Neil Patrick Harris, host of the 87th annual Academy Awards (a show that was plagued by mediocre ratings and mixed reviews), recently revealed that a second stint as host of the Oscars isn’t in the cards anytime soon.
With the hosting duties officially vacant, the debate has begun on which performer will get the nod for the 88th Academy Awards, slated for winter 2016.
In past years, the Academy has followed up not-so-loved hosts, such as Seth MacFarlane (2013) and James Franco (2011), with old reliables, like Ellen DeGeneres (2014) and Billy Crystal (2012).
Given the somewhat tepid reception to Harris, the Academy may woo a tried-and-tested host for 2016. That said, Harris – the first openly gay man to host the Oscars – had his share of positive reviews, and the show may want to keep breaking barriers.
Here’s a look at our early favorites – and some long-shots – to host Hollywood’s biggest night (complete with updates as of July 2015).
2016 Oscar Host Odds:
Ellen DeGeneres: 4/1 (no change)
Everyone loves Ellen. (That includes you, Anne Heche. You’re just going through some stuff.) Her memorable star-studded selfie from the 2014 Oscars had a life of its own. The comedian and afternoon talk-show host, both quick-witted and charming, would be warmly received if she returned to host the Academy Awards for a third time. The Academy should be keen to have her back, as well, since her 2014 show pulled in the most viewers since 1999.
- Update – Ellen continues to feel like the safest call. She did it well before, continues to be an A-lister, and is well liked. Nothing has happened to lessen her credentials, and in fact, she could be particularly relevant with the recent Supreme Court thumbs up on gay marriage.
Kevin Hart: 9/2 (up from 11/2)
Recent rumors are that Hart is either in the running for the 2016 hosting duties or wants to be. The 2015 Oscars were slammed for being a pasty affair; and the show hasn’t had an African-American host since Chris Rock in 2005. The Wedding Ringer is a strong contender.
- Update – Hart remains a very strong candidate for a variety of reasons. Not only has the popular funnyman stated he wants the job, but the Academy could use fresh blood and will receive a lot of buzz with an African American host.
Jimmy Fallon: 5/1 (up from 6/1)
Jimmy Fallon has restored ratings to The Tonight Show, and he has the generic, broadly palatable style that the Oscars’ covet. He seems like an obvious choice to follow in the footsteps of iconic late-night television host Johnny Carson, who hosted the Academy Awards five times during his career. Or maybe the Academy will want someone who can do more than move his lips without making noise? (Here’s hoping, anyway.)
- Update – Fallon is the last of the three primary candidates, and it would be somewhat surprising if it doesn’t end up being one of the trio. Fallon is incredibly popular among key young demographics. He also received high marks for his stint as host of the Emmys. He’s the best at producing content that has a life beyond the show.
Billy Crystal: 15/1 (down from 10/1)
Crystal has hosted the Oscars nine times (second only to Bob Hope’s 19). He’s the safest of safe bets. However, his most recent Oscar performance (2013) pulled in only 39.46 million viewers, 4 million fewer than when he hosted in 2004. His appeal may be on the decline, which isn’t surprising given how little he’s worked in recent years.
- Update – Crystal feels way too safe and stale. (NPH wasn’t that bad.) He is one of the best hosts of all time, but young people don’t want to watch senior citizens who barely work anymore.
Kevin Spacey: 15/1 (down from 10/1)
Full House of Cards may not be a real thing (yet). But you could be seeing more Frank Underwood at next year’s Oscars; last year, Spacey told Jimmy Kimmel that he’d be game to host the show and, like his character on House of Cards, we wouldn’t be surprised if Spacey found a way to effect the desired outcome. (All we can hope is that the Tanner clan gets some stage time.)
- Update – Spacey has certainly stayed busy, but his hosting experience is limited to SNL in 1997 and 2006 plus the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Concert. It feels like there is more risk than reward, but we love the Facebook page dedicated to his candidacy.
Stephen Colbert: 15/1 (no change)
Colbert will be taking over David Letterman’s The Late Show in summer 2015. The incisive comedian – known for his ultra-conservative Comedy Central character – has a cult-like fan base that clings to his every word. As host of The Late Show, he’ll have a chance to prove his appeal is more massive than niche. If things work out well in late night, he’s sure to get his shot at the Oscars at some point.
