With Hugh Jackman (!?) about to host Sunday's Oscars, who has done it well?
Can Wolverine handle a job that turned David Letterman, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart into laughingstocks? I'm unsure so far -- he's charming and confident in a way some comics have a tough time mustering -- but I do know who has done the gig well before now.
Billy Crystal. He has hosted eight times since 1989, perfecting the modern balance of cheeky humor and respect for Hollywood that makes for the best hosts. And his opening montage bits inserting himself into all the nominated films became a classic touchstone. See him here.
Johnny Carson. A five-time host from 1978 to 1983, Carson led the Oscars with the same deceptively offhand wit that powered his legendary Tonight Show. Comic David Steinberg said Carson’s genius was in knowing exactly how far to go with a joke and keep the audience in his corner.
Bob Hope. A movie star who hosted a backbreaking 18 times from 1939 to 1977, he was vintage Hollywood’s image of the perfectly sarcastic, yet Hollywood-friendly host.
Sammy Davis Jr., Shirley MacLaine, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. I never saw this quartet when they hosted the 1975 show, but doesn’t it read like a guest list to the coolest old-school Hollywood dinner party in history?
Ellen DeGeneres. Not since Richard Pryor (who hosted as part of a team twice) had there been a more unlikely Oscar host when DeGeneres took the gig in 2006. But her kid-gloves manner and cutesy bits — including getting Steven Spielberg to take a picture of her with Clint Eastwood — scored.