Regis Philbin, Ricky Gervais, and the lost art of hosting
(By John Paul Filo -- Cbs)
There are so few good hosts left nowadays.
I recently read a letter to Ask Amy inquiring if it was okay to sleep until eleven when guests were staying over. "The weekends are when I get my beauty sleep," the person explained, "and in a way, it would be ruder to host while ugly, right?"
What has happened to us?
Max Beerbohm once said that the most fundamental division between people is that between hosts and guests. Hosts love putting others at their ease with fine food and conversation. Guests love fine food and conversation, but they couldn't put an evening together to save their lives and have to compensate with their personal charm. Hosts are gracious. Guests are grateful. Hosts are welcoming. Guests are welcome. The negative of guests is that they are mildly amusing freeloaders. The negative of hosts is that they might only be doing it to make themselves look good.
Nowadays, we're a nation of guests. We are superficially amusing and pleasant to have around. But we don't know how to make anyone feel at home, unless that person had a uniquely unpleasant home life.
And this was nowhere more apparent than watching Ricky Gervais attempt to host the Golden Globes -- if that verb applies at all. He was a guest in a host job -- a guest whose peculiar charm consisted of being as rude as possible. Most comedians are guests, their ability to prick humor out of any situation generally a boon. Had he been a guest, the same mean jokes would have gotten a laugh. But he was supposed to be hosting. As a welcoming presence to have at your dinner, he ranks somewhere below the Sword of Damocles and Grendel.
As a consequence, his performance at the Golden Globes was as painful as -- what's the most awkward thing I've witnessed in months? -- as painful as Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes last year.
A host is supposed to make his guests feel at home. Gervais just made them wish they were.
"It's not my fault," he would no doubt exclaim, if I explained this theory. "I'm a congenital guest." But maybe this excuse doesn't hold water. There's an awfully fine line between being a bad host and just being rude. And it's the rare host these days who fails to attempt to upstage his guests. Just look at Conan.
Contrast today's hosts to Regis Philbin. Regis Philbin always managed to put his guests at ease. He was a host among hosts. He never outshone you. He drew you out. He was reassuring, welcoming, congenial -- even as you sat in the hot seat losing thousands of dollars.
You never had the sense that he wanted to be the center of attention. He was there to make you appear more interesting.
Regis is retiring, the headline reads. Yes -- and that was the secret of his success.
| January 18, 2011; 5:54 PM ET
Categories: Epic Failures, Petri, Reality? Television | Tags: art, hosts, kids these days
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