Every generation has their definitive Oscar host. Certain performers cemented their status in the upper echelon of Oscar hosts by performing the duties multiple times. There have been many great Oscar hosts but only a few make up the Mount Rushmore of emcees.
Bob Hope reigns supreme as hosting the Oscars the most at 19 times. Billy Crystal has hosted nine times, Johnny Carson hosted five ceremonies and Whoopi Goldberg and Jack Lemmon hosted four each. These five artists elevated the Oscars to a variety show, of sorts, on top of an awards ceremony. Thankfully, for a new generation of Oscar night watchers, clips from these ceremonies can be found on YouTube to witness their brilliance over-and-over again. It’s fair to say we don’t always get hosts like this class anymore.
Not everyone is lucky to have success, no matter how talented they may be. A marriage of talent, timing and enthusiasm for the movies have to fuse in order to be successful. The most infamous hosts in recent years is the pairing of Anne Hathaway and James Franco. It’s universally accepted this oddball duo didn’t work. Hathaway is a talented actress; she can be dramatic and playful with great timing. Her enthusiasm clashed with Franco’s lifeless demeanor. They received a lot of criticism but they weren’t the first to bomb at hosting the Oscars. David Letterman infamously didn’t perform well as master of ceremonies.
Every Oscar night devotee will have a different answer for the qualities that make a definitive Oscar host. The main tenants are comedic prowess and the ability to move the ceremony along with effortless verve. Steve Martin has always been a highlight as an Oscar host. Martin has hosted three times, including once with Alec Baldwin. Martin’s deadpan delivery and dry persona always hits and makes for enjoyable banter with the audience.
These days, hosting the Oscars is seen as a thankless task and perceived as one no one wants to accept. Look no further than this year’s ceremony. The Kevin Hart fallout left the Academy scrambling to fill the host position. Rumors were flying about who was being asked and saying no but the Academy didn’t seem to have enough time before the show to fill the position. It was the first time the telecast went on without a host since the 1989 ceremony. The show seemed to run smoothly and there was an uptick in ratings from the 2018 ceremony. We all have our definitive host but we might not have another host for the foreseeable future.