Hugh Jackman Delivered the Harshest Burn in Oscar History, Courtesy of Dan Harmon

Hugh Jackman Delivered the Harshest Burn in Oscar History, Courtesy of Dan Harmon

Hosts brutally roasting celebrity guests has become standard operating procedure at awards shows these days. But, weirdly, one of the low-key harshest burns in Academy Awards history came, not from Jimmy Kimmel, or Seth Macfarlane, or even literal monster Chevy Chase. Nope, the Oscars monologue joke that arguably went the hardest came from mutant badass/song-and-dance man Hugh Jackman. 

Jackman wasn’t the most obvious choice to host the Oscars, but in 2009, he became the first straight-up, non-comedian actor to host since Paul "Crocodile Dundee" Hogan landed the gig way back in 1987. Thankfully, Jackman proved to be a delightful master of ceremonies. He even performed musical numbers for each of the Best Picture nominees, an Oscars gimmick that had seemingly died years earlier, along with America’s interest in the whimsy of Billy Crystal. But in Jackman’s version, due to the recession, all the show’s props were homemade, and all the dancers had been hired off of Craigslist. 

When it came time to salute The Reader, the Kate Winslet-starring drama about a teenage boy who has an affair with an illiterate Nazi (which was somehow a 100 percent real movie and not a Jenna Maroney vehicle in 30 Rock), Jackman and company performed a sci-fi-inspired modern dance number all about how he hadn’t actually seen The Reader. Yes, the host of the Oscars sang a whole song about how one of the five movies nominated for best picture wasn’t necessarily worth making the time for.

Which was a pretty harsh joke, but perhaps a welcome one, considering that The Reader was produced by noted piece of shit Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein allegedly tormented his cast and crew, and even harassed one of the film’s producers, legendary director Sydney Pollack, on his deathbed. When Winslet won Best Actress that night, she pointedly didn’t thank Weinstein due to his “disgraceful behavior.” 

But Jackman’s Reader joke wasn’t part of a calculated effort to take down Hollywood’s most notorious pustulating trash bag of a film producer, it actually originated with future Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon, who, along with Ben Schwartz and The Sarah Silverman Program co-creator Rob Schrab, was hired to write Jackman’s opening number. When the trio were penning the movie-inspired songs, they eventually came to The Reader, and according to Schwartz, “Literally, all of us said, ‘We have not watched The Reader.’” Harmon then came up with the idea of making this palpable indifference the focal point of the number.

The song doesn’t simply knock the forgettable Oscar bait movie that critics at the time blasted as “Nazi porn,” it ridicules just how out of touch the Academy Awards had become. During his performance, Jackman laments that he tried to check out The Reader but the theater was too crowded with moviegoers seeing “Iron Man a second time.”

Harmon and company eventually won an “Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics” Emmy for their work on the Academy Awards, and Jackman has finally seen The Reader. Or so he claims…

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