Since at least 2015, Kevin Hart has been letting the universe know that he really wanted to host the Oscars.
“I would just jump at the opportunity” he told the Los Angeles Times. The following year, he told the New York Times he believed his moment would happen “sooner than later.”
Two years later, it has. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this week that Hart will host the 91st Oscars ceremony on Feb. 24. The announcement prompted praise from past hosts of the annual telecast.
Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted last year’s ceremony, tweeted that the Academy “made an excellent choice” and said Hart would “kill it” as host. Chris Rock echoed a joke from his 2016 Oscars monologue: “Damn I’ve lost another Job to Kevin Hart,” he wrote on Instagram. “They got the best person for the job.”
Are they right? Here are five reasons Hart is an obvious choice for the gig – and one reason he isn’t.
1. He has name recognition
As a comedian, Hart has sold out huge arenas, including Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, his hometown football stadium, which houses more than 69,000 seats. In 2016, he topped Forbes’s list of highest-paid comedians.
He’s also a huge box office draw, which dates back to his early stand-up tour films including 2011′s “Laugh at my Pain,” which debuted in the Top 10 the week of its release. Starring roles in the “Think Like a Man” franchise and comedies including “About Last Night,” and the recent “Night School,” co-starring Tiffany Haddish, have made Hart a household name.
2. He (really!) wants the job
Hours before the academy announced that Hart would host next year’s ceremony, the Hollywood Reporter published an article about the perpetual struggle to land a host for the telecast, which has struggled in recent years to combat declining ratings.
According to THR, a host of notables – including Oprah Winfrey, Justin Timberlake, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jerry Seinfeld – have declined invitations to host the ceremony.
Writer Stephen Galloway described the Oscar host’s daunting task of appealing to multiple interests:
Hart’s name actually came up in the piece, which noted that the comedian “is funny without being tasteless.”
By Monday night, it was announced that Hart had earned the gig. In an Instagram post, the comedian called it “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
3. He has experience hosting major awards shows
Hart’s comedy is known for its energy, which makes him a go-to host for Hollywood award ceremonies that can lag beyond their prime. His past credits have included the 2011 BET Awards and multiple MTV Video Music Awards ceremonies.
4. Hollywood loves him
Hart will be playing to a friendly crowd at the Dolby Theatre in February.
He memorably parodied his reputation as one of the acting industry’s most gregarious members in “Real House Husbands of Hollywood,” which followed Hart as he navigated Los Angeles’s elite social circles with famous friends including Nick Cannon, Duane Martin and J.B. Smoove.
But Hart’s celebrity network goes far beyond the BET comedy. VH1 once called him the “Taylor Swift of Male Celebrities,” a title it supported with photos of Hart hanging out with the likes of Dwyane Wade, Drake, Taraji P. Henson, Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, Idris Elba and, well, you get the picture.
5. He’s a fresh face
In recent years, many hosts of the Oscars ceremony – including Kimmel, Rock and Ellen DeGeneres, who hosted in 2007 and again in 2014 – have been repeat choices.
And for a telecast that has been publicly called out for its lack of diversity, it’s significant that Hart will also be one of the few black hosts to ever helm the ceremony. The shortlist includes Rock, four-time host Whoopi Goldberg and the late Richard Pryor, who hosted in 1977 and 1983
And the one reason he doesn’t make sense as next year’s Oscars host:
After years marred by controversy – from #OscarsSoWhite to Rock’s widely criticized Asian joke at the 2016 ceremony (not to mention the infamous flub that incorrectly announced “La La Land” as 2017′s best picture winner instead of “Moonlight”), it’s a safe bet that the academy will want to avoid controversy at the upcoming ceremony. In that regard, Hart may not be the man for the job.
Hart recently came under fire after photos of his son’s “Cowboys and Indians”-themed party were posted to Instagram – on Thanksgiving, no less. And he has been criticized in the past for tone-deaf comedy, including his 2017 “Saturday Night Live” monologue, which poked fun at gender roles in parenting.
As IndieWire notes, one of Hart’s most controversial jokes resurfaced after he was announced as Oscars host.
“One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear,” he said in the 2010 special “Seriously Funny.” “Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, do what you want to do, but me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”
Hart addressed the backlash in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone. “It’s about my fear. I’m thinking about what I did as a dad, did I do something wrong, and if I did, what was it? Not that I’m not gonna love my son or think about him any differently,” Hart said, adding that the joke was about his “own insecurities.”
He added that he would never tell the same jke today as times have changed.