eddie murphy_web.jpgLOS ANGELES — In the tradition of Bob Hope and Johnny Carson and, later, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg, Oscar is going back to its comedic roots with Eddie Murphy as host.

The actor and comedian will host the 84th annual Academy Awards, producers Brett Ratner and Don Mischer said — and even they were surprised the reclusive star agreed to the gig.

The last comic to host the show alone was Jon Stewart in 2008. A singing, dancing Hugh Jackman took over in 2009 and, in recent years, pairs of actors have helmed the show.

This is Murphy's first time hosting the Academy Awards. He said in a statement that he's “enormously honored” to join the ranks of the aforementioned Oscar hosts.

Ratner and Murphy worked together on their latest film, Tower Heist, and the director casually floated the notion of hosting the Oscars by the star.

“And Eddie said, ‘Wow, that would be a brilliant idea for you and me to do the Oscars together,’” Ratner recalled.

“Everybody wants Eddie Murphy. He's a comedic genius, he's a brilliant impersonator. He's just the kind of guy who would make any television show wonderful. So many times through the years I've tried to get Eddie Murphy to agree to come be on a show and, generally, he kind of stays to himself and has not been interested in it.”

Murphy made a rare TV appearance in April on the inaugural Comedy Awards, which Mischer produced, when the 50-year-old entertainer accepted the Comedy Icon award.

By contrast, when Murphy was nominated for an Oscar for 2006's Dreamgirls, he did very few interviews and reportedly left the ceremony as

soon as his category was an-nounced. (Alan Arkin won for Little Miss Sunshine.)

The producers said Murphy will likely select a writing team and contribute his own jokes and material to the Oscar show, set for Feb. 26, at the Kodak Theatre.


Photo: Eddie Murphy