Eddie Murphy Quits as Oscars Host: Who Should Replace Him?

In the wake of co-producer Brett Ratner's resignation from the telecast, the Tower Heist actor also pulls out

Looks like we'll have to keep waiting for that big Eddie Murphy stand-up comedy comeback. The 50-year-old Tower Heist star has announced that he is stepping down from his biggest live gig in years, as the host of the 2012 Academy Awards.

Murphy had been hand-picked for the job by his Tower Heist director, Brett Ratner, who was set to co-produce the Oscars telecast before he caused a scandal by using a homophobic slur at a press event and engagin in a vulgar on-air conversation with Howard Stern. In light of the controversy, Ratner handed in his resignation on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Murphy issued his own statement revealing that he will not be participating in the Oscars now that his pal Ratner has stepped aside.

"First and foremost I want to say that I completely understand and support each party’s decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony," Murphy said. "I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I’m sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job."

So now that the Academy is starting from scratch, the big question is: Who's going to be the new Oscars host? After last year's disastrous pairing of Anne Hathaway and James Franco, the annual ceremony needs to come back strong this time. Here, a few suggestions for a new master (or mistress) of ceremonies.

Billy Crystal is the obvious play-it-safe choice: an eight-time Oscar host who was reportedly Murphy's biggest competition for the job. He's a pro for sure, but could he ever live up to the memories of Oscars past?

While the teaming of Franco and Hathaway didn't work out in 2011, the Academy could try out the dynamic duo of Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman in 2012. Both have done their share of hosting gigs (including the 2009 Oscars, hosted by Jackman), and neither has ever put on a bad show. Their duet at this year's Tony Awards showed great chemistry, and it could be nice to bring some real song-and-dance action back to the Oscars.

Topping our wish list of female contenders is Amy Poehler. Remember that great bit at the Emmys where all of the best comedy actress nominees pretended they were in a beauty pageant? That was Poehler's idea, as was the previous year's gag where all the nominees wore goofy glasses. She's got hilarious ideas, she's an ace impressionist, and she has tons of live comedy and improv experience with the Upright Citizen's Brigade and SNL. The Parks & Recreation actress probably isn't on the short list, but we bet she could knock it out of the park.

And, if the Academy wants to go edgy, Russell Brand or Ricky Gervais could be the man for the job. The kings of inappropriate awards-show banter, Brand and Gervais courted controversy at the 2008 MTV VMAs and 2011 Golden Globes, respectively. Yet Brand was asked back the following year, and rumor has it that Gervais is being courted for a third consecutive stint as Globes emcee. That's because these two are genuinely funny and bring the ratings. Plus it's fun to watch the host of an awards show ceremony be the one person in the room who doesn't take it too seriously.

Whoever ends up hosting, we just hope they bring Eddie Murphy onstage for a Trading Places gag...

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