Seth MacFarlane’s black humor gets the best of him at Oscars
William Shatner’s Captain Kirk may not have been too far off when he interrupted the start of Seth MacFarlane’s hosting gig at the 85th Academy Awards to warn him that he might become history’s “worst Oscars’ host” if he didn’t curb his Black humor. MacFarlane did curb his humor, but apparently not enough for some viewers.
Jonathan Hertz, a 60-year-old pulmonary physician in Allentown, Pa., wrote to the Academy’s Board of Trustees to express his concerns with MacFarlane’s performance. “I know less than nothing about the movers and shakers in Hollywood,” he began.
“Seth MacFarlane’s attempts at humor during the Oscar program were atrocious and in terrible taste. The song/dance routine about women’s breasts was offensive and misogynistic. Why not sing another number about men’s penises or testicles?
Also, with the current epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. and Newtown killings where 20 six-year-olds had their brains blown out, you cannot, cannot, cannot joke about the Lincoln assassination (“really got inside Lincoln’s head”). Not to over-looked, Mr. MacFarlane put out anti-Semitic comments while stereotyping Jews in Hollywood.
Mr. MacFarlane and you producers deserve rebuke. The Academy owes its Oscar night viewers a public apology for Mr. MacFarlane’s ugly and offensive presentation. His humor was not “edgy” or “controversial.” In 2013 when accepting diversity and racial/ethnic tolerance are imperatives in American society and its schools, I would call Mr. MacFarlane’s comments deplorable.
Jonathan Hertz, MD”
So what was the fuss? Here is a sampling of Seth MacFarlane’s Oscars jokes:
“Welcome to the Oscars. And the quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now.”
“I honestly can’t believe I’m here… It’s an honor that everyone else said no. From Whoopi all the way down to Ron Jeremy—it eventually found its way to me.”
“Argo tells the previously classified story about an American hostage rescue in post-revolutionary Iran. The story was so top secret that the film’s director is unknown to the Academy.”
“2012 was a great year for movies. Hollywood shattered box office records with $10.8 billion in domestic sales. In fact, studio accountants have never had to work harder to prove nothing made a profit.”
“This is going to be a big night for some of you people, because, as we all know, winning an Oscar guarantees a long, successful career in the industry. Look at last year: Jean Dujardin won best actor for “The Artist” and now he’s everywhere! I’m kidding, of course. His is actually a tragic, age-old Hollywood story: he couldn’t make it in the talkies.”
“It’s a big night for foreign films. Amour is nominated–or as I call it, This is 90.”
“Daniel Day-Lewis, your process fascinates me. You were totally 100% in character as Lincoln during the making of the movie… So when you saw a cell phone, would you have to go,’Oh my God, what’s that?!’ If you bumped into Don Cheadle on the studio lot, did you try to free him? How deep did your method go?”
“Django Unchained. This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence–or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, ‘a date movie.’ … A lot of controversies over the use of the n-word in the film. I’m told apparently the screenplay is loosely based on Mel Gibson‘s voicemails.”
“Jennifer Lawrence has a great attitude about this whole thing. I was talking to her backstage and she told me that whether she wins or loses, it’s just an honor that Meryl Streep wasn’t nominated.”
“Tonight’s ceremony is being watched by close to a billion people worldwide–which is why Jodie Foster will be up here in a bit to ask for her privacy.”
[singing] “Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. Penelope Cruz in Vanilla Sky. And Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures and Jude. And Hamlet. And Titanic. And Iris. And Little Children. And The Reader. And whatever you’re shooting right now. We saw your boobs.”
“Quvenzhané Wallis is the youngest Best Actress nominee ever. Let me just address those of you up for an award: so you got nominated for an Oscar—something a 9-year-old could do. She’s adorable. She said to me backstage, ‘I really hope I don’t lose to that old lady, Jennifer Lawrence.’ To give you an idea of just how young [Wallis] is, it will be 16 years before she’s too old for [George] Clooney.”
“Daniel Day-Lewis is not the first actor to be nominated for playing Lincoln. Raymond Massey portrayed him in 1940′s Abe Lincoln in Illinois. I would argue, though, the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.” [the audience groans] “Really, 150 years and it’s still too soon? I’ve got some Napoleon jokes coming up–you guys are going to be so mad.”
“Ben Affleck–this man has gone from starring in Gigli to becoming one of the most respected filmmakers of this generation. I feel like we’re six months away from having to call him Benjamin Affleck. The first time I saw him with all that dark facial hair, I thought, My God, the Kardashians have finally made the jump to film.”
Indeed, Seth MacFarlane’s jokes were black humored, racist and misogynistic with the subtlety of a 13-year old. That is unacceptable for a prime-time comedian.
Equally egregious is MacFarlane’s need to go back in time to find material for his jokes. Clooney’s sex life is old news. Chris Brown and Rihanna are old news. Mel Gibson’s phone rant is old news. Everyone’s moved on, except MacFarlane apparently.
In contrast, one looks back with fondness on Ricky Gervais’ performance as Golden Globes host. He prickled Hollywood egos with edgy, off-color jokes. But Gervais tapped into the zeitgeist, hitting buttons that were then still hot. Moreover, he didn’t bury the punch line as MacFarlane did. Here’s a sampling of some of his best 2011 Golden Globes jokes:
“Talking of the walking dead, congratulations to Hugh Hefner, who is getting married at age 84 to 24-year-old beauty Crystal Harris. When asked why she was marrying him, she said, ‘He lied about his age. He told me he was 94′. Just don’t look at it when you touch it.”
