Chris Rock is set to host the 88th annual Academy Awards, held in February 2016.
On one hand, Rock's hiring makes sense. He's a great comedian, and the co-producer of this year's Oscars, Reginald Hudlin, directed the pilot for Everybody Hates Chris, a sitcom based on Rock's childhood. (Rock provided narration for the show.)
On the other hand, this is a bit surprising.
The comedian last hosted the 77th Oscars, in 2005. The 11-year gap between hosting gigs is the longest between a first and second Oscar hosting job in the history of the award show. (There have been a handful of longer gaps between second and third hosting jobs, but often in co-hosting situations.)
Rock's hosting in 2005 also garnered mixed reviews that tilted toward negative. You can watch his opening monologue above.
What people didn't like about Rock's 2005 hosting
Many quibbled that his bits about how nobody had seen the Oscar-nominated movies and a riff on Jude Law were mean or disrespectful, even though they would have seemed tame in the middle of one of Rock's standup sets.
Rock, more than anyone in recent memory, exemplifies the struggle Oscar hosts have. They simultaneously have to keep the mood light and zippy in a room full of increasingly tense nominees, while also entertaining an audience at home that might be a little over the pomposity.
Thus, the job requires a simultaneous mix of near-fawning over the celebrities in the room and winking to TV viewers that none of this should be taken too seriously. Rock tilted a bit too much toward the latter, which led to a stale, uncomfortable room that didn't really react to his jokes. This caused him to overcompensate a bit, overselling his riffs, creating an awkward atmosphere.
That said, Rock's raw material was funny, and he had several winning moments throughout the broadcast. (I've always been fond of the much-maligned bit where he went to an LA multiplex to find out if anyone had seen the nominated movies.)
And Oscar hosts tend to improve in their second go-round, once they have a better read on the room. (Just check out the huge surge in quality between Jon Stewart's first and second hosting gigs.) There's every reason to hope Rock will have a similar leap on his second try.