Is it just me or do the Oscars feel less relevant every year? Maybe it’s the death of the monoculture, or the Academy needing to be dragged kicking and screaming out of its white past, or it’s too long, and then the Academy thinks the solution is cutting certain awards from air instead of the dull hosts. In a time when so many people are suffering physically, mentally, and financially, the celebrity adulation is grosser than ever. But despite these mounting problems, who doesn’t love an Oscars viewing party?
Unlike the Super Bowl, with queso and hot wings and varied dips, there is no culturally agreed upon menu for an Oscars party. But over the past few years, a small trend has emerged, led in part by comedian Demi Adejuyigbe, who you may know from his September 21st videos or his work on The Good Place. At his annual viewing party, Adejuyigbe serves dishes with punny names names inspired by the year’s nominated movies. There are dishes like “We Live In A Salsa-ety” (Joker) or “Mound of Kettle (Corn)” (Sound of Metal). These lowbrow brilliant spreads usually go viral, and now every year fans attempt their own groaners.
For Adejuyigbe, coming up with a list of Oscars-related food puns is an exercise in creativity, and something that gets guests riffing and engaging with each other. Mostly it’s just fun — why serve pasta when you could serve “Drive My Car-Bonara?” Or actual licorice pizza? (On second thought, please don’t do that.) Before this year’s Academy Awards, which airs Sunday, March 27, I talked to Adejuyigbe about the art of party hosting, punmanship, and why the best puns are the long ones that make everyone mad. Obvious caveat: The COVID-19 pandemic continues, so please take this party-planning advice with a grain of salt — and several PCR and antigen tests.
Eater: What’s your general opinion of the Oscars?
Demi Adejuyigbe: I love the Oscars. I think when I say that, people always feel like I’m standing up for it as a perfect institution and I’m absolutely not. It’s really just more that I love it as an event. I feel like it used to be such a performative thing and that was always so cool to me as a kid. Because it just felt like, “Oh, it’s this very old institution that is deciding what movies deserve credit every year,” but then also they have like, Hugh Jackman doing a weird song and dance number.
I see it kind of like the Super Bowl where it’s like, I’m not always into the teams that made it to the playoffs. I’m just really more there for the camaraderie and celebration of a sport that I love. And I don’t think it’s like an objective measure of what is the good movie or whatever. I’m just like, “It’s nice to see movies celebrated in many forms.”
When did you start throwing your own Oscars viewing party, and when did you start coming up with your food puns?
I feel like I’ve done them for probably the last five or six years, and the food puns have always been a part of it. It just felt like an easy thing to do. I’m not good at getting to see my friends one-on-one. So the Oscars has always been a time where it’s like, “I don’t have a birthday party. I just have an Oscars party. This is when everyone comes to see me and we catch up and then we just have a thing to focus on.” And the snack pun is just another fun thing to do.
Walk me through the process of how you plan both the snack spread and then puns to match. How does this work?
I wish that I could say it was based on what’s recommended to eat at a party, but it’s really more like I make a plain text list of every movie that is nominated that would be recognizable by name. So it often means a lot of the shorts and documentaries aren’t on there. But if I immediately see a good pun in one of them, I keep it on there. Then I just try to make puns off of that list that are food related. Or if I’ve seen the movie, and there’s some iconography that’s very easy to use for food. The year Call Me By Your Name was nominated. I was just like, “Well, peach is all over that movie. So let’s do a peach ring thing or something,” or like with Parasite and the ramdon. But it’s usually just me making a big list and then going, “Okay, what’s the food that can be associated with this?”
What’s the best you’ve come up with?
I always really like the ones that are just a huge stretch. Because I think it’s just a lot… It feels like it’s just so much work, but it’s also so much more fun. I think two years ago I did Taika Iced-Tea-Tea, and also the same year I did, for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was “Wine Sip on a Type Of Alcohollywood.” I really love a painful-level pun.
I cannot imagine looking at the phrase Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and being like, “I know what I can put in here.”
I find one and then I’m just sort of like, “Oh, I see two now.” And just be like, “Okay. Now how many can I just shove into this one phrase?” And the longer the movie, the easier it is to just be like, “What’s just the worst possible stretch.”
Were there any that you were really proud of that nobody understood?
This wasn’t one that no one got, but it was one that people would be like, “What?” Because I think it wasn’t as big a movie as I expected it to be. But for A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, a friend made a cake and I made a little placard that said “A beautiful cake and the flavor’s good.” I just felt like everyone’s like, “What’s this supposed to be?” And I was like, “It’s the movie.”
[Adejuyigbe followed up our call with an email: “As soon as I hung up, I found the ones from two years ago and remembered that no one understood ‘Vegyn Chelly,’ which was a vegan chili pun for Megyn Kelly (Bombshell) and ‘I Lost My Barbecue,’ a pun on I Lost My Body.”]
This year, are there any titles that you’re thinking lend themselves particularly well to certain snacks?
I feel like for some of the movies, there’s things in the movies that are inherently good to adapt. Something Irish for Belfast, or a king cake for King Richard. I feel like it’s the kind of thing where it’s not so much off the top of my head, it’s about sitting down and making a list and being like, “Okay, now what’s an even more insane idea for this.”
Every year during the Oscars, I’ll see people tagging you on Twitter about their own snack spreads and the puns they’ve come up with. Does it surprise you that other people have taken this and run with it?
It mostly surprised me that they credit me because I didn’t invent puns. I think the last two years I just published an exhaustive list of puns that you can use. Whenever I do something like that, it’s more a creative exercise and being like, “How many of these can I list?” Because then when I do my own foods, I’m like, “I don’t want to use any of those. I want to do all new ones.” And so I think last year, a lot of people just tagged me being like, “Hey, I did one from your list!” which is always fun.
What do you think makes for a good Oscars viewing party?
People have to be there for the same reason. A lot of times people will go to a viewing party and just be like, “Oh, we’re just hanging out. We don’t care about the thing.” And it’s like, no, you should care about it a little bit, but care about it in the same way. If you’re going to a viewing party where everyone’s really invested, don’t be going there thinking like, “Oh, we’re just going to hang out. I’m just going to talk over it.” I just think being on the same page about what you’re there for is probably the key to me.
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.