| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Feb 26 Comic Jimmy Kimmel opened
Sunday's Oscars show seeking to break the tension among jittery
nominees by poking deadpan fun at the political tumult roiling
the United States and the globe during President Donald Trump's
early weeks in office.
"This broadcast is being watched live by millions of
Americans, and around the world in more than 225 countries that
now hate us, and I think that is amazing," the late-night
television star exclaimed shortly after stepping onto the stage
of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Admitting he was at a loss in using his Oscar platform to
help unite a divided country, Kimmel exhorted viewers to make an
effort at reconciliation by reaching out to political
adversaries they knew personally and to "have a positive,
considerate conversation, not as liberals or conservatives, as
"If we could all do that, we could make America great
again," he said, an allusion to Trump's own campaign slogan.
After segueing into a gag about trying to heal his
long-running faux rift with actor Matt Damon, Kimmel turned back
to Trump with a sly parallel between the criticism both the
president and the Oscars have taken for a perceived lack of
"I want to say, 'Thank you, President Trump,'" he said. "I
mean, remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were
racist?" he asked rhetorically in a reference to the
#OscarsSoWhite controversy that clouded the Academy Awards in
The joke drew hearty laughter and applause from the
star-studded audience in the hall, recognizing a renewed measure
of racial balance in the awards after two straight years in
which all the major acting categories shut out nominees of
Kimmel capped his monologue with a deliberately back-handed
tribute to perennial Oscar nominee Meryl Streep, whose fiery
denunciation of Trump from the stage of the Golden Globe Awards
in January drew an angry Twitter retort from Trump calling her
"one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood."
"From her mediocre early work in 'The Deer Hunter' and 'Out
of Africa' to her underwhelming performances in 'Kramer vs.
Kramer' and 'Sophie's Choice,' Meryl Streep has phoned it in for
more than 50 films over the course of her lackluster career,"
He then noted that Streep stood Oscar-nominated for the 20th
time in her career - as best actress for "Florence Foster" -
before asking her to stand up and take a bow to a standing
ovation. "The highly overrated Meryl Streep, everyone," he said.
The pointed political barbs stood in sharp contrast to the
breezy opening song-and-dance number led by Justin Timberlake,
performing the Oscar-nominated song "Can't Stop the Feeling"
from the animated film "Trolls." The performance brought the
celebrities in the theater to their feet dancing.
As the assembled nominees and other stars took their seats
again, Timberlake welcomed Kimmel out to the stage.
"Oh good, I got a sitting ovation," Kimmel remarked dryly.
"This is my first time here, and the way you people go through
hosts, it's probably my last time here. So I'm going to enjoy
this while I'm here."
Kimmel, 49, was tapped to host the Oscar telecast, widely
regarded as the most thankless job in Hollywood, after two
stints as master of ceremonies for television's Primetime Emmy
Awards, most recently in 2016. He also has hosted the American
A 14-year veteran of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!", he is the
third star of late-night broadcast TV to preside over
Hollywood's highest honors, following in the footsteps of Johnny
Carson of NBC's "The Tonight Show" and Kimmel's personal hero,
David Letterman, then host of the CBS "Late Show."
(Editing by Mary Milliken)