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Last year's Oscar telecast set the bar pretty low. Seth MacFarlane's turn as an emcee was a horrible miscalculation. The energy and occasional charm that be brought to his cartoons and his unfathomably popular film "Ted" seemed to curdle while on stage, and the night dragged on in a series of unfunny songs and jokes that were tired, sexist, and bigoted. So all that Ellen DeGeneres had to do was not shove a wheelchair-bound kid down a flight of stairs, "Friday the 13th: Part 2"-style, and she would have pretty much aced the night.

But DeGeneres went above and beyond, liberally mixing sugar and spice for a dynamic, lively performance that set the bar fairly high for whoever takes over the job next year (can we start a petition to get her pre-approved?) Ellen unified the entire experience of Oscar night under one exuberant umbrella. It didn't feel like she was merely throwing to presenters and moving things along; it felt like something genuinely hosted by Ellen, which made everything feel even more inclusive and fun. It was a blast watching this year, instead of a chore.

Opening Monologue
The Best Jokes From Ellen's Oscars Monologue
While some were expecting some kind of elaborate song and dance number, especially given the advertisements leading up to the awards, or maybe one of those cheesy openings along the lines of Billy Crystal where she would insert herself into the year's nominated movies. But instead Ellen just came out and riffed. And it was a beautiful thing. Ellen gently prodded everything from the rainy Los Angeles weather ("We're fine -- thank you for your prayers") to how old June Squibb was ("I am telling everyone that you were wonderful in Nebraska") to how genuinely bizarre Liza Minelli looked ("Thank you, sir"). Elsewhere her monologue was more barbed ("the nominees have been in 1400 films and a total of six years of college") and the fact that she ended it on a penis joke was somehow more charming and more envelope-pushing than anything that MacFarlane's cheaply outré performance delivered. "Jonah Hill showed me something I have not seen in a very, very long time..." She said, before pausing. "Get it?" Oh we got it.


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After a montage given to heroes of animation (among them: "The Incredibles," "ParaNorman," "The Iron Giant," etc.), Ellen lobbed a single joke but a sidesplitting one: "Anyone feel that was a little light on 'Finding Nemo?'"

A Return to the Penis Joke

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What made that monologue-capping penis joke even better was that Ellen returned to it. After a commercial break, the awards show cut to Ellen, standing in an aisle, talking with "Wolf of Wall Street" star Jonah Hill. "No, Jonah I don't want to see it," Ellen said. It was supposed to be a one-and-done, but Hill, a celebrated improvisational actor, was quick to join in the fun: "Why not?"


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Ellen is known for being affable and inclusive. So it was with this spirit that she interacted with the crowd, handing out lottery tickets to actors who didn't win. The best was when she spotted Bradley Cooper and said, "I am going to give you some scratcher lottery tickets." The catch, of course, was that if he wins that he's got to split his winnings with Ellen.

On Your Marks...

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Some of Ellen's jokes were more conceptual, like when they cut to her and she was standing far to the right of the screen. Not only was it an uncanny use of the widescreen TV format (those with square televisions must have felt hopelessly lost). "One of the most important things is hit your mark," Ellen joked. But the joke was something of an afterthought: just seeing her so absurdly smashed into one side of the frame was enough to send anyone who was watching into fits of laughter.

A Woman and a Guitar

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Still other jokes were so subtle that it was hard to figure out what, exactly, she was trying to do. At one point she threw to a presenter while sitting on the edge of the stage, with a guitar in her lap. She didn't play the guitar or do anything musical. It then became clear: she was quietly mocking the unintentionally goofy Karen O performance that just unfolded on stage.

Pizza Party

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Ellen's interaction with the celebrity-filled crowd was one of the unexpected highlights of the show. When she asked nominated actors and filmmakers if anyone was hungry, she was parroting what we are all thinking about the seemingly never-ending awards show. Ellen offered to order a pizza, which was funny enough. But the fact that a pizza delivery guy showed up later in the show was the cherry on top. "Guess what? Pizza's here!" Ellen loudly proclaimed, dragging a delivery guy into the audience. "Who's your favorite movie star?" she asked the baffled deliveryman. "They're all here." The whole thing was hilarious – from Brad Pitt handing out paper plates to Martin Scorsese digging into a gooey slice to Ellen demanding "Kerry Washington is pregnant, she needs something," it was priceless.

The Most Epic Selfie Ever

At some point Ellen decided to take an epic selfie, corralling Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita (amongst others) into a tweet that she hoped would break the record for re-tweets. The best might have been her coda to the photo: "Hash tag Oscars. Hash tag blessed." Meryl brightly chirped afterwards: "I've never sent a tweet before!" Later, Ellen showed up, in a beautiful, glittery tuxedo, to announce that, "We broke twitter. We made history, We are all winners tonight. That's what it means." Then she made sure everyone knew that Twitter was up and running, just in time for everyone at home to make fun of John Travolta's awful hairpiece.

The Good Witch

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After a baffling, "Wizard of Oz"-themed musical performance by Pink (What was that?), Ellen waddled out on stage dressed as Glenda the Good Witch. Ellen seemed exasperated and sighed, "Not cool guys."


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Everyone had seemingly enjoyed their slice of pizza, but Ellen still needed to tip the pizza guy. So she brought out Pharrell's Arby's-style hat, which he had once again worn during his rousing rendition of "Happy," and proceeded to solicit money from Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey ("That's for you"), Brad Pitt (whose blazer seemed to be lined with $100 bills) and, eventually, lip balm from Lupita. Ellen turned the lip balm into a prop for a gag later on, continuing the waste not, want not theme of the show – every aspect of the awards show was utilized and everything was utterly hilarious.