Did you see the statistics about the makeup of the Academy? The Academy is 94% white, 77% male, and the median age is 62. That’s quantitative data. Want some qualitative proof?

Back in 2007 Sacha Baron Cohen was invited to present at the Oscars. He wanted to do so in character as Borat. The Academy nixed that idea so Cohen didn’t even attend. Now, Cohen—a member of the Academy—is on the invite list because of Hugo. He wants to do the red carpet in character as the guy from The Dictator. Apparently his plan is to do interviews in character, then change into a tux for the ceremony. However, once again the Academy is doing their best Judge Smails impression and is threatening to withhold his tickets—essentially banning him—if he insists on pulling such a “stunt”.

First, this is not a Sacha Baron Cohen problem. Cohen is hilarious and that the Academy doesn’t get that is nothing new. They have no discernable sense of humor. If Cohen wants to show up in character, by all means, let the man. I watch the Oscars every year. I LIKE the Oscars. I CARE about the Oscars. And even I find it really hard to sit through hours and hours of pandering red carpet coverage followed by a masturbatory exercise in self-congratulation. Anything that alleviates the inherently excruciating nature of the Oscars is more than welcome. Second, this is not a “stunt”. This is what Cohen does. When he first started with Ali G, he was so deep into it that people didn’t know Ali G was a character for a long time. When Cohen commits, he COMMITS. It’s not like he’s trying to punk the Oscars. Between now and when The Dictator comes out, he’ll make all his public appearances in character. Because that’s what he does.

The flipside of this is the Academy saying that the Oscars are a serious ceremony and not the place for such promotions. Which, fine, if you want to be all stuffy and old, then okay. But shut up about declining ratings and not attracting young viewers. Because THIS is how you get young people to be interested in your show. I’m at the end of my rope with the Academy whining every year about losing viewers yet insisting on sticking to the same boring format. You can’t have it both ways, but neither do you have to turn the broadcast into an episode of American Idol. Just look at the BAFTAs. Stephen Fry is a funny, engaging host, as was Jonathan Ross before him. They do funny bits with the presenters (my favorite this year was Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd), and it never feels like they’re taking it too seriously. Yet it is still a respectable affair. Why can’t the Oscars find that balance?

Because they’re petrified that a comedian showing up as a comic character to do interviews before the show signifies the end of all art and culture. That’s what happens when this guy is in charge.

(Lainey: these billboards are all over LA without any text. Hilarious.)