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Next Year’s Oscars Host Just Might Be Kevin Hart… Or at Least Someone Black

Next Year's Oscars Host Just Might Be Kevin Hart... Or at Least Someone Black

Appearing on yesterday’s “Live with Kelly and Michael,” Kevin Hart shared his strong interest in hosting the Academy Awards ceremony, even saying that his appearance on the show, was the beginning of his “campaign” to land the gig next year.

But why would he want to, especially when past hosts have essentially slammed the job as one that’s just not worth the effort. His reasons in a minute, but first, some history…

You’ll recall when one former Oscars co-host, Alec Baldwin, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter 2 years ago, shares his concerns for producers of future Academy Awards, who he said would face big challenges in finding celebrities to front the show – because it’s a thankless job that pays “chicken feed,” and isn’t at all worth the censorious aftermath that has followed recent hosts: “The Oscars is a completely thankless job. It’s really tough,” he said right from the start.”

And when asked whether he’d ever host again (he hosted with Steve Martin in 2009), he replied: “No. Never, never, never. And I enjoyed doing it. What the Oscars absolutely, unequivocally should be is a show with a little bit of entertainment and a very reverential overview of movies of that year. And that show would last about two hours, and it would be a very tight show with a lot of serious, cineastic appreciation. But the Oscars is also a television program that raises 90 percent of the Academy’s budget for the year in a single night. When the Oscars is three hours — when they bullshit you and say that the Oscars is running long, and that’s a problem — that’s not a problem. They’re making more money. So ABC and the Academy, they have no interest in doing a tight, better-produced show. They are forced, because of economic constraints, to have a flabby, tired show.”

Leave it to Alec Baldwin to spill the truth on what’s really happening behind the curtain.

When the interviewer responded with a statement about hosts facing strong criticism, Baldwin continued with his brutal honesty: “They need to gamble on the show, and they’re not gambling. I am a member of the Academy, but everyone who has done it lately has been crucified. So they’re not going to get anybody who is reasonably talented or special to take that chance anymore. They don’t pay you any money; the Oscars pay you like chicken feed. It’s all about the honor of helping to extol film achievement. But they’re going to have a tough time. I’m dying to see who they get to do it next year. They’re going to have to go dig someone up from a cemetery. They’re going to have to go dig up Bob Hope.”

And when asked if there’s anyone he thinks would be the best candidate for the job, Baldwin said: “Ellen DeGeneres. She would work. Everybody likes her, and she can be edgy without being too edgy.”

It’s also worth noting that 2013’s Oscar host, Seth MacFarlane, echoed very similar sentiments about the gig, saying that he would never do it again.

But I love *insider* stories like this. I love hearing from those who are right there on the front-lines, and who aren’t scared to be upfront with their thoughts and feelings, in an industry that seems to discourage that kind of thing.

I’ve always imagined that hosting the Oscars was a job that most Hollywood personalities would want to have, or at least would be honored to be asked to do. I never really considered salary; it just always seemed like more of a prestige thing to me, and also, as one of the most-watched televised industry events in the entire world (the ceremony is broadcast in some 150 countries), I considered it a way for whomever is hosting to raise their international profile, which can translate to more work, more paychecks, etc.

But as Baldwin says, fewer and fewer stars are willing to risk hitting the Oscars stage to helm the ceremony, because it actually may have more of an adverse effect on them and their career, or just isn’t worth it, as any benefits/rewards one might see from taking the job, are trumped by the drawbacks. 

Despite all he said, I’m sure it’s still a job that’s coveted by some, who’d gladly accept if offered – especially if they feel that they can capitalize on the publicity they’ll receive in return – the good and the bad.

Like Kevin Hart, I suppose. Although I don’t think publicity is something he’s wrestling with right now. So why does he want to do it so badly?

Back to his appearance on “Live with Kelly and Michael,” hart said: “That would be a major accomplishment. With what I’ve done and the progress I’ve made in my career, that’s definitely the next major step, I feel, for a comedian. To say you’ve hosted the Oscars, to grace that stage, turn that event into a youthful night.”

