Billy Crystal: The Oscars Need A Host Again
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 03: Billy Crystal attends Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah at SLS Hotel on December 03, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

In 2019, the Oscars upended its decades-long tradition of having a host when comedian Kevin Hart stepped down from the coveted gig over old jokes that offended members of LGBTQ community. Since then, the show has gone hostless and has suffered tremendously in the ratings as a result. Comedian Billy Crystal, who has hosted the show eight times in his career, says the tradition needs to come back.

Speaking with PEOPLE, Crystal said the host serves as the show’s center by being simultaneously a voice for the audience and voice for Hollywood.

“To me, a show needs a host, you need a center,” he said. “Let’s face it, after the first 40 minutes, four out of five people have lost. By the end of the night, the winners are all backstage and you’re dealing with disgruntled people who are disappointed. You want to make them feel good and the home audience to stay with the show.”

In 2020, when the Oscars decided to go hostless for a second time in a row, Crystal said that the Oscars without a host made the show boring overall.

“I always loved being out there. I loved the, I guess, the trust, you know, that the movie academy had in me to get out there, and I felt like it was a great honor to do it. And I think that when you have a show that’s as long as it is, things are going to happen,” he said. “And I think the problem with the no-host thing, perhaps, is that there’s not somebody out there to capitalize on that moment, like you do when the wrong best picture was nominated.”

Kevin Hart had been slated to host the 2019 Oscars but stepped down within 48 hours of accepting the gig after the Academy demanded he apologize for his past jokes.

“I’m not going to continue to go back and tap into the days of old when I moved on, and I’m in a completely different space in my life,” Hart said in a video on Instagram at the time. “I’m going to be me; I’m going to stand my ground.”

Hours later, Hart stepped down from his dream of hosting the Oscars and apologized to the LGBTQ community for his “insensitive words.”

“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscars … this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists,” he wrote on Twitter. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”

Speaking with Men’s Health a year later, Hart expressed regret with how he handled the situation, saying he had acted immaturely.

“With the whole Oscars thing, there was a big gap between what I thought the problem was versus what the problem really was,” Hart told the magazine. “I got 10 years where I made sure not to joke or play in the way that I did back then because it was a problem. I don’t care if you’re gay or not gay. I’m a people person. I’m going to love you regardless. It wasn’t until close friends like Wanda Sykes, Lee Daniels, and Ellen talked to me and explained what they didn’t hear me say that I understood. Then I was like, ‘Oh, s*** — I did f*** up.’”

Related: Kevin Hart Caves, Apologizes Over Oscars Controversy: ‘I Did F*** Up’

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