He's had four years off, and he's ready to come back to work. Perennial Hollywood toastmaster Billy Crystal is poised to return in February as the host of the Oscars. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named Crystal as the 2004 awards show emcee on Wednesday. ''It was either this or run for governor,'' Crystal quipped in a statement.
The gig will mark Crystal's eighth time as Oscar's master of ceremonies, his first since 2000, and his first in the Academy's new Kodak Theatre. It will also mark another occasion working for Joe Roth, the ceremony's new producer. The founder of Revolution Studios, and former production chief at Fox and Disney, Roth directed Crystal in ''America's Sweethearts'' in 2001. The show airs on ABC on Feb. 29, a month earlier than usual. Which means Crystal should start Gumping his face into his trademark montage of nominee film clips right about now.