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Chris Rock Will Host the 2016 Oscars, and He Might Be One of the Only Black Actors Onstage

Host Chris Rock poses backstage during the 77th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 27, 2005 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images.

Great news for everyone planning to watch the Oscars next year: Chris Rock will serve as host for the 88th Academy Awards in February.

This isn’t the first time the comedian has played master of ceremonies on Hollywood’s biggest night—back in 2005, Rock cracked wise about Jude Law and the war in Iraq, to mixed reviews. (“Forgive my lack of humor,” the frequently angry Sean Penn responded to Rock onstage later that evening. “Jude Law is one of our most talented actors.”) Yet more than a decade later, Rock’s presence on the Oscars stage seems like a welcome return for both the academy and viewers—his last hosting gig brought in ratings few broadcasts since have been able to match, and the hosts who have come in his wake have more often than not left audiences cold. (Or annoyed.) Rock feels like the perfect antidote to recent lackluster Oscar ceremonies, an acerbic performer who will have no problem being both funny and smart while onstage.

While it’s still early in the awards season, it seems increasingly likely that next year’s ceremony could rival this year’s for “whitest Oscars” in recent memory. There are few obvious contenders about and starring people of color, like 2012’s The Help and 2014’s 12 Years a SlaveNetflix’s game-changing Beasts of No Nation has gotten some early buzz but is far from a sure thing at this point. And so it’ll be particularly interesting to see how Rock, who has made a career of discussing race through a brutally honest analytical lens, will tackle these themes should it turn out that he’s one of very few nonwhite faces to appear on stage that evening. One thing seems certain—he’ll handle it better than Neil Patrick Harris did.