The Best and Worst Tony Hosts, Ranked
We look at the most and least successful Tony hosts since the turn of the century.
Can a great host make or break the Tony Awards? Not really. People generally tune in to see what's new on Broadway and if it's worth a trip to New York. Years when megahits like Hamilton or The Producers are in the running draw high ratings, while less notable shows lead viewers to change the channel, no matter how charming the MC.
Still, a good host can facilitate that showcase smoothly while putting both the audience and talent at ease. Familiarity, positivity, and an unflappable sense of humor are the traits of a great awards show host. Unfortunately, not all of the people who have gotten the job have possessed those qualities. We've ranked the Tony Awards hosts of the 21st century, from very best to absolute worst. Few people will be surprised by our top choice.
1. Hugh Jackman (2003, 2004, 2005, and 2014)
Hugh Jackman is the gold standard when it comes to Tony hosts. Charming, talented, and handsome, he knows how to entertain without making the show all about him. He could host every year, and we would be over the moon (and, I imagine, so would CBS).
2. Neil Patrick Harris (2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013)
Harris is tied with Jackman for the number of times hosting, and his hosting prowess is almost as great. A star of stage and screen, Harris's hilarious opening and closing numbers are the highlight of his tenure.
3. Rosie O'Donnell (2000)
Rosie was the Neil Patrick Harris of the '90s, having hosted the awards back-to-back in '97 and '98. Her last go was in 2000, but she remains a major Broadway booster, and we'd be delighted to see her host again (if only for the inevitable rage- tweet from the White House).
4. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick (2001)
It's hard to overstate the excitement of the 2001 Tonys, when The Producers took home a record-breaking 12 awards (a feat yet to be topped). Both of the hosts were nominated that year, but only one could win (it was Nathan Lane). Still, the chemistry between Lane and Broderick was a huge part of the appeal of The Producers, and it rubbed off on the Tonys that year.
5. Whoopi Goldberg (2008)
An EGOT-holding legend who straddles the worlds of film, television, and theater, Goldberg was an ideal host for the Tonys. It also helped that she was seriously funny, donning a variety of costumes and really making that year's nominees feel accessible to the home viewer.
6. James Corden (2016)
The Late Late Show host and carpool karaoke star is adept at making people feel comfortable enough to belt out power ballads in his SUV, but he's also a man of the theater. He won a Tony in 2012 for One Man, Two Guvnors before making the transition to host in 2016. That was an auspicious year, when Hamilton brought in the biggest ratings boost since The Producers. He returns this year.
7. Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming (2015)
Has there ever been a pairing of two more beloved Broadway stars? Chenoweth (who was nominated that year) and Cumming (who was not) had a mischievous chemistry, which didn't always translate to laughs. Still, they kept the show running, and Chenoweth's tiny fist shake at fellow Oklahoman Kelli O'Hara for besting her and finally taking home a Tony of her own was a moment of Broadway sportsmanship for the ages.
8. Sean Hayes (2010)
The year he was nominated for the revival of Promises, Promises, Hayes hosted as a slightly muted version of Jack McFarland, his character from Will & Grace. He kept the live audience laughing, which certainly came through to the home audience, even when his insider-y jokes failed to land.
9. Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban (2018)
The two superstar musicians hosted last year, turning the Tonys into a Broadway love-in. They asked the home audience to tweet their childhood theater photos and crooned a tuneful tribute to "The People Who Lose." It was nice, but it all felt a little too much like "Kumbaya" at theater camp.
10. Bernadette Peters and Gregory Hines (2002)
Hines and Peters were named just three weeks before the telecast after both Steve Martin and Nathan Lane declined. While nailing a medley of some of the most beloved showtunes ever written, they nevertheless proved that being a great performer isn't enough to be a great host.
11. No Host (2006 and 2007)
The Oscars went hostless this year, but the Tonys did it in two successive years following a long string of Hugh Jackman years. He's a tough act to follow, and honestly, no host is better than a bad host gobbling up airtime. The show is long enough as it is!
12. Kevin Spacey (2017)
That brings us to the host the Tony organizers wish you would forget. Kevin Spacey was tapped to MC the 2017 awards after a parade of other celebrities turned the job down. His performance was steady if unremarkable; but before the year was out, multiple men had accused Spacey of unsolicited sexual advances. In retrospect, one can only watch his Tony performance with a cringe.