A One Line Review of the Oscar Host Who Will Leave You Begging For James Franco

On Seth McMarflane, I once again quote one of my all-time favorite critical lines, from Robert Christgau: “Irony–an excuse for anything and a reason for nothing.”

…so they did just fire all the writers and have McFarlane and an intern copy and tweak some punchlines from The Lockhorns, right? The alternative is too horrifying to contemplate.

…a depressing compendium of Oscar sexism. More here.

…djw in comments gets it exactly right:

“Occasionally, when done just right, offensive material can be very funny.”

“Being offensive is funny.”

Great comics understand the former, hacks like Mcfarlane don’t understand the difference between the two.

142 comments on this post.
  1. Davis X. Machina:

    Hell, I’m begging for Julio Franco.

  2. efgoldman:

    Did he host the Oscars before or after he played for the Red Sox?

  3. SEK:

    Please please please, let them retroactively re-cancel Family Guy. (Because I’d rather ride a manatee than read something written by one.)

  4. charles pierce:

    I’m at MSG watching the Knicks and, apparently, I’m ahead of the game here.

  5. sharculese:

    For a second during the opening I thought it looked like things were going to get out of hand, with the audience getting increasingly annoyed and MacFarlane prickly and defensive, but then they did that weird gag with William Shatner and it’s settled into a comfy groove of stale and awkward.

  6. Scott Lemieux:

    I’m about five minutes away from walking upstairs and watching the Flames/Coyotes game.

  7. Murc:

    it’s settled into a comfy groove of stale and awkward.

    Why, it’s like having Crystal back.

    I liked the year Stewart hosted even though that was also awkward. Aside from that… meh.

  8. Eric W.:

    Regardless of the Oscars, that’s a pretty dunderheaded, illiterate quote about irony you’ve posted there. What Christgau seems to mean is more like insincerity. Irony is a powerful device with lots of different powers and uses. You might think McFarlane is insincere and cooler-than-thou, but don’t trash irony because of it.

  9. SEK:

    Bring back Gervais! Bring back Gervais! At least then the discomfort will be intentional and awesome.

  10. Bill Murray:

    I’m sort of watching reruns of Are you smarter than a 5th grader, while preparing for tomorrow morning’s class. Missing Seth Macfarlane shows I am smarter than a 5th grader

  11. rea:

    Irony is an excuse for everything? Really? Will irony excuse a black fly in your chardonnay, or rain on your wedding day?

  12. Julian:

    Agreed. There’s a very bad mode of humor that often tries to claim the mantle of “irony,” and Seth MacFarlane might be trafficking in it, but real irony is worthwhile.

  13. Marek:

    This is making me miss David Letterman.

  14. Kreskin:

    A disagreement over the meaning of irony…isn’t it ironic?

  15. Scott Lemieux:

    I agree that if he was arguing that irony could never be a powerful artistic tool this would be foolish, but fortunately he’s clearly not.

  16. DocAmazing:

    im in yr awards ceremony killin yr brain cellz

  17. Erik Loomis:

    What is Louis C.K. doing tonight?

  18. Leeds man:

    Do you folks always watch shows you don’t like?

  19. SEK:

    +1,000,000

  20. ploeg:

    ex·cuse
    /ikˈskyo͞oz/
    Noun
    A reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.

    Nuttin’ in there about being successful.

  21. Fighting Words:

    I’m surprised Seth McFarlane decided to host the Academy Awards. Trey Parker and Matt Stone haven’t done it first.

  22. Breadbaker:

    The Ted thing was simply offensive.

  23. 27 and Counting:

    Not sure but I’ll bet that he was the last Oscar host to face a pitcher that pitched to Ted Williams.

  24. Rhino:

    Don’t you think?

  25. Wrye:

    Not SEK, C.K. I realize they may sound similar…

  26. Richard:

    It’s an Oscar tradition to watch the show and complain about whoever is hosting it and the fact that there is a glitzy award show at all

  27. Bill Murray:

    yeah that whole movie was pretty offensive

  28. djw:

    “Occasionally, when done just right, offensive material can be very funny.”

    “Being offensive is funny.”

    Great comics understand the former, hacks like Mcfarlane don’t understand the difference between the two.

  29. sharculese:

    He was so proud of himself for that John Wilkes Booth joke, too.

  30. Sly:

    Louis C.K. gave the best award speech(es) ever.

  31. Both Sides Do It:

    This is the watered-down network version of a Broadway musical

  32. Leeds man:

    Don’t mind me. I’m not aware of any sort of traditions.

  33. Anonymous:

    When it’s bad, it is just bad…really not much else to say.

  34. thebewilderness:

    I have seen a lot of bad Oscar ceremonies, who can forget Snow White, and I have seen some piss poor hosts but this guy is perhaps the worst I have ever seen.

  35. max:

    it’s settled into a comfy groove of stale and awkward.
    I liked the year Stewart hosted even though that was also awkward. Aside from that… meh.

    This implies that the correct host for the Oscars is Stephen Colbert.

    max
    ['No one can fake sincerity as well.']

  36. Linda:

    And what was really sad about the JWB joke was that it was a setup for a really sad “is it too soon?” It’s always the wrong time to not be funny.

