Naughty, but nice: Why bad boys are just the ticket

Jonathan Ross and James Corden stay the right side of danger at the Baftas and Brits
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One is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the awards show; the other is the young pretender to his crown, and this week they will go head to head in two gruelling bouts.

Tonight, Britain's acting aristocracy will gather at the Royal Opera House in London for its premier awards ceremony, the Baftas, hosted by favourite court jester, Jonathan Ross, 50, rehabilitated after the BBC suspended him for insulting the actor Andrew Sachs on air two years ago.

On Tuesday, it will be the turn of music royalty to dress up at the Brit Awards, this year hosted by the comedian James Corden, 32, at the O2 in London.

The hosts have a lot riding on their performances. The focus of the next day's headlines has moved from the frocks to the performance of the man at the podium.

Ricky Gervais has notoriously ruffled Hollywood feathers with his two stints as host of the Golden Globes, while last year's Brit Awards were memorable mostly for Peter Kay's description of Liam Gallagher as a "knobhead".

This year the organisers of the Oscars are taking no chances, having turned their back on the trend for comedians and appointing two very safe pairs of hands as hosts – the actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway. The problem, according to comedy writer Julian Hall, is that these are long, boring industry events that want to appeal to a mass television audience. So the host has to walk a fine line of irreverence in order to appeal to people at home, while making sure the people in the room don't feel too insulted.

Ross had this down to a fine art, having hosted the British Comedy Awards since 1991 and the Baftas since 2007, when he took over from Stephen Fry. Last year, however, his post-Sachsgate performance was lambasted for being too restrained.

Corden is to many the coming man, despite getting off to a rocky start in 2009 when music fans criticised the decision to have him co-host the Brits. The co-writer of Gavin & Stacey has reportedly been signed up for the music awards for the next three years. He was one of the presenters for 2010's BBC Sports Personality of the Year show and also co-hosted last year's Sport Relief.

He found himself in trouble last year, however, after trading harsh words with the actor Patrick Stewart while hosting Glamour magazine's Women of the Year Awards.

"These are marathon events," Mr Hall said. "There's a great sense of occasion but ultimately they are long industry nights and you need someone to keep the thread going, to keep up the momentum and someone who can entertain the people at home with gentle digs, but not turn it into an offensive 'roast'. It's hard to tell who is the more blokey, Ross or Corden, but they are everymen who can be themselves on stage."