Every year, there’s a lot of discussion as to who will be hosting the Academy Awards. In 2019, history was made as for the first time in 30 years, there was no formal host. Kevin Hart was slated to host the show, but tweets from his past resulted in a backlash where he was removed. Instead of replacing him, the show went on without a host and resulted in a much shorter production compared to prior years.
What made it so fascinating is that it was hard to imagine the Oscars without a host ever again. They had become staples of the show, with a lot of legends to lead the charge. But out of all of the people who have hosted, which ones are among the top for doing it the most? It might surprise you that Steve Martin, Jerry Lewis, Ellen DeGeneres or even Jimmy Kimmel don’t make the cut, but these five do:
Jack Lemon, the two-time Oscar winner who starred in films such as “The Odd Couple” and “Some Like It Hot” is tied for fourth place, hosting the Oscars four different times. The first time that Lemmon hosted was in 1958 at the 30th Academy Awards, but he wasn’t the only one. There were several other hosts that year that even included the Disney animated character Donald Duck.
Lemmon came back to host the show on his own for the first time in 1964. There was then another hiatus before he returned in 1972. The final hosting duties for Lemmon came in 1985. The legendary actor passed away in 2001 at the age of 76.
After Kevin hart was ousted for the 2019 Oscars, there were many that thought actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg could be a late replacement. After all, she’d fit in fine with her amount of experience. Like Lemmon, Goldberg has hosted the Oscars four times. However, she didn’t jump into a third place tie after the Academy decided to go against having a host, which she said was a “dumb idea.”
Goldberg first hosted the Oscars in 1994, which was the 66th version of the awards. She hosted two more times in the 1990s (1996 and 1999), with her most recent hosting duties coming in 2002. “The key to being an Oscar host is you actually have to like the movies,” Goldberg said. “You can’t be too cool for school and you can’t try to make it your show…For the first five minutes, you can do anything you want. After that five minute period, all (people) wanna know is, ‘Did I win?’”
Sitting along in third place is late night talk show king Johnny Carson. Carson hosted “The Tonight Show” for 30 years between 1962 and 1992, with almost all current talk show hosts drawing inspiration from his work. Because of his work as a host, Carson was a natural fit for the Oscars, and he did so five times.
All five of those hosting duties came nearly consecutively. Carson hosted every year from 1979 to 1984, with the exception of the 1983 show, which had several hosts including Liza Minnelli and Richard Pryor. Carson was known for his opening monologues, which is a big part of the Oscars, which is why he was considered to be among the best hosts in the show’s history.
It’s hard to believe that someone can host the Oscars nine times and still not even be close to first place. That’s the case for Billy Crystal, though, who is far ahead of third but far behind first. Crystal’s nine hosting appearances spanned from 1990 to 2012, which included six hosting duties in the 1990s. Like Goldberg, there were rumors he could be in the 2009 edition, as well, but it wasn’t to be.
Recent host Jimmy Kimmel asked Crystal for advice. “One very important thing he told me is that you have to play to the room, and not necessarily the people watching at home. The people sitting in front of you are the people you have to make laugh,” Kimmel said.
Crystal himself has said that “Anytime I’ve been asked by new hosts…I always say the same thing: ‘Whatever your approach, the world is a rough room, and it’s a big room. Not everybody is going to like what you have to say. But when you’re up there, look like you want to be there. You’re the captain of show business that night. That’s your job.’”
Sitting alone in first place for Oscar hosting duties is the man that holds a record that’s likely to never be broken. That man, of course, is comedian and actor Bob Hope, who had hosted many other shows outside of the Oscars during his century on Earth from 1903 to 2003. Hope first hosted the Oscars in 1940, and did so six times during the decade.
Hope added four more Oscar hosting duties to his resume during the 1950s, and seven more in the 1960s. Hope’s last two hosting gigs came in 1975 and 1978. For those keeping track, that means that Hope was the host (or at least co-host) of the Oscars 19 times between 1940 and 1978. Hope had one of the more famous lines for a host, as well. “Welcome to the Academy Awards,” he said. “Or, as it’s known at my house, Passover.”