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Ellen and Oscar

By RD Heldenfels Published: September 10, 2006

The following comes from a transcript of Ellen DeGeneres's chat with Jessica Simpson, which airs Monday:

Jessica: I'm a good person ... I promise.

Ellen: You don't have to promise. You seem like a really good person.

I bring this up because it goes to why Ellen will be a good Oscars host, at least as far as the movie industry is concerned. She may joke about people, but it probably won't feel sharp-edged or mean. She's as likely to make a joke about herself as about the celebrities attending, or to make the hoopla the target instead of those who want to be, uh, hoopla'ed.

This all goes to why she is a success in daytime, where she is the true Queen of Nice. She wants people to be comfortable -- viewers and guests. And even with all her considerable success, she has a just-folks quality about her, a willingness to seem awed or amused much the way a viewers would be if a star dropped by their living room in -- oh, for the sake of hypothesis, let's say Mogadore, Ohio.

That determined ordinariness separates her from Jon Stewart or Steve Martin, guys who always seem to be testing how smart-alecky they can be without getting beaten up. Ellen is closer to Bob Hope and Johnny Carson. (I started thinking about some of this earlier today, when writing about the difference between ''South Park'' and ''The Simpsons.'')

As successful as Hope and Carson were, they could still come across like someone outside the show-biz pantheon. Hope could joke about his lack of a real Oscar. Carson was still TV's ambassador to the movie business -- in an era when, to the movies, even a big TV star was a hot dog in the middle of cinematic caviar.

But they also knew how to needle without stabbing. Ellen does, too. She may poke, but she won't break the skin. After all, all those movie stars seem like really good persons. 

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