Bruce Vilanch talks about joke writing for Oscar. His team starts now and keeps going till the show ends
Bruce Vilanch
Credit: Bruce Vilanch: Darla Khazei/Retna

Bruce Vilanch is a lot more than an outlandishly hairstyled, color-spectacled member of the ”Hollywood Squares.” He’s been writing the jokes (sometimes funny, quite often corny) for the Oscars for the past 13 years. But this year brings a whole new challenge. Let’s face it, 2001 wasn’t exactly the most joke-friendly year in recent memory. So Vilanch and his ”Team Oscar” of 10 writers have a challenge ahead of them. We caught up with him at his office on the Sony lot to get the inside scoop on how the funny folks are coping.

The Oscars are just a couple of weeks away. Where are you now?
We’re totally in the thick of it. Now that we know who the nominees are we’re able to book the thing and write it. Bookings are coming in fast and furious so we know who we’re writing for.

Are your offices on the Sony lot?
They are. We have a new producer — Laura Ziskin — and she’s producing ”Spiderman” over here. [laughs] I get to be the web. I come into the studio, and I’m like Joan Crawford every day in the old MGM lot. We’re in the Fred Astaire building, so I can dance down the hallways.

How will this year’s show be different?
Laura’s a movie producer. So you’re going to see a lot more film in the show done by other filmmakers. Usually there are people who specialize in tributes and clips and they put those packages together. But this year all those packages are being done by actual filmmakers — and all ones you’ve heard of… No, I can’t tell you who’s doing them. So don’t even ask. In the words of the great Martha Stewart, ‘It’s a good thing.’ The only music on the show will be a medley of the original songs. There’s not going to be any Broadway show biz number.

But what will we make fun of?
Yeah, it’s definitely evenly divided. Some people love them and some hate them. Laura’s approach is much more filmic. The show is about movies and that will be reflected.

So will the Oscars go on forever this year?
Well, Laura’s given up. When you add everything up, you have three and a half hours that you just can’t cut. The Board of Governors chose three special honors. That’s half an hour right there.