His chances of hosting the 88th annual Academy Awards were always solid as a Rock.

"He was our first and only choice," Oscars producer Reginald Hudlin tells LA Times of the announcement that Chris Rock will return as host of the program for the second time.

Hudlin, who directed the pilot of Rock's TV series "Everybody Hates Chris," will run the award show alongside coproducer David Hill when it airs Feb. 28, 2016. "From the minute we sat down together, it was, 'We want Chris.' And not just for his incredible sense of humor, but the intelligence behind it," he explains to LA Times. "That's what's really required of the job, a guy who understands every aspect of the movie business and has the ability to be razor-sharp funny, right in the moment."

Rock last hosted the ceremony in 2005, drawing the program's second-largest ratings--only behind Ellen DeGeneres' turn as host last year that brought in an average of nearly 44 million viewers.

Taking shots at Hollywood's A-list, he drew the wrath of Sean Penn during an awards presentation who seemingly chided the host for a joke on Jude Law's cinematic ubiquity during the qualifying awards season ahead of the ceremony. The British star appeared in "I Heart Huckabees," "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," "Alfie," "Closer," "The Aviator" and "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events." The latter three were all nominated in various Academy Awards categories.

"Who is Jude Law?" Rock asked in an opening monolouge. "Why is he in every movie I have seen the last four years? He’s in everything. Even the movie’s he’s not acting in, if you look at the credits, he made cupcakes or something. He’s in everything. He’s gay, he’s straight, he’s American, he’s British. Next year he’s playing Kareem Abdul Jabbar in a movie.”

Hot-tempered Penn broke protocol when he took the stage to present the Best Actress award, responding to the wisecrack: “Forgive my compromised sense of humor, but I did want to answer our host’s question about who Jude Law is. He’s one of our finest actors.”

It's that kind of drama--played on stage rather than on the big screen--that the Academy is counting on Rock to deliver. Particularly as the producers seek to rebound from the disappointing 2015 ceremony hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, who is typically in his element as the host of the Tony Awards--having earned three Primetime Emmys for his turns on stage among the theater community at the 66th, 65th and 63rd annual shows. Harris wasn't able to replicate that same magic at the 87th Academy Awards telecast that plunged 15% below DeGeneres, who preceded him.