Hosting the Academy Awards used to be the hottest gig in Hollywood. Bob Hope made it classy, Johnny Carson made it fashionable and Billy Crystal made it hip. Unfortunately, of late it has become a job with as much reward and negativity as working in the Trump White House. The latest victim of its recent controversy is comedian Kevin Hart.
Hart recently withdrew himself from the 2019 gig when homophobic tweets he made almost a decade ago resurfaced. He initially attempted an apology which obviously fell on deaf ears before finally deciding the reward wouldn’t be worth the attempt. No doubt one of the factors guiding his decision was the fact that even hosts with no prior scandals are put through the wringer. Just ask Anne Hathaway and James Franco (the latter of which may still be in therapy from the criticism he received from his 2011 performance in the hot seat).
Another obvious consideration in the “should I or shouldn’t I host” is the paycheck. In a recent interview Jimmy Kimmel admitted that when he hosted in 2017, he was paid $15,000.00. Although this may seem like a lot of money for one night’s work, when you factor in the weeks of preparation, the amount of money the network makes and even the net worth of the people receiving the awards, it seems paltry for both the work and the risk of negative publicity one may get.
The reality is, hosting Hollywood’s biggest night has become a lose/lose. There will always be somebody who doesn’t like you, or more to the point, your jokes—comedy is subjective. One bad joke could label you unfunny and one politically-incorrect joke could label you unemployable due to a tweet storm of protests that’s sure to follow. In addition, since people tend to only watch if they’re familiar with the films being nominated, quite often, more obscure art-house films draw less viewers which mean low ratings, that for which the host is always blamed. And all of this for an amount of money that after taxes couldn’t buy a used Honda Accord.
On the Academy’s side of the lose-lose equation: a younger, fresh-faced host has little in the way of followers and wouldn’t draw many viewers, and older established faces probably have a skeleton somewhere in their closet. Having no host, an improbability if ever there were one, leaves the show with an unorganized feeling and even a good host with lots of material extends the length of the already long telecast forcing people to fall asleep before the main awards are even given out. Imagine missing Warren Beatty announcing the wrong best picture!
Note to the Academy: perhaps the Oscars would be better-served with the backdrop of a supermarket. That way the nominees who get the most money-fueled publicity could grab their awards off a shelf and bring them to the self-checkout station. I’d certainly tune in to watch, especially if it were taped in the express lane.