Since at least 2015, Kevin Hart has been letting the universe know that he really wants 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 that he believed his moment would happen “sooner than later.”
Two years later, it has. Kevin Hart announced on Instagram Tuesday that he 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,” “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” 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 Oscars host’s daunting task of appealing to multiple interests:
Now the host is expected to boost the ratings, which means he or she must have wide name recognition; must be funny (without being tawdry), topical (without being controversial), politically savvy (without being too partisan), young (but not so young as to scare the Academy’s governors) and satisfactory to a coalition of competing interests, including the Academy’s president, its sprawling board and ABC — not to mention Donna Gigliotti, who was named to produce in October and who’ll be joined by veteran director Glenn Weiss.
Hart’s name 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."
“I am blown away simply because this has been a goal on my list for a long time,” he added.
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 awards ceremonies that can drag on beyond their prime. His past credits have included the 2011 BET Awards and multiple MTV Video Music Awards ceremonies, starting with the 2012 VMAs. He teamed up with Haddish to co-host this year’s ceremony, where he compared the edgy event (and the tweets it inspires) to “a typical day at the White House.”
“In your face, Trump — suck it!” he added.
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 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 stars to host the ceremony. The short list 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” 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. Hart, marking his third time hosting the NBC sketch comedy show, said he gave credit to women for “putting structure” into their children’s lives, listing responsibilities including bathing, feeding and transporting kids to and from school.
“But the one thing that you’re not … is fun. You’ve never heard a kid say I can’t wait to get home and play with my mom,” Hart joked, drawing swift rebukes on social media from viewers who called the monologue sexist and outdated. It didn’t help that Hart had recently admitted to cheating on his then-pregnant wife, Eniko Parrish, whom he married in 2016.
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.”
But Hart said the joke was written for a different time.
“I wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now. I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can,” he said. “These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?”