Producers announced Wednesday that stand-up comedian Chris Rock will return to host the 2016 Academy Awards set to air Feb. 28.
The last time Rock, 50, hosted the Oscars, the award show drew in 42.2 million viewers in the United States, surpassing nearly all of its recent broadcasts, according to the New York Times. The former Saturday Night Live cast member’s last hosting gig was in 2005, when Million Dollar Baby was named best picture.
This year’s Neil Patrick Harris-hosted Oscars, which crowned Birdman as best picture, only drew in 37.3 million viewers. In 2014, the show brought in 43.7 million viewers with Ellen DeGeneres as the host.
Producer Reginald Hudlin, who will join David Hill in running the show, said that Rock is a “comedian, actor, writer, producer, director, documentarian–he’s done it all.” They added that Rock was their “No. 1 choice. Period.”
Rock’s return to the stage comes just after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is responsible for handing out Oscars, was criticized for discounting African-American actors and actresses nominated for awards. NY Times reports that Rock’s job as host could help smooth out that criticism and boost the number of viewers.
But I don’t think the producers chose Rock for that reason nor did I think they would. They seemed to have chosen him because he’s a well-rounded talent, he’s funny and he’s not afraid to make some digs and push the limits when it comes to his jokes.
Plus, when asked if they chose him to help lessen the criticism that last year’s nominees were overwhelmingly white, Hill said, “Not at all. We were simply looking for the best.”
Also, the producers said that they wanted to move away from a “song and dance” sort of show that they’ve had recently under Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris. David Hill said that this show is “going to be about movies.” He added that “Rock screams film.”
Hosting the Oscars is not easy, and it is one of the largest honors in the entertainment industry. It requires the right mix of comedic monologues and entertainment. Plus, the host has to keep a 3-hour show lively while appealing to both the big players in the movie industry and the viewers at home.
Despite the difficulty, Rock said in a statement, “It’s great to be back,” Reuters reports. He also tweeted a photo of himself with the caption, “Look who’s back.” It sounds like he’s pumped!
— Chris Rock (@chrisrock) October 21, 2015
So what has Rock been up to lately?
Recently, he directed the HBO comedy special Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo. He starred in and directed the movie Top Five, which illustrates the live of a New York City comic and film star being interviewed by a New York Times reporter, in 2014 as well. You also may have seen him guest star as Frank Gathers on one episode from the newest season of Fox’s Empire.