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.

Neil Patrick Harris Oscars Stage - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

Neil Patrick Harris Oscars Stage - H 2015

  • Bob Hope

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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."