Second time around for 'Daily Show' anchor

For the second time in three years, Jon Stewart will host the Oscars.

On Wednesday, producer Gil Cates confirmed that Stewart, who emceed in 2006, will make his second turn as host for the 80th Academy Awards, broadcast on Feb. 24 from the Kodak Theatre and televised on ABC.

The Stewart decision came relatively early in awards season. Usually the host isn’t known until much closer to the show’s airdate.

“Everything fell into place rather quickly, so we figured why jerk everyone around?” Cates said.

Stewart’s half-hour series on Comedy Central, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” is very much in tune with the political zeitgeist, and the Oscars will be broadcast in the same month as several influential presidential primaries, providing plenty of comedy fodder.

“It’s not the reason we asked him to do it,” Cates said. “(But) we like the fact that he’s a very quick, fast-on-his-feet host.”

Ratings-wise, Stewart can bring in a younger aud. “Daily Show,” which skewers both political parties, has become a mandatory appearance for candidates running for president, and Stewart’s popularity during this and past presidential campaigns has increased his popularity with a young demo.

The viewer totals for the 2006 Stewart-hosted Oscars were on the low side, with 38.9 million tuning in. A year earlier, with Chris Rock in charge of the proceedings, 42.1 million watched. In February, with Ellen DeGeneres hosting, Oscar captured 39.9 million viewers.

Of course, viewer turnout is based on several factors, including the contending films and talent. In 2006, when Stewart hosted, four of the five films nominated for best picture were indies and the show was lacking in mainstream hits.

The choice of Stewart was something of a surprise in that he was a little subdued in his first stint. Most hosts, however, don’t hit their stride until the second or third time, the time it takes to adapt a personal comedy style to the demands of the Acad and the network.

“I’m thrilled to be asked to host the Academy Awards for the second time because, as they say, the third time’s the charm,” Stewart joked in a statement.

Hosts in the past decade include Billy Crystal (three times), Whoopi Goldberg (twice), Steve Martin (twice), Rock and DeGeneres.

While plenty of names for host get tossed around, the pool of potential hosts is limited. Some comic performers don’t want the gig: It’s high pressure trying to amuse an audience filled with nervous contenders and millions of at-home skeptics. And recognizable Hollywood faces are no guarantee do not necessarily have the talent to host.

“Jon was a terrific host for the 78th awards,” Cates said. “He is smart, quick, funny, loves movies and is a great guy. What else could one ask for?”

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