LOS ANGELES – Billy Crystal said he passed on the Oscar hosting job that went to Jon Stewart because his one-man stage show is consuming his attention.
Academy Awards producer Gil Cates repeatedly asked, "please do the show," calling as late as just before Christmas, Crystal said. But his Tony Award-winning "700 Sundays" was his first priority.
"I'm so tired at the end of '700 Sundays,'" Crystal told the Los Angeles Daily News. "I didn't want to go from that into a meeting where I'm saying, 'Give me "Brokeback Mountain" jokes.' It seemed so not what I wanted to do."
"700 Sundays," currently playing in Los Angeles, concludes its limited engagement Feb. 18. It previously played in New York and Chicago.
Crystal has been a reliable performer for the Oscars. The ceremony turned last year to Chris Rock, who drew younger viewers but managed to annoy some academy members with his jokes about stars including Jude Law and Tobey Maguire.
Rock is producing and narrating "Everybody Hates Chris," a UPN sitcom based on his life.
Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," will be making his first appearance as Oscar host. He has twice hosted the Grammy Awards.
When Stewart was announced as host last week, Cates said he doesn't believe that Stewart — whose show revels in pointed political humor — will have any problems.
"Jon knows the difference of being irreverent without being impolite," Cates said. "This is not a political show. I think he understands that."
The 78th annual Academy Awards will air March 5 on ABC from Hollywood.