“It was a big year for 3D movies. Toy Story, Despicable Me, Tron. It seemed like everything this year was three-dimensional. Except the characters in The Tourist.”
“It’s going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking. Or as Charlie Sheen calls it: breakfast.”
“Also not nominated, I Love You Phillip Morris. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay… so the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists, then. My lawyers helped with that joke.”
“Next up, Eva Longoria has the daunting task of introducing the President of the Hollywood Foreign Press. That’s nothing, I just had to help him off the toilet and pop his teeth in.”
“The next presenter is a true Hollywood icon. In ten of the biggest blockbusters of all time, he has shown his extraordinary acting versatility. He has played a boxer … and Rambo. Please welcome Sylvester Stallone!”
“He was a jobbing actor, career not going that well if I’m being perfectly honest, who got his big break when I cast him in a show called The Office. He is now leaving that show, and killing a cash cow for both of us. Please welcome the wonderful Tina Fey, and the ungrateful Steve Carell!”
What was Ricky Gervais, reception? Well, Harvey Weinstein said he’d make sure that he would never work again. But others, like Al Pacino, loved it. “He’s a comic, so he’s going to go for it,” Pacino told the press. “He’s letting it go. The only thing he can really get to is his own wit. You don’t know what they’re going to say! I think it’s worth it.”
As the Telegraph reported: “Alec Baldwin was seen wiping a tear from his eye at Gervais’ jokes, while Robert De Niro, who was handed a lifetime achievement award, dissolved in laughter. Halle Berry appeared to laugh and wince at the same time.”
And here are some of his best 2012 Golden Globes Jokes:
“Voted for by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Tonight you get Britain’s biggest comedian, hosting the world’s second biggest awards show on America’s third biggest network. Sorry, is it? Fourth. It’s fourth.”
“For any of you who don’t know, the Golden Globes are just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem. The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. A bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker, and more easily bought. Allegedly. Nothing’s been proved.”
“Now the Hollywood Foreign Press have warned me that if I insult any of you or any of them or offend any viewers or cause any controversy whatsoever, they’ll definitely invite me back next year as well.”
“They actually gave me a list of rules. I’m going to ignore them, but I thought it would be good to read them out. This is real, ok?”
“No profanity. That’s fine. I’ve got a huge vocabulary. No nudity. See, that’s a shame. Because I’ve got a huge … vocabulary. But a tiny penis. No, no. Doesn’t matter. It works. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine. And I’m not to libel anyone. And I must not mention Mel Gibson this year. Not his private life, his politics, his recent films, and especially not Jodie Foster’s Beaver. I haven’t seen it myself. I have spoken to a lot of guys here, they haven’t seen it either. That doesn’t mean it’s not good.”
“It’s been an amazing year in show business. It’s not all been good news. What’s with all the divorces? What’s going on? Arnold and Maria, J. Lo and Mark Anthony, Ashton and Demi. Kim Kardashian and some guy no one will remember. He wasn’t around long. Seventy-two days. A marriage that lasted 72 days. I’ve sat through longer James Cameron acceptance speeches.”
“It’s been a big year for women in film. Bridesmaids, one of my favorite comedies of the year. The girls finally proved that they can be as raunchy as men. Farting, burping, cursing, performing wild sex acts, even pooping in the sink. I actually heard for research the cast spent the weekend with Dame Helen Mirren. She’s dreadful. Honestly, you don’t see a lot of it because she’s got good PR, but she’s off the rails.”
“But the Golden Globes aren’t just about movies. It also celebrated the best in TV as well. New shows like the amazing Homeland. And returning shows like “Boardwalk Empire.” I love that show. It’s great. It’s about a load of immigrants who came to America about 100 years ago and they got involved in bribing and corruption and they worked their way up into high society. But enough about the Hollywood Foreign Press.”
Why did Ricky Gervais win and Seth MacFarlane fail? For one, racist, misogynistic jokes are only funny to the ignorant, pre-teens and adults with stunted mental development. Such jokes alienate most of the country: adults, women and minorities. Second, fresh material is crucial. Third, the punch-line must never be buried.
Here’s one of MacFarlane’s worst jokes of the Oscars:
“Daniel Day-Lewis, your process fascinates me. You were totally 100% in character as Lincoln during the making of the movie… So when you saw a cell phone, would you have to go, ‘Oh my God, what’s that?!’ If you bumped into Don Cheadle on the studio lot, did you try to free him? How deep did your method go?”
Poorly written, the punch line is where? The set up, Lincoln finds a cell phone and finds himself on a Hollywood studio lot, could have been funny if it didn’t perpetuate ignorance. The joke presumes: either Cheadle is perceived in Hollywood as an industry slave, or all blacks in Lincoln’s day were slaves — neither of which is true. The best jokes have some factual basis. The joke further presumes abolitionists’ actions were rote rather than rational and therefore Day-Lewis’method acting must also be rote. Either way, the joke fell flat.
Overall, MacFarlane’s Oscar hosting performance was alright. It was at times funny, and occasionally shocking and offensive. Mostly, however, hi performance was boring.