According to Variety, Chris Rock has been officially confirmed as the host of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony, taking place next February. To which we say, Chris: Bring it on.
Rock last hosted in 2005, and he got mixed reviews, with some denouncing his edgy, acerbic humor as being more suited to the Comedy Cellar basement than the snooty and self-serious Academy Awards telecast. But that’s what we love about Rock: he’s just himself, no matter what stage he’s on. In fact, his rawness could be exactly what we need to shake the Oscars out of their stupor, whether viewers like it or not (spoiler: they probably won’t, they never do).
Here are some reasons why he's an exciting pick:
It's gonna get political.
As we mentioned, some people criticized Rock's 2005 gig for being overly political and striking the wrong tone with the gussied up Academy crowd. But given that it’s election season — not to mention that film and politics are inextricably intertwined, particularly when it comes to race and gender politics — we’re excited to let Rock have at it. Rock is one of the greatest stand-ups working today, but he’s also a public intellectual with some searing insights into what ails the nation (just read his extensive interview with Frank Rich in New York Magazine if you need proof). Just as his 2005 monologue was merciless in its criticism of George Bush, we’d love to see Rock turn that same piercing lens on the current crop of candidates as the electoral circus continues to heat up.
The lack of diversity at the Oscars has long been a topic of conversation, particularly last year, when the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was coined to describe the lack of diversity among the nominees (2015 was the first time all acting nominees have been white since 1998). In addition to a lack of recognition for people of color, host Neil Patrick Harris didn’t always handle the issue of race so sensitively, like when he repeatedly picked on black actors for awkward audience gags. But Rock — who has spoken openly on issues like Ferguson and police brutality — definitely won’t let Hollywood off so easily. Some of the most memorable moments of recent awards shows have dealt with the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry, like Viola Davis's and Gina Rodriguez’s Emmy and Golden Globe acceptance speeches, and it will be great to have a host who isn’t afraid to confront that head on.
Bring on the trolling!
In addition to politics and race, Rock is not afraid to shy away from controversial (sometimes even trolly) celebrity material. In 2005, Rock ruffled feathers by criticizing some of the nominated actors. Not everyone found these remarks funny; after Rock called out Jude Law for being in basically every movie ever, Sean Penn lashed back with a defense of Law during his presentation later that evening. As the VMAs well know, celebs openly beefing onstage is a great way to get people to tune in, and with viewership down 16% last year, eyeballs are something the Oscars badly need.
Plus, offensive or not, Rock’s take-no-prisoners brand of celebrity criticism is guaranteed to be more interesting than Neil Patrick Harris’s bland pun-based gags (Reese Witherspoon: “So lovely you could eat her up with a spoon?" No thanks.)
Let's get meta.
While the Emmys are better at poking fun at themselves than the Oscars, awards shows (non-VMA awards shows, that is) tend to take themselves pretty seriously. Yet we’re sure that Rock will have no trouble pulling back the curtain on the whole Awards season charade, as he has done at the past. In his 2005 Oscar monologue, Rock riffed sharply on the convention of people who fake being happy when they lose:
And in an L.A. Times article from earlier this year, reporter Steven Zeitchik describes Rock’s (un-televised) hosting gig at the 2015 National Board of Review prizes, pointing out that Rock was constantly “tearing into... the sacred cows of awards shows” and was unafraid to rip on the animated film nominees whose speeches were overly self-serious. "They all say: 'We made something that was more than an animated movie.' No you [bleeping] didn’t,” Rock riffed at the NBRs. "I did 'Madagascar.' I cashed a check and got the [bleep] out of there.”
“Rock’s ability to call nonsense on every awards convention and its unpersuasive niceties was something he could do with ease even in the more formal confines of a televised show, and should do at the Oscars," adds Zeitchik. "He’s already been doing it all over the country.”
See you at the Dolby, Chris!