Every year, a tremendous amount of attention is paid to who will host the Academy Awards. Usually, that person (or group of people) winds up being passable, and within a few years it’s impossible to remember which show was Billy Crystal’s, or Whoopi Goldberg’s or Ellen DeGeneres’. But there’s one name generating a bit of buzz as a potential 2023 host who would make next year’s ceremony impossible to forget: Chris Rock.
Speaking to Deadline, ABC’s President of Entertainment, Craig Erwich, said that he would entertain the possibility of Rock returning to host. Now, as we all know, Rock was part of the singular defining moment of the 2022 ceremony when Will Smith slapped him in the face after he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair.
“My assessment of the Oscars was that it was really a successful year for the show. Obviously there was a lot of controversy, which overshadowed a lot of the positive things about the show, but I was really happy with the program,” Erwich told Deadline. “Even before that very unfortunate moment, the show started off up year over year, and we came back in a big way.”
Rock, 57, hosted the Academy Awards in 2005 and 2016, both to divisive, controversial results after some infamously contentious monologues. The latter performance became a topic of conversation in the wake of him being slapped, when a joke he made about Pinkett Smith’s gravitas in the entertainment community and her boycott of the Oscars circulated widely online.
Oscar ratings rose slightly in 2022 up to 16.6 million viewers, but that’s still down significantly from where things were pre-pandemic (the 2020 show had 23.6 million people tune in.) Given the staggering amount of social media and news attention that Smith’s slap garnered, it seems like a virtual guarantee that if Rock was hosting a large number of people would tune in–at least to catch his opening monologue.
Rock’s standup ticket sales jumped significantly post-slap, and he’s addressed what happened on stage a few times, including with Dave Chappelle after someone attempted to assault Chappelle at the Hollywood Bowl. “Was that Will Smith?” Rock joked after the attack, and at a subsequent show of Chappelle’s, he said, “I got smacked by the softest n-gga that ever rapped.” In some cases, Rock was praised for showing restraint and a degree of poise.
While performing in London on May 12, Rock referenced the incident again. “I’m okay, if anybody was wondering. I got most of my hearing back. People expect me to talk about the bullshit, I’m not going to talk about it right now, I’ll get to it eventually, on Netflix,” he said.
The 95th Academy Awards will take place on March 12, 2023. Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall were announced as hosts in mid-February, so we’ve got plenty of time for speculation around Rock to reach a fever pitch.