While delivering his opening monologue at the 88th Academy Awards in 2016, Chris Rock shared an anecdote about considering quitting his job as host that year. “But I realized, they’re gonna have the Oscars anyway…” he said. “And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.” Cut to a shot of a chuckling Kevin Hart. Cue a “yikes” from anyone watching that clip today.
The Academy recently finalized the inevitable news that there would indeed be no host for the Oscars this year, following Kevin Hart’s resignation in the midst of a firestorm regarding his history of homophobic tweets and the stubborn non-apologies that followed. The weeks of speculation as to whether they would throw a Hail Mary with another similarly famous comedian was for naught. Obviously, putting together a show like that takes a lot of work for the host, and it’s a reasonable choice to not plug someone into that machine at the last minute. But so much of the planning for this year’s Oscars has revolved around bumping those ratings by appealing to everyone. What they’re missing is: no four-quadrant comedian or category for Blockbusters is going to get people more invested in the Oscars. A good show does that. And if the Academy’s committed to a good show, there are plenty of comedians to choose from. Here are some of our favorites.
Nick Kroll and John Mulaney
I think in five years or so, Kroll and Mulaney will have ascended to a level of fame where it’ll be a relatively unsurprising move to announce them as hosts. After all, they’ve brought an unexpected vitality to the Independent Spirit Awards, despite the awards themselves garnering less than 100,000 viewers on IFC. They’re able to effortlessly balance Old Hollywood showmanship and jokes that actually have a real bite to them, without stooping to the “oh, did I offend you?” antagonism of some awards hosts I can think of who shall remain unnamed. For this duo in particular, I think it’s only a matter of time.
Donald Glover’s multi-hyphenate status as an artist could qualify him for a role as the host of any number of award shows. And yes: I mean the Saturns! In any case, it’s a job that benefits from real swagger and showmanship, and since Donald Glover happens to be the most confident person on the planet, that might work out. Glover is also about as A-List as this list gets, considering that musical success is where critical and popular consensus overlaps most these days. Anyway, if the guy sold me on a Young Lando, he can sell me on a hastily assembled awards ceremony.
While this would be a real East Coast pick, Seth Meyers did an impressive job navigating sensitive waters when he hosted the Golden Globes in the aftermath of the Weinstein revelations. It’s hard to hold the toxicity of Hollywood truly accountable in the middle of the most navel-gazey night of the year, but Meyers got about as close as we could have hoped, while fully admitting that it might have been a better idea to have a woman host the awards that year. As a TV personality, Meyers also lends more or less a third party perspective that plays well at the Oscars. It’s the reason Johnny Carson was such a successful host for so many years. Carson and Meyers are extremely different figures, but I suspect the benefits would be surprisingly similar.
The internet was already clamoring for Haddish to be named as the host of the Oscars following her explosion onto the A-list with the release of Girls Trip (a performance that should have earned her a nomination itself). I hope the Academy one day rectifies that mistake by letting her host. In fact, if they were committed to hiring a star of Night School this year, they might as well have hired her in the first place. Most importantly, Haddish is exciting, and given that awards shows are often two moves behind the general public, it would be nice if the Academy would recognize this cultural moment for her in some remotely timely way.
Kate McKinnon and Kumail Nanjiani
Another pair of erstwhile Indie Spirit hosts, McKinnon and Nanjiani have real credibility to lend to the role of host. McKinnon is the inarguable MVP of SNL at the moment (well, after Kenan, of course), while Nanjiani earned a nomination for Best Original Screenplay last year for the surprise indie hit The Big Sick. While they could split up and each take a year, no problem, I wouldn’t mind seeing them pair up again. There’s a division of labor to this choice, too. I’d trust Nanjiani with “______ is nominated tonight” hosting duties more than almost any host in recent years, and I’d trust McKinnon with character-y hosting bits more than basically anyone, period.
Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson
Williams and Robinson, hosts of the cult podcast 2 Broke Girls and its subsequent adaptation for HBO, would be long-shots at the moment. However, they’ve proven that their level of fame tends to rise at an exponential rate, so who knows where we’ll be in a year or so. This pair would bring a level of pop culture know-how and enthusiasm that you don’t get with a (sorry, Jimmy) Jimmy Kimmel, as well as the healthy skepticism of Hollywood that you have when you’re an emerging success with direct DIY roots.
Key & Peele
A hosting duo that would serve as an exciting reunion in its own right, hiring Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key as hosts is a choice that honestly could’ve been made like four years ago. First of all, if you want Peele to do comedy within his new role as horror cinema auteur/impresario, this is probably the only way to do it. Second of all, Key has been doing great work in film and is a dynamic live performer to boot. Still, this feels like a situation where hiring just one of the two would be… strange. So make it an event. Put it on the poster! Make the Oscars exciting, please. You’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic anyway, so get someone to play “Nearer My God to Thee” and just make the Oscars exciting, please.
Graham Techler is a New York-based writer and comedian. You’d be doing him a real solid by following him on Twitter @gr8h8m_t3chl3r or on Instagram @obvious_new_yorker. A real solid.