Los Angeles Times

Late-night host set for Oscars’ hot seat

Jimmy Kimmel will return to emcee film awards in aftermath of the infamous slap.

- By Josh Rottenberg

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel will emcee the 95th Academy Awards, the show’s producers announced Monday, returning to the Oscars stage for the third time following back-toback stints in 2017 and 2018. The show is set to air March 12 on ABC.

In Kimmel, the motion picture academy and ABC — which airs “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” — see a trusted comedic veteran who is adept at delivering both sharp political barbs and broadly silly shtick, and has proved he can handle the pressure and unpredicta­bility of the Oscars. The first time Kimmel hosted, the show went spectacula­rly off the tracks in its final moments when “La La Land” was mistakenly named best picture instead of the actual winner, “Moonlight.”

“We’re super thrilled to have Jimmy score his hat trick on this global stage,” this year’s Oscar producers, Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner — themselves seasoned veterans of live TV events — said in a joint statement. “We know he will be funny and ready for anything!”

The comedian’s return to the Oscars marks the first time the telecast has had a solo host since Kimmel himself hosted in 2018. The highstakes role has grown increasing­ly difficult to fill as the spotlight on the Oscars has grown harsher. From 2019 through 2021, the Oscars went without a host; last year’s show had three co-hosts: Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall.

“Being invited to host the Oscars for a third time is either a great honor or a trap,” Kimmel cracked in a statement Monday. “Either way, I am grateful to the Academy for asking me so quickly after everyone good said no.”

“Jimmy is the perfect host to help us recognize the incredible artists and films of our 95th Oscars,” said academy CEO Bill Kramer and academy President Janet Yang in a joint statement. “His love of movies, live TV expertise, and ability to connect with our global audiences will create an unforgetta­ble experience for our millions of viewers worldwide. With Kimmel, Weiss and Kirshner’s fresh perspectiv­e and masterful guidance, the Oscars will celebrate its rich 95-year history, the collaborat­ive nature of moviemakin­g, and our diverse, dynamic and deeply creative community of filmmakers.”

The academy, which draws the bulk of its revenue from the Oscars, is hoping to rebound from the debacle of this year’s show, which was derailed when Will Smith struck Chris Rock onstage over a joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith. Less than an hour later, Smith went on to win the lead actor award for “King Richard.” In the wake of the shocking incident, which threw the evening into chaos and embarrasse­d and angered many academy members, many speculated that Rock, who is also a two-time Oscar emcee, would be asked to host again.

Riffing at a stand-up show in Phoenix in August, according to the Arizona Republic, the comedian told the crowd that he was asked to host next year’s Oscars but turned the offer down, joking that returning to Hollywood’s biggest night would be like returning to a crime scene. (In mid-November, Rock will be back at the Oscars’ home in the Dolby Theatre for a three-night run of stand-up shows. Smith, whose upcoming film “Emancipati­on” is considered a potential Oscar contender, has been barred from attending all academy events for the next 10 years.)

Ratings for the Oscars, along with other awards shows, declined steadily in recent years despite numerous efforts by the academy to shake up the show’s formula — efforts that have at times drawn the ire of the group’s own members. The most recent telecast drew 16.6 million viewers, up 58% from the previous year’s record-low audience of 10.5 million but still the second lowest viewership in the show’s history. The last time Kimmel hosted, in 2018, the show was watched by 26.5 million viewers, at the time an all-time low.

In April 2021, the day after that year’s pandemic-dampened show, Kimmel himself took a shot at the Oscars’ sagging viewership. “The ratings for the Oscars plummeted from 23 million last year to less than 10 million this year,” Kimmel joked in his opening monologue. “How can something so woke put so many people to sleep?”

As the film industry struggles to return to post pandemic normalcy, academy leaders and ABC executives hope that the excitement around blockbuste­rs like “Top Gun” and the upcoming “Black Panther” and “Avatar” sequels will help drive greater interest in the show.

While it remains to be seen what this year’s telecast will look like, it’s safe to predict that Kimmel will take aim at former President Trump, whom he has lampooned in countless skits and monologues. On a recent appearance on Stitcher’s “Naked Lunch” podcast, Kimmel noted that he had “lost half of my fan [base], maybe more than that,” as a result of his regular barrage of Trump jokes, but said he had resisted any suggestion­s from executives at ABC that he tone down his attacks.

“Having Jimmy Kimmel return to host ‘The Oscars’ is a dream come true,” Craig Erwich, president of ABC Entertainm­ent, Hulu & Disney Branded Television Streaming Originals, said in a statement. “As we see every night on his own show, Jimmy can handle anything with both heart and humor, and we know that he will deliver the laughs and celebrator­y moments that define the Oscars.”

 ?? Chris Pizzello Invision / AP ?? JIMMY KIMMEL hosts the Academy Awards in 2017. He’ll return to the Oscars stage on March 12.
Chris Pizzello Invision / AP JIMMY KIMMEL hosts the Academy Awards in 2017. He’ll return to the Oscars stage on March 12.

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