rap group Three 6 Mafia, who won an Oscar for Best Song for “It’s Hard Out There For a Pimp” (from Hustle & Flow).

In the post-show media analysis the next morning, the consensus seemed to be that Stewart struggled; his hosting performance and its reception by the audience was compared with less-successful hosts from the past, such as David Letterman and Chris Rock, as opposed to Oscar favorites like Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. He was praised, however, for poking fun at the bloated, self-important nature of the Academy Awards ceremony itself, with its often-overdone production numbers and political posturing by the stars themselves. Stewart earned a second Oscars hosting gig–and better reviews–in 2008, in the wake of Hollywood’s writers’ strike and in the midst of the presidential campaign season.

The 78th annual Oscars were also memorable for the surprising upset victory of the ensemble drama Crash in the Best Picture category. After the Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee took home the Best Director Oscar for Brokeback Mountain, that film’s string of awards seemed to have given it the front-runner’s momentum to win Best Picture, the last statuette of the night. The New York Times called Crash’s selection as Best Picture a “stunning twist” to the evening, while Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times observed that some Academy voters may have been uncomfortable with the subject matter of Brokeback Mountain, which starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as sheepherders who fall in love while working in Wyoming in the early 1960s. Acting awards went to Rachel Weisz (Best Supporting Actress for The Constant Gardener), George Clooney (Best Supporting Actor for Syriana), Reese Witherspoon (Best Actress for Walk the Line) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Actor for Capote).

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The Boston Massacre

On the cold, snowy night of March 5, 1770, a mob of American colonists gathers at the Customs House in Boston and begins taunting the British soldiers guarding the building. The protesters, who called themselves Patriots, were protesting the occupation of their city by British ...read more

Churchill delivers Iron Curtain speech

In one of the most famous orations of the Cold War period, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill condemns the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe and declares, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” ...read more

Innovator of hypnotism dies

Franz Anton Mesmer, a German physician who pioneered the medical field of hypnotic therapy, dies in obscurity in Meersburg, Swabia (now Germany). Born in 1734, Mesmer studied religion, philosophy, law, and medicine in Vienna, Austria, but initially failed to excel at any of these ...read more

Hula-Hoop patented

On this day in 1963, the Hula-Hoop, a hip-swiveling toy that became a huge fad across America when it was first marketed by Wham-O in 1958, is patented by the company’s co-founder, Arthur “Spud” Melin. An estimated 25 million Hula-Hoops were sold in its first four months of ...read more

Joseph Stalin dies

On this day, Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union since 1924, dies in Moscow. Isoeb Dzhugashvili was born in 1889 in Georgia, then part of the old Russian empire. The son of a drunk who beat him mercilessly and a pious washerwoman mother, Stalin learned Russian, which he ...read more

U.S.A.F. advisory team sent to Laos

The Joint Chiefs of Staff order a U.S. Air Force air commando training advisory team to Thailand to train Lao pilots in counterinsurgency tactics. Laos had won its independence from French control in July 1949 but the country quickly became a battleground as various factions ...read more

“Blackhorse” departs South Vietnam

The U.S. 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, less its 2nd Squadron, withdraws from Vietnam. The “Blackhorse Regiment” (named for the black horse on the regimental shoulder patch) first arrived in Vietnam in September 1966 and consisted of three squadrons, each with three armored ...read more

Dial-a-President radio program airs

On this day in 1977, the Dial-a-President radio program, featuring President Jimmy Carter and CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite, airs for the first time. The brainchild of Cronkite and CBS, the March 5 show was a test-run to see if the program could be successful. (Carter’s ...read more

Jet breaks up near Mt. Fuji

On this day in 1966, a jet breaks apart in mid-air and plummets into Japan’s Mount Fuji. All 124 people on board the aircraft were killed. The plane’s pilot apparently flew close to the mountain in order to give the passengers a better view of it, and severe turbulence ...read more

John C. Breckinridge assumes command

On this day in 1864, General John C. Breckinridge takes control of Confederate forces in the Appalachian Mountains of western Virginia. The native Kentuckian was a former U.S. senator, U.S.vice presidentandrunner-up to Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election. ...read more

David Buick dies

On this day in 1929, David Dunbar Buick, the founder of the Buick Motor Company, dies in relative obscurity and meager circumstances at the age of 74. In 1908, Buick’s company became the foundation for the General Motors Corporation; however, by that time David Buick had sold his ...read more