So there you go. It’s just something he sees as a major career achievement; an event that he said he would love to mix up a bit: “My goal is to be able to do it and adapt to that environment! At the same time, give it a little spice!”

He joked that he wouldn’t tone it down, but rather: “I’d be up there cussing!”

Likely not, but if his campaign does land him the job in the end, I’m sure he’d bring some edge with him to what is typically a rather reverent, stodgy affair. 

I should mention that even prior to the below interview, Hart voiced his interest in hosting the Oscars while on the red carpet at this year’s event. “I can’t even hide it, I think it’s in my face,” Hart told ET’s Nancy O’Dell and Kevin Frazier. “This is my first time being at the Oscars. I’m in awe! I’m a kid in the candy story. This is a testament that you’re going in the right direction. This is that one step. The next step is to come back and host.”

So his campaign really began about a month ago.

By the way, this year’s host, Neil Patrick Harris has already said that he’s likely not going to host again next year, leaving the slot vacant all over again: “I don’t know that my family nor my soul could take it… It’s a beast. It was fun to check off the list, but for the amount of time spent and the understandable opinionated response, I don’t know that it’s a delightful balance to do every year or even again,” the “How I Met Your Mother” star said in an interview with the Huffington Post earlier this month.

He added: “It’s so difficult for one who’s simply watching the show to realize just how much time and concession and compromise and explanation has gone into almost every single thing… And I’m not saying that to defend everything I said as if it was the absolute best choice, but it’s also an award show, and you’re powering through 14 acts filled with 20 plus awards. So, my job was to try and keep things as light and specific to this year’s set of films as possible. And if people are critical of that, it’s a big giant platform, so I would assume that they would be.”

But maybe what the Academy does need to do is indeed have a black comedian like Chris Rock, or Kevin Hart host the show. 

Why? This year’s Academy Awards show saw a 16% decline in viewership, the lowest rating for total viewer count in 6 years. You’ll recall my pre-Oscars piece on the correlation that Nielsen found between the number of black Oscar nominees (and hosts), and viewership. Of the last 10 years, the BEST year for Oscar viewership and ratings was in 2005, when Chris Rock hosted the show, and several black actors were nominated in major categories, including Don Cheadle, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman and Sophie Okonedo, and the film “Ray” was nominated for best picture. Roughly 5.3 million black viewers tuned in, according to Nielsen, helping to lift the show’s draw to over 42 million viewers – a rarity in this millennium.

And to reiterate why a drop in viewership is a concern for the Academy, as Baldwin stated above, the Oscar telecast generates by far the biggest part of the Academy’s $151.5 million annual revenue, and maintaining high ratings is essential to its financial success. Academy leaders are also aware that a failure to attract a diverse audience risks making the awards less relevant to new generations of viewers.

I’d say that Kevin Hart is actually smart in kicking off his hosting campaign early, because I think there’s a very good chance that next year’s Oscars host will not be white. Like a lot of things, it comes down to dollars and cents. There is money to made in diversity, as reports from the UCLA Ralph Bunche Center, the WGA, and others recently, have all shown. And it appears the TV departments of the Hollywood studios are embracing this fact, if the 75+ pilots ordered this year, with black actors in starring, lead and supporting roles, is any indication. All black everything (almost), seems to be the way to go currently, for Hollywood… that is, until it’s not. So this might be as good a time for Kevin Hart to get his shot at hosting the Oscars as any he’ll ever get in the future, which is of course unknown. 

One question I had for myself whether, ultimately, any of this even really matters. I haven’t seen any surveys taken on this, but I can say that I, and many other folks in my circle, don’t watch the show for the host. We just want to know who wins each of the awards – especially the *major* awards. As we see it, the host shouldn’t be so central to the broadcast. In fact, I might even add that they shouldn’t be memorable. I like Baldwins suggestion, that the Academy make the event a much more compact, less busy, an significantly shorter affair.

Watch the actor/comedian on “Live with Kelly and Michael” yesterday.

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