Ellen DeGeneres brings wit, charm back to Oscars hosting gig

Image: Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres returns to host the Oscars for a second time on Sunday.Andrew Eccles / Today
By Randee Dawn

Ellen DeGeneres’ ascension to the top of the awards show heap as this year’s Academy Awards host is proof positive that TV truly is in a golden age.

Along with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Neil Patrick Harris, and Hugh Jackman, DeGeneres is among a select group who can be trusted to host anything with aplomb and wit. As one of the few, the proud, and the hilarious, here's why you should be getting excited she's on board for Sunday's big show.

This is not her first awards show rodeo
Navigating the tricky waters of post-9/11 awards season would challenge any comedian, and arguably awards shows are the fluffiest TV nights of the year. But there was DeGeneres in Nov. 2001, less than two months after the attacks, joking at the Emmy Awards: “What would bug the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews?” The joke landed and secured her as warm, funny, identifiable — and able to deliver a careful barb. She's a regular Emmy hosting presence, and also emceed the Academy Awards in 2007.

She's not stunt casting
Remember James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the Oscars in 2011? Or Seth McFarlane from last year? One pairing was stiff, the other missed the mark with performances like “We Saw Your Boobs.” Trying to grab younger audiences, producers instead drew a target around their hosts, who were clearly not up to the task. The night’s about the winners, their outfits, and any clunky things they may say or do. The host should be like meringue on top of the lemon pie: Light, airy and easy-to-digest. DeGeneres all the way!

She sings! She dances!
Well, mostly DeGeneres dances. And mugs for the camera. But rarely an episode goes by on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show” without her finding some reason to throw in a bit of the old soft shoe. She’s helped Britney Spears learn how to dance Gangnam Style (from PSY himself), she’s grooved with Madonna and her backup dancers, and she even got a bit funky with the future President of the United States, Barack Obama. Mixing comedy with dance (and possibly singing) routines can be a magic combination, and works a charm on Oscar audiences ... when done well.

She looks great in a costume
Whether in tie, jacket and sneakers or going full glam with fake boobs and a wig as Nicki Minaj, DeGeneres rocks her outerwear without fear or favor, as she’s indicated on “Ellen’s” annual Halloween Day show year after year. (Oh, and she also makes a pretty good Kathie Lee Gifford when paired with Matt Lauer, in a pinch.)

She’s their biggest fan, but celebs don’t faze DeGeneres
DeGeneres has a unique combination of wide-eyed adoration for her guests mixed with a warm confidence that makes her a good interviewer. Since she goofs on herself first before ever trying to play with celebrities, she comes out on top, whether going on a green-screen “road trip” with Oprah and singing “I Will Survive” on her show, or instructing Steven Spielberg how to take a picture of herself and Clint Eastwood at the Oscars.

All the world’s a prank
She’s sent Dennis Quaid into a Starbucks to repeat whatever she spoke into his earpiece; she’s taken over a Hollywood tour bus, she’s terrified Taylor Swift by hiding in the bathroom and got David Beckham to play the part of a cologne-selling Target employee. She might not have enough time to actually set one of these goofs up at the Oscars, but here’s some finger-crossing that she might do a little pranking on the red carpet, where time moves like molasses. Paging Jennifer Lawrence!

She's a tweeting machine
DeGeneres definitely hearts Twitter, and posts frequently from her account; sending off pun-filled, adorable tweets every day. Twitter has come a long way in the seven years since she last hosted, and there’s a good chance she’ll send out a fleet of tweets during her award show downtime. With one tweet she can reach 25.1 million readers — a good chunk of the 40.3 million viewers who tuned into last year's show.