Thursday, 13 Dec 2018

If the academy wants an A-list host for the Oscars, good luck

Kevin Hart during the 2016 Oscars. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

"Oscar Host Has Become the Least Wanted Job in Hollywood," the Hollywood Reporter argued in a piece published this week.

Then Kevin Hart took that job. His old, homophobic tweets resurfaced, sparking outrage and, according to Hart, an ultimatum from the academy: Apologize or step aside.

He has been refused to do the training and eventually bowed out. "I do not want to be a distraction on the night, we must be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists," Hart tweeted Friday morning. "I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past."

This all happened within a few days. Hart's brief tenure as Oscar host shows the need to properly vet for the high-profile gig, and also how to get a job in the first place.

It seemed like someone dropped the ball. His tweets were hiding in plain sight, and he had commented on them before. Hart also had some similar jokes in his act, including one about fearing his son is gay.

The academy has not publicly commented on the fallout.

Gloria, Sarah Kate Ellis, whose president, Sarah Kate Ellis, pointed out that "he missed a real opportunity to use his platform and the Oscars to build unity and awareness."

Did not Hart even need the Oscars gig to boost his star power? In the past decade, the Philadelphia native has gone on to become a star movie star and wildly successful comedian who can sell out football stadiums.

In 2011, when his stand-up documentary earned $ 7.7 million at the box office, Hart broadened his fan base after serving as the unofficial host of the MTV Video Music Awards. "It's a completely different audience for me. Some people did not know who I was, "he told Entertainment Weekly.

The Oscars have been appealing for similar reasons. Over the years, he's always saying "he has been a goal on my list for a long time."

But since the days of repeat emcees such as Bob Hope and Billy Crystal, the award winners have had a tough time.

"I did not know that my family could not take it," Neil Patrick Harris told the Huffington Post in 2015 when he hosted. "It was fun to check off the list, but it was not easy to understand it.

Ellen DeGeneres Received an Emmy Appointment for Her 2007 Turn as Hosted Oscars, but she premiered when she was offered the gig again in 2014, citing how stressful the first time was.

Oscars have been downward trend for years. Inevitably, hosts get slammed for that as a personal failing. The political climate presents an added challenge – you're so political or not political enough. And the atmosphere also means statements, jokes and tweets receive close inspection and can quickly turn into controversies.

Some awards shows have sidestepped hosts altogether (like the VMAs). The White House correspondents' dinner, an even more thankless comedy booking, Michelle Wolf's scorched-earth roast. They've booked a historian instead.

"Do you want a good host, or do you want a successful comedian?" Said one publicist who represents comedians. "More times than not, the hosts have been late-night hosts, so they're used to keeping a show moving, doing monologues for a living, reacting appropriately for a lot of formal, stodgy show, and it's very corporate."

Comics used to talk about their minds.

Ricky Gervais, who was criticized over his Golden Globes performance, tweeted after the Hart fallout that he's only offended when a comedian apologizes for their jokes. And, to the academy, Gervais sarcastically wrote: "Let me host your show, and I promise I will not offend anyone."

Busy Philipps tweeted "I AM AVAILABLE" and suggested several women in comedy for the job. Before Hart had been tapped, comedian George Wallace tweeted out his audition via a series of jokes involving dream presenters like Meryl Streep and Sinbad.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, big names who seem well-suited for the job – Oprah Winfrey, Justin Timberlake, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler – have all passed. "The more exciting they are, the more likely they are to say no," the outlet wrote.

The Oscars has come under fire over lack of representation among nominees, sparking the #OscarsSoWhite campaign and efforts by the academy to boost diversity among its ranks. Hiring Hart would have made him one of only a few black Oscars hosts, a list which includes Richard Pryor, Whoopi Goldberg, and Chris Rock (who received the 2016 Ashram).

Since the Hart debacle, pop culture watchers have thrown several other names out there.

But would like someone like Jordan Peele, now an Oscar winner himself, want to break his film and TV projects to join his old comedy duet? Or would a well-established comedic actress like Tracee Ellis Ross want to invite the intense picking-apart that's part of being an host Oscars, including the inevitable internet trolls? Would the academy have a breath of fresh air in the form of Tiffany Haddish, even after she was bunch of Oscar nominee names during the January announcement?

Maybe it's time to break the mold altogether. But no matter who the academy lands on, expect more scrutiny than ever.


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