Chris Rock to host 2016 Oscars: Why are hosts always comedians?

Rock previously served as host in 2005. To Oscars producers, hosts that have a background in stand-up comedy or live comedy programs may seem more able to think on their feet if something goes wrong and better able to keep the notoriously long Oscars ceremony moving.

Mark J. Terrill/AP
Chris Rock hosts the Oscars in 2005.

Comedian Chris Rock will take the stage as host for the 2016 Oscars. 

The “Top Five” actor has taken on the job once before, in 2005. In addition to starring in the 2014 movie “Five,” Rock  recently appeared on the Comedy Central program “Broad City” and on the Fox hit drama “Empire.” 

Last year’s host, Neil Patrick Harris, has already endorsed the choice.

Rock’s previous hosting gig is often remembered for his edgy humor. When those behind the Oscars show picked the controversial Seth MacFarlane in 2013, many objected to the subjects of MacFarlane's jokes. But those who selected Rock may be hoping for the aura of unpredictability that comedian Ricky Gervais, for one, brought when he hosted the Golden Globes and delivered jokes about the stars present that some called refreshing and others found cruel. 

As for the Oscars, often those behind the Academy Awards ceremony have leaned toward comedians, either those who work as talk show hosts or star in comedy productions, when selecting hosts. One of the most well-known hosts was Bob Hope, star of the “Road” comedy movie series with Bing Crosby and host of the “The Bob Hope Special” NBC comedy programs.

Another famous Oscars host is Billy Crystal, who has worked as a stand-up comedian since the beginning of his career.

Recent hosts have followed this pattern as well. Harris, who starred on the long-running CBS comedy “How I Met Your Mother” and was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards for his work, hosted last year, while Ellen DeGeneres, host of her own daytime program and well-known for her comedic turn in the animated movie “Finding Nemo,” took on the task in 2014. Seth MacFarlane, creator and star of the animated comedy “Family Guy,” headed up the show in 2013, while Crystal returned in 2012.

Why do those behind the Oscars gravitate towards comedians? While these ceremonies have their own team of writers, the right comedian-host can bring a unique comic sensibility to the writing and, it can be assumed, knows how to deliver a joke better than someone without a comic background.

In addition, comedians, especially those who have done stand-up or performed on live shows like “Saturday Night Live,” may be seen as most able to think on their feet. Any awards show, and especially the Oscars, has a multitude of moving parts, and hosts must guide the audience through the many awards categories. In addition, if something goes wrong, the host must be able to move the show quickly past the mishap. 

This year’s Oscars will be held on Feb. 28.

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