- Update – Colbert feels like the favorite to host in 2017 or 2018. Even if The Late Show gets off to a great start, the Academy will want some more time to assess whether he is the right fit.
Oprah Winfrey: 20/1 (down from 15/1)
After the backlash against the Academy for snubbing Selma director Ava DuVernay (who is both African American and a woman), there is likely to be a contingent amongst the powers-that-be that wants an African American woman to host next year. Who better than the matriarch, Oprah Winfrey? She doesn’t have the comedic chops of most of the people on this list, but she could work very well as part of a co-hosting team. (Perhaps with Kevin Hart? That would certainly signal a mea culpa.)
- Update – Is Oprah funny? There is no doubt she could take on the role and would provide plenty of buzz. And, if she is going to do it, the sooner the better. Casting the uber-popular daytime host carries a small humor risk but a huge possible reward in both ratings, buzz, and performance.
Jimmy Kimmel: 20/1 (no change)
The Academy Awards is broadcast on ABC, which means the network may want to promote its own late-night host, Jimmy Kimmel. However, Kimmel has an edginess that the Academy may not want. The potent Matt Damon-lobby could also be conspiring to keep Kimmel on the sideline. (“Apologies to Jimmy Kimmel, we ran out of spots for mediocre comedians.”)
- Update – ABC has scored points using the Academy Awards as a fabulous lead-in to Kimmel’s Post-Oscars show. He has hosted several award shows including the Emmys in 2012. While he wouldn’t be as popular a choice as Fallon, he fits the role, and it would be smooth sailing.
John Oliver: 50/1 (down from 35/1)
Oliver is still the new kid on the block among late night hosts. But his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, is the most thought-provoking series on TV right now. It’s investigative journalism crossed with satire mixed with down-right absurdity. Oliver might be a bit too thoughtful for the Oscars, though. Not to mention way too British. The last Brit to have a hand in hosting duties was Robert Shaw, who was part of a five-person team back in 1976. (Apparently you need to surround a Briton with at least four Americans in order to make the show palatable for US audiences.)
- Update – His late night show has been groundbreaking television in its first two seasons, but there are a lot of factors playing against him. His star power is nowhere close to the network late night hosts, despite his rabid (and growing) niche audience. He could also be too smart for the role. Not being an American on a show made for U.S. audiences doesn’t disqualify him, but it doesn’t help, either.
Jon Stewart: 50/1 (no change)
Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show, meaning he’ll have some time on his hands. But his Midas touch on late night hasn’t translated elsewhere. He’s already hosted the Oscars twice, and his most recent show garnered a rating of 18.66, the lowest ever for the Oscars. His film Rosewater was also a commercial dud.
- Update – Been there, done that, and Stewart was more popular then than he is now. That said, during an election year, and with plenty of time to prepare for the show, Stewart would be at his best.
Tina Fey/Amy Poehler: 100/1 (no change)
Would Fey and Poehler cheat on the Golden Globes with the Oscars? Would the Oscars deign to accept the Globe’s hand-me-downs? Surely not!
- Update – They would be great but there is something about the Golden Globes being anti-establishment while the Academy Awards, are, you know, a bit crusty. It’s not happening, but boy would it be fun.
James Franco/Donald Duck: 5000/1 (down from 1000/1!)
Everyone remembers Franco’s exceptional(ly terrible) turn as host, where he dragged poor Anne Hathaway to the pits of Oscars’ notoriety. Fewer people recall Donald Duck’s go as co-host … because it happened in 1958. The loveable mallard showed up even higher than Franco and proceeded to go on stage half nude. He hasn’t been invited back and it remains a terrible blemish on his otherwise sparkling resume.
Recently – by which I mean right now – there has been a push from some – by which I mean me – to have arguably the two worst hosts ever unite powers. Think of the buzz it would generate! Just be sure no one invites Phil Robertson.
- Update – This idea just isn’t picking up steam, which isn’t overly surprising. Have you ever tried to pick up steam? It’s a gas. You can’t just snag it out of the air with your bare hands. (Maybe with your bear hands, though.)
Check back in periodically throughout the year as we update the odds based on new rumors and information. Look for the announcement on the 2016 host to happen in early autumn. Lastly, email your Academy reps (we all have Academy reps, right?) and implore them to get Franco, Duck, and Cheryl Boone Isaacs together for a sit-down!
(Photo credit: Bridget Laudien (Original by email) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)