With just 51 days left to go before the 91st annual Academy Awards and still no one on board to host, the nation is in the grip of paralyzing anxiety. Oh, sorry, did I say “the nation”? I meant “Ellen DeGeneres.” The wildly successful talk show host is apparently so worried about the Oscars hosting situation that she felt the need to try and fix it herself. Not by hosting, but by rehabbing the image of the guy who was supposed to host, Kevin Hart, who resigned from the job after his old tweets featuring homophobic and transphobic comments resurfaced. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” he tweeted last month, adding that he didn’t want his presence at the Oscars to be a “distraction” from the awards themselves.
One man’s distraction is another woman’s cause. During Hart’s appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Friday, the host repeatedly referred to the comedian as a friend and praised him as “one of the most generous people that I’ve ever met.” Though Hart felt victimized by the controversy — he called resurfacing the old tweets a “malicious attack” on his character — DeGeneres referred to him as “this year’s Oscars host” and told the comedian that if he didn’t host the show, the trolls would win.
Whether or not you believe Hart when he says “I don’t have a homophobic bone in my body” — I certainly hope he’s grown and matured as much as he says he has — are the Academy Awards really the forum for a teachable moment, which DeGeneres seems to be striving for? Even if the ratings weren’t declining every single year, something tells me that the people who would benefit from an honest conversation about homophobia and its origins aren’t going to be tuning in to watch Roma battle A Star Is Born for best picture. And even if they did, how effective would Hart’s presence as host — along with whatever joke or earnest mea culpa he made during the opening monologue to address the controversy — be in changing their minds?
Maybe it would make a difference. Who knows? I certainly don’t claim to have the answer. What I can say is the guy I watched on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this afternoon pretty clearly does not want to host the Oscars anymore. The whole experience, he said, has left the opportunity of the Oscars under “a cloud,” and now with the ceremony less than two months away, it’s likely that Hart would prefer to check this item off his bucket list sometime down the road, when he’d have more time to prepare. (He did, however, tell DeGeneres he was “evaluating” the situation and would let her know once he made a decision.) America’s Top Gay Spokesperson may not want to take no for an answer, but she may have to this time.
So what should the Oscars do instead? Go without a host! The show is already six hours long, and the host is really there to provide a viral cold open and a medium-spicy monologue reminding us all how very, very silly Hollywood is in general. After that, he or she is relegated to choppy “our next presenter” introductions and the occasional “we’re only three hours behind schedule” quip. A source tells EW that ABC and the Academy were already exploring a host-less option before DeGeneres decided to get involved, and surely there’s someone on the network’s payroll who could handle monologue/funny-opening-montage-packed-with-celebrity-cameos duty. (Hint: He’s on at 11:35 p.m.) After that, there are literally hundreds of stars scheduled to be in attendance who could handle whatever interstitial presenting needs to happen between the first award and the end of the broadcast. Or even better, just have Distinguished Announcer Guy make all the post-monologue introductions! If the Academy went that route, the show might come in at under three-and-a-half hours — and that’s an idea we can all get behind.
The 91st Annual Academy Awards will air Sunday, Feb. 24, on ABC