Ranked: Memorable Oscar Hosts Of Year’s PastPublished on February 20, 2015. Updated January 29, 2020
When it comes to awards shows, the Academy Awards are amongst the dullest, which is why they need a funny and energetic host. Not just anyone can do this job. In fact, some of the greatest comedians that we know and love have failed at this endeavor. In preparation for the Oscars, here is our roundup of memorable Oscars hosts of year’s past.
7. Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart has had the pleasure of hosting the Academy Awards twice – once in 2006 and again in 2008. In 2006, he played it safe, which earned him mixed reviews. Roger Ebert gave him a favorable review, comparing him to Johnny Carson. James Poniewozik of Time magazine called him an anti-host because he poked fun at parts of the broadcast that were deserving of it.
When Stewart hosted the ceremony again in 2008, he brought the magic. Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe praised Stewart’s hosting abilities. “It was good to see Jon Stewart being Jon Stewart. He is shaping up to be a dependable Oscar host for the post-Billy Crystal years. He’s not musical, but he’s versatile enough to swing smoothly between jokes about politics, Hollywood, new media, and, most importantly, hair,” he wrote. Brian Lowry of Variety also lauded his performance, noting that he kept “a playful, irreverent tone throughout the night, whether it was jesting about Cate Blanchett’s versatility or watching Lawrence of Arabia on an iPhone screen.”
6. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin
Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin co-hosted the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. These two were quite the duo. They made jokes at the each other’s expense and then turned their digs on the various celebrities in the audience. “Meryl Streep holds the most nominations for any actor,” Martin said. “Or, as I like to think of it, the most losses.” They also poked fun at Helen Mirren and the film “Precious.”
The ceremony ended up bringing in more viewers than the year before. An average of 41.62 million people tuned in, which was a 13% increase from 2009. While some critics didn’t find Martin and Baldwin to be that funny, many did. Hank Stuever of The Washington Post praised them, writing that they “proved to be classy and quippy throughout the night.” Matthew Gilbert of Boston Globe was equally effusive. “The delivery was expert and warmly conversational, like one of those old-school comedy teams,” he wrote.
5. Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg is considered one of the better Oscar hosts. She has hosted the Academy Awards four times in total between 1994 and 2002. There were plenty of costume changes and wisecracks. “I’m going to get it all out of my system right now: Save the whales; save the spotted owl; gay rights; men’s rights; women’s rights; human rights; feed the homeless; more gun control; free the Chinese dissidents; peace in Bosnia; health-care reform; choose choice; act up; more AIDS research; let Frank Sinatra finish; Lorena Bobbitt, please meet Bob Dole, and someone stop these damn earthquakes…I think I took care of everything, didn’t I? Including my career,” she said while hosting the ceremony in 1996.
Goldberg brought her A-game to the Academy Awards and she made sure not to sugarcoat anything. She poked fun at everything – race, the other celebrities and herself. We need that sort of irreverence from her now!
4. Ellen Degeneres
Ellen Degeneres has hosted the Academy Awards twice – once in 2007 and again in 2014. Reviews of her hosting were positive the first time around. Susan Young of the Inside Bay Area wrote, “DeGeneres rocked, as she never forgot that she wasn’t just there to entertain the Oscar nominees but also to tickle the audience at home.” She even received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for hosting the event.
When she hosted the Academy Awards again in 2014, reviews were mixed. Some found her boring and forgettable while others thought that she rocked it again, calling her the best Oscar host since Billy Crystal. We think that she was pretty unforgettable. That selfie that she orchestrated has become the most retweeted image ever and we’re pretty sure that no other host in the history of the Academy has ever ordered the actors and actresses pizza.
3. Steve Martin
Steve Martin hosted the Academy Awards solo in 2001 and 2003. He is considered one of the best Oscar hosts in town – next to Billy Crystal. “Hosting the Oscars is like making love to a beautiful woman,” he once remarked. “It’s something I only get to do when Billy Crystal’s out of town.”
Both times that Martin has hosted on his own he received mostly positive reviews. For the 2003 Oscars, Robert Bianco of USA Today wrote, “Luckily for viewers, Martin has two other qualities that are essential to a good Academy Awards host: wit and insider status. He used both to his and our advantage, winning the crowd’s confidence and then gleefully mocking them all night.” Rob Owen of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette raved about Martin. “Martin radiates class and wit, something often lacking in awards show hosts. From jokes about the allegedly scaled-down ceremony to reaction to his return to the Oscar stage, Martin entertained consistently,” he wrote.Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com
2. Billy Crystal
Billy Crystal is probably the most experienced Oscar host who is still alive today. He’s hosted the awards show nine times between 1990 and 2012. Compared with many other former hosts, he’s looked at as someone safe and lighthearted who won’t rock the boat at all. He typically includes an introductory video segment that includes him inserting himself into scenes of that year’s big films.
In 2012, Crystal was brought on to host after Eddie Murphy backed out. The Academy was looking to go in a different direction. The year before, Anne Hathaway and James Franco had co-hosted and they were not well received by viewers or critics. Crystal was a much-needed breath of fresh air. According to The New York Daily News, he “recaptured smartly the formula that worked for him in the past: quick-hit opening monologue, a song-and-dance number, then a sprinkling of jobs that had an edge but never drew blood.”Featureflash / Shutterstock.com
1. Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman hosted the 81st Annual Academy Awards. At that point, comedians had been hosting the awards ceremony for years, so the producers were looking to take a different direction in 2009. “We are trying to get away from this late-night talk show rut,” producer Laurence Mark said in a telephone interview. “It seemed to us that we needed to turn a corner and get somebody who is, imagine that, a movie star.”
Jackman definitely took the Oscars in a different direction that night. He infused plenty of song and dance into his performance and made the right amount of jokes without offending anyone. While having the “Wolverine” star host was a definite gamble, it ended up paying off. Viewership increased by 6% as a result. Some reviewers gave Jackman lackluster reviews for his hosting; however, others couldn’t stop raving about him. Surprisingly, he hasn’t been back to host since.