Oscars: How 8 Former Hosts Joked Their Way Through Controversy

10:00 AM 2/24/2016

by Gregg Kilday

Before this year's diversity discussion, past emcees such as Jon Stewart and Neil Patrick Harris tackled topics like the 2008 presidential race and very first #OscarsSoWhite protest.

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  • Bob Hope


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    Bob Hope hosted 19 times between 1940 and 1978, co-hosting the 1953 Oscars with actor Conrad Nagel. It was the first televised show, so Hope cracked, “Television, where the movies go to die!”

  • Johnny Carson


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    In the fourth of his five gigs, Johnny Carson quipped, “Critics say that they are not hiring minorities in films. Not true. Any actor in this town who’s working is in a minority.”

  • Chevy Chase


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    With the Writers Guild on strike, Chevy Chase was on his own. “Good evening, Hollywood phonies,” he kicked it off. “My entire monologue was generously donated by five teamsters.”

  • Billy Crystal


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    In his first appearance, Billy Crystal joked, “Box office worldwide was over $5 billion — or roughly half of what Jack Nicholson made on Batman. Jack is so rich Morgan Freeman drove him here tonight.”

  • Jon Stewart


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    Amid the presidential primary race, Jon Stewart said, “Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama. Normally when you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty.”

  • Seth MacFarlane


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    Riffing on Django Unchained, Seth MacFarlane cheekily said, “Multiple uses of the N-word in the film. I’m told apparently the screenplay is loosely based on Mel Gibson’s voicemails.”

  • Ellen DeGeneres


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    Surveying the nominated movies, Ellen DeGeneres, in her second turn as host, predicted, “Possibility No. 1: 12 Years a Slave wins best picture,” before then adding, “Possibility No. 2: You’re all racists.”

  • Neil Patrick Harris


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    Emcee Neil Patrick Harris acknowledged the first #OscarsSoWhite protest at the start: “Welcome to the 87th Oscars. Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest … sorry, brightest."