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Host duo Martin and Baldwin tease stars

Comedy stars Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, the first duo to share the Oscar stage as co-hosts in the television age, traded punchlines and barbs in last night's show as they gently roasted this year's nominees.

Working the room like a pair of Hollywood insider insult comics, Martin and Baldwin singled out many of the assembled Oscar contenders for some light, deflationary ribbing, starting with each other.

After they were lowered to the stage from the rafters of the Kodak Theatre on a glittering, circular contraption adorned with showgirls, Baldwin introduced his partner as "one of the most enduring entertainers of all time, Mr Steve Martin".

Martin reciprocated, sort of, by presenting his co-host: "And this is Alec Baldwin."

Much of the evening's humour continued in that vein, politely irreverent, at times silly and often self-deprecating.

After one commercial break, Baldwin welcomed television viewers back to what he called "the biggest night in Hollywood -- since last night".

In their shared opening monologue, Martin motioned in the audience to Sandra Bullock. "Who doesn't love Sandra Bullock?" Martin asked, to which Baldwin answered, "Well tonight, we may find out."

Martin hosted the Oscars twice before, in 2001 and 2003. Baldwin was once nominated for an Academy Award, for The Cooler, but failed to win.