The comedian Kevin Hart, who has long said that he would like to one day host the Academy Awards, will serve as M.C. for the 91st Oscars ceremony on Feb. 24.
“I am so happy to say the day has finally come for me to host the Oscars,” he announced on Instagram on Tuesday. “I am blown away simply because this has been a goal on my list for a long time.”
“Welcome to the family,” the Academy tweeted.
For years I have been asked if I would ever Host the Oscars and my answer was always the same…I said that it would be the opportunity of a lifetime for me as a comedian and that it will… https://t.co/GFCpD7yH6M
— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) December 5, 2018
Mr. Hart, a 39-year-old comedy celebrity, recently starred in two box office smashes, “Night School” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and is in the midst of an international standup tour. Now, he will add hosting the Oscars to his plate, always a difficult task but especially so at a time when the ceremony has struggled with poor ratings and political controversy.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences faced a forceful backlash after black actors and films that focused on black characters were overlooked in 2015 and 2016, sparking the #OscarsSoWhite outcry and efforts to make the academy more inclusive. This year’s Oscars ceremony was a galvanizing moment for women in Hollywood amid the #MeToo movement, which was ignited by allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in the film industry.
Mr. Hart will become one of just a handful of African-American hosts in the show’s 91-year history. Previous black hosts included Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Pryor.
The Oscars is a tricky hybrid — a stage show on TV celebrating movies — and past hosts have received blowback from critics and viewers. It is often a mad scramble to find someone both willing to host and whom the unwieldy academy can agree on.
But Mr. Hart had been saying for years that he was up for the job.
“If I can start the campaign now and get them into it, I’m all for it,” he said in 2015, The Los Angeles Times reported. “I would just jump at the opportunity.”
In 2016, he told The New York Times that he believed he would host the Academy Awards “sooner than later.”
“I’m patient, and I’ll wait for it,” he said. “But there’s not a doubt in my mind that it’ll happen.”
On Tuesday, he called it “the opportunity of a lifetime” and promised to make next year’s ceremony special.
As host, Mr. Hart will face a ratings tailspin that has plagued the Oscars over the last few years. The most recent ceremony reached 26.5 million people, an all-time low in Oscars history. (In 2014, there were 43.7 million viewers.) The show’s shrinking viewership reflects a larger trend in live television audiences: The Grammys, the Super Bowl and the Olympics all slipped significantly in ratings this year.
But the academy has planned several changes this year, including shrinking the run time from four hours to three and giving out several prizes during commercial breaks.
Chris Rock, the 2016 Oscars host who took a playful jab at Mr. Hart at that ceremony, congratulated Mr. Hart on Instagram.
“I’ve lost another job to Kevin Hart,” he joked, before giving kudos: “They got the best person for the job.”