The Most Memorable Oscar Hosts Of All Time
The 91st Academy Awards air on Sunday, February 24, 2019. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the awards show will not have a host. Kevin Hart was initially offered the coveted spot but after past homophobic tweets surfaced, the Academy gave him an ultimatum: apologize or give up his hosting job. Hart refused, and so they are now left without a host for the show.
The Oscars may be host-less this year, but that doesn’t mean past hosts haven’t left their mark on the awards show. With almost a century of Oscar ceremonies, it’s refreshing to look back at how previous hosts made the show worth watching. And who knows — maybe one of them might make an appearance on stage for the upcoming Academy Awards.
Ellen DeGeneres’ A-List Selfie Broke the Internet
Ellen DeGeneres is a household name. Her humor and kind heart made her a safe bet for hosting the Academy Awards. In 2007, she tried it out for the first time and wasn’t as well-received. Audiences were used to seeing more of a spectacle of song and dance, rather than “quiet comedy.”
Maybe seven is a lucky number because, after seven years, she was back and is now considered one of the best Oscars hosts in history. During the 2014 show, she staged viral and hilarious pranks, including this A-list selfie that broke the internet as one of the most liked photos on Twitter that year.
Whoopi Goldberg Was the First Woman to Host the Show
This one-of-a-kind performer has already hosted the Oscars four times and wows audiences at each show. It’s very rare to see a woman, especially a woman of color, hosting such a heavily-watched event. Whoopi Goldberg made history as the first woman and first African American to ever host the awards show on her own.
She always brings pizzazz to the Academy Awards by putting on glamorous outfits, using the audience as part of her gags, and sharing her love of film. After Hart dropped out, she announced on The View that she would be interested in hosting again.
Billy Crystal Has Hosted the Oscars 9 Times
If there’s such a thing as an Oscar pro, Billy Crystal fits the title. He’s hosted a total of nine times, which is the second most out of every past host. His past musical numbers and hilarious video extras are what the hosts of present day look to for inspiration.
Crystal is known for bringing a mix of enthusiasm, clever jokes, and a smarmy personality to liven up an over three-hour production. It wouldn’t be unlikely for him to add some flair to 2019’s ceremony.
David Letterman Is Remembered as One of the Funniest Hosts of Oscars Past
Although he’s only hosted one time, David Letterman is still remembered as one of the funniest Oscar hosts. Letterman’s most famous bit from that night was when he talked about weird celebrity names, such as Oprah Winfrey, Uma Thurman, and Keanu Reeves. It was his first joke of the night, and it got the audience in stitches.
After he hosted the Oscars, they had their highest-rated show in over a decade. Even with the record numbers, many reviewers thought that Letterman was a flop and gave an uninspired and awkward performance.
Steve Martin Is a Low-Maintenance Host
Steve Martin also has some practice as an Oscars host after doing it a few times. The first two times he was on his own, where he was able to use humor to poke fun at the actors and the audience at home. According to the crew, he even had a reputation for being the most low-maintenance host.
When it was his third time to host, he paired up with actor Alec Baldwin. The network knew they had great chemistry when they performed on Saturday Night Live together, so it seemed like a perfect match. After all the hype, it ended with lackluster ratings that made them look unprepared.
Chris Rock Addressed the Elephant In the Room
The Academy Awards has seldom had people of color to host the show, but Chris Rock stepped in to change that. Unfortunately, his first time hosting the Oscars didn’t go as well as hoped with people not quite understanding his sense of humor.
But over a decade later he was asked back during the #OscarsSoWhite debacle when the majority of the nominees were white. The way his comedy dealt with a sensitive issue was widely welcomed and appreciated. There was a lack of diversity that year, but Rock gave off a humorous tone to voice his frustrations about the elephant in the room.
Jon Stewart Didn’t Have Help From Writers
With the Hollywood Writers Guild Strike of 2006, Jon Stewart was left without writers for a gigantic television event. It’s not that his performance was awful, it was just reviewed as sleepy and awkward.
After a couple of years, Stewart gave the hosting job another try. It was an election year, so people were eager to hear what he had to say about the political climate. The opening monologue was playful and ran very smoothly. Also, he’s remembered for inviting the winner for Best Original Song back on stage after her speech was cut off.
James Franco & Anne Hathaway Missed the Mark In 2011
With all these great hosts, there are also stars who floundered under the extreme pressure of it all. Back in 2011, reviewers were stunned at the odd pairing of A-list actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway to appeal to a younger demographic. All throughout the night their energies were totally mismatched, with Franco being snide and Hathaway upbeat and energetic.
Reviewers were upset with the ceremony after Franco seemed to lose interest almost immediately and Hathaway kept making weird remarks to make up for the lack of energy from her partner. The pair are still regarded as the worst hosts in Oscar history.
Neil Patrick Harris Fell Flat In 2015
As someone who’s had experience hosting The Golden Globes, The Emmys, The Tonys, and more, it only makes sense for Neil Patrick Harris to tackle the Oscars. It was a surprise to many that this triple threat fell flat during the show.
Harris basically choked as a host. His jokes felt awkward, his gags were boring and caused many audience members to lose interest. Luckily, he did a fantastic job in the musical numbers and had a few witty one-liners that got a chuckle out of the audience.
Jimmy Kimmel Tweeted at Donald Trump While Hosting
Most late night hosts get the privilege of hosting the Academy Awards, so Jimmy Kimmel took on the role in the past two shows. He was supposed to be hosting in 2019, but Hart was going to take his place before the controversy.
His role as host received plenty of good reviews, with people liking his fun and unique gags, such as taking some of the Oscar nominees to interact with a group of Hollywood tourists in a movie theater. Others weren’t too pleased when he tweeted at Donald Trump during the show after such a disheartening election year.
Johnny Carson Was the Gold Standard
Johnny Carson was another late night star that got the opportunity to host numerous times — five of the shows, to be exact. Many of his jokes were ahead of their time and he was later known as “The Gold Standard” after the LA Times gave him glowing reviews.
Since Carson was delivering the opening monologues starting four decades ago, many of his material would not be accepted today. He talked about how certain women looked, different minorities, and other hot button issues of the time.
Alan Alda, Jane Fonda & Robin Williams Received Scathing Reviews
In the mid-1980s the Academy was experiencing some of its biggest drop in ratings, so they needed to hire hosts that would draw viewers in. Robin Williams was selected first due to his major popularity, followed by Jane Fonda and Alan Alda to help share the hosting duties.
After the Oscars aired, this particular show received scathing reviews for being boring and unorganized. There seems to be a pattern with shows going south when there are multiple hosts present. The bright side of the evening was Williams’ improvisational-like jokes that brought out a comedic tone to make up for everything else that was going wrong.
Some Thought Seth MacFarlane Was Immature and Tasteless
Not every host is going to be a fan favorite, as Seth MacFarlane couldn’t quite master the job in 2013. The most notorious joke of the night was a crude song he sang about women who performed nude scenes in nominated films. Many reviewers thought the song was tasteless and immature.
Even after the controversy from that night, he was still asked to come back the next year. He refused because he knew it would irritate many of the people who called out his tasteless jokes such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Jane Fonda, Geena Davis, and more.
Hugh Jackman’s Energetic Performance Was Well Received
The Oscars usually try and find hosts that are able to keep the crowd entertained, sometimes starting out with a grand musical number. Hugh Jackman has a background in acting, singing, and dancing, so he was a clear choice to host. He opened the ceremony with a fabulous song that included fun props and incorporated some of the audience members.
Jackman’s energetic performance throughout the night made him a likable host without being too over the top or cheesy. Also, Anne Hathaway made an appearance to sing a sweet duet with Jackman that many reviewers praised as the highlight of the night.
Did You Know Donald Duck Hosted The Oscars?
In 1958, Donald Duck made history as the first cartoon to host the Academy Awards. He was joined by co-hosts Bob Hope, David Niven, James Stewart, Jack Lemmon, and Rosalind Russell. Since he isn’t a real person, Donald Duck never appeared on screen with the other hosts, but rather separately on film.
There are countless lists that name Donald Duck as one of the weirdest hosts of the Oscars. This specific show was the first time it aired live on TV for viewers from around the world. It may seem like six hosts for one show is a bit much, but since there weren’t commercials the Oscars needed to fill a large amount of air time.
Carol Burnett Hosted a Memorable Awards Show
The year that Carol Burnett hosted the Oscars came with a lot of firsts. She wasn’t hosting alone either. Burnett was accompanied by Michael Caine, Charlton Heston, and Rock Hudson. While they may not be remembered as the greatest hosts, there were many memorable moments from that night.
Marlon Brando was one of the first winners to refuse his award. Instead, he had Native American campaigner Sacheen Littlefeather turn it down for him on stage to speak about Hollywood’s misrepresentation of Native Americans. This year also marked the first time that two African American women received nominations for Best Actress.
Bob Hope Hosted the Show 19 Times!
There must be something special about Bob Hope if he hosted the Academy Awards 19 times. That’s the most anyone has ever done in Oscar history. No hosting duty was too difficult for Hope, proving he could do the job solo or as a team.
For the longest time audiences would just assume that Hope would be hosting since he was practically doing it every year. Hosts today look back at what he did to influence their performance, such as keeping it classy, original gags, and a fresh sense of humor. Hope even received a medal from the Academy for his service to the show.
Frank Sinatra Almost Missed the Show
As one of the most famous musicians of all time, Frank Sinatra was given the opportunity to host the Academy Awards. His first time in 1963 started with him being nearly late to the show after getting into an argument over parking.
Then, in 1975 he gave hosting one last try with the help of Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, and Shirley MacLaine. When an anti-Vietnam War documentary won for Best Documentary, Sinatra and Hope got into a bit of controversy after saying they denied any responsibility from the political statements made during the show. Sinatra also praised stars for “keeping their clothes on” in the nominated films.
People Didn’t Exactly Love Chevy Chase’s Blunt Humor
The first time Chevy Chase hosted in 1987 with Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan led to many mixed reviews. Some mentioned Chase and Hawn were desperately trying to liven up the broadcast, but it seemed to fall flat. Others praised the show for being well-paced to keep everything light and funny.
Since it wasn’t a total disaster, Chase was asked back the next year. His form of comedy is known for being crude and blunt, so it ended up putting off the majority of the audience. The show opened with the line, “Good evening Hollywood phonies,” and that seemed to set the tone for things going downhill from there.
Jack Lemmon’s Last Performance Didn’t Bring the Wow-Factor
Not many people have the opportunity to host the Oscars once a decade over the span of almost 30 years. Jack Lemmon is tied with Whoopi Goldberg as being the fourth-most person to host the Academy Awards.
Now, it’s rare to hear much about Lemmon when talking about the Oscars. That may be due to his last show being one of the lowest-rated in Oscar history. His performance was regarded as fair, but he neglected to bring the wow-factor that audiences look for in a host.