  37. Erik Loomis:

    I’m not one to be too solemn about the past, but a Lincoln assassination joke? If the Hyde Park movie was better (talk about a bleh movie), the McFarlane FDR wheelchair joke would have been hi-larious.

  38. jeer9:

    Jimmy Fallon might be a good host. And how they give best picture to a film whose director isn’t even nominated is beyond me. At least ZDT was shut out.

  39. Colin Day:

    Did Danial Day-Lewis throttle him for it?

  40. Colin Day:

    Daniel

  41. Colin Day:

    Not entirely, it tied with Skyfall for best sound editing.

  42. wjts:

    How about Franco Harris?

  43. penpen:

    man, you guys have made me feel really awkward about enjoying this Oscars

  44. Wrye:

    Great CBC interview with Snow White (and video of the debacle, for younger readers) here:

    http://www.cbc.ca/day6/blog/2013/02/22/eileen-bowman-and-the-great-snow-white-debacle-of-oscars-1989/

  45. wengler:

    I watched Waiting for Superman instead. All of you came out ahead of me. No matter what the fuck you were watching.

  46. Decrease Mather:

    How many Hispanic servant jokes did he do?

  47. Ed:

    And how they give best picture to a film whose director isn’t even nominated is beyond me.

    That is unusual, although the Academy Awards often split the difference between Best Picture and Best Director. Difficult practice to justify in light of the control over all aspects of production most directors exert in contemporary filmmaking, but the Oscars are as much about Hollywood politics as anything else. Ben Affleck can now doff the martyr’s crown he’s been wearing after not being nominated in the category.

  48. Jordan:

    Why should the director’s guild should have veto power over best picture winners?

  49. Jordan:

    whatever. There were cringe-worthy moments, but there were also genuine laughs, and genuine surprises. And other fun stuff. Opportunity cost-wise: definitely good enough for me!

  50. Jordan:

    err, obviously, strike the second “should”.

  51. Tybalt:

    He is, after all, an intellectual ya know.

  52. Come On Man:

    This isn’t Reddit.

  53. DocAmazing:

    Sadly, we won’t get Jess Franco.

  54. Anonymous:

    It would just be a long tribute to Joe Paterno.

  55. Jewish Steel:

    Very nice, Alanis.

  56. Anonymous:

    Too martyr-y. Fey and Poehler, plz.

  57. Anonymous:

    Personally, I found Waiting for Guffman to be more inspirational.

  58. Anonymous:

    Or giving Dave Coulier a blow job in a movie theater? You’re talking about “You Outta Know,” right?

  59. John:

    Even splitting best picture/best director doesn’t happen all that frequently anymore.

    But giving best picture to a movie not even nominated for best director had only happened four times – in 1929 (Wings), 1933 (Grand Hotel), 1989 (Driving Miss Daisy) and this year. So this is only the second time this has happened since 1933. It is highly, highly unusual.

  60. Rhino:

    Oh look! The compliment of irony! Condescending hipsterism!

  61. Ed:

    Obviously, the guild has no such veto. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense for the director not to be nominated when his picture is up for the top award. In the past such an omission was pretty much a guarantee that the movie wouldn’t win the top prize, but such an anomaly is more likely when nine movies are up for Best Picture, an experiment which ends after this year, I think.

  62. John:

    Argo is a director’s movie, though. The Directors Guild, in fact, gave Affleck Best Director. The strangest thing about the sequence of events is that Affleck wasn’t nominated.

  63. Ed:

    Even splitting best picture/best director doesn’t happen all that frequently anymore.

    True.

  64. brad:

    No…. no.

    I think he’s the one not getting that joke, myself, if that’s how “the help” treat him.

  65. swearyanthony:

    I prefer the one from Paul Tatara (I think) about Paul Verhoeven: “He claims to be using irony as a weapon. He doesn’t know how to use irony as a weapon, and should put it down before he hurts someone”.

  66. Darkrose:

    It’s like rain on your wedding day.

  67. UserGoogol:

    Eh, I thought it was a decent joke. It’s a popsicle-stick-style pun. Nothing too elaborate, but it’s a quick pun that inspires that slight moment of “oh, heh, yeah I get it.”

  68. Richard Cobeen:

    The irony of someone complaining about the illiteracy of a quote about irony without understanding the quote. Sometimes it’s just too easy.

  69. ajay:

    “Occasionally, when done just right, offensive material can be very funny.”
    “Being offensive is funny.”
    Great comics understand the former, hacks like Mcfarlane don’t understand the difference between the two.

    I have also heard this as: “Some people can be funny without being vulgar, and some people can be both funny and vulgar. I would advise you to try to be one or the other.”

  70. Deptfordx:

    My favourtie line from a comedian about that song.

    “And what could you do with a knife that you couldn’t manage with 10,000 spoons anyway? Presumably stab the bastard leaving spoons all over the place.”

  71. Anonymous:

    Going to go out on the limb and say most people are watching for the awards themselves, and many people like to watch for the outfits. I’ve never heard of anyone who watched just for the host. So when the host ruins a show you’re watching for other reasons, it’s perfectly valid to talk about it.

  72. Anonymous:

    The interview is with the Hollywood Reporter, not the CBC (which just links to it).

  73. StevenAttewell:

    Because they massively screwed up the Best Director category this year, which boosted the chance that a Best Picture wasn’t going to have a Best Director associated with it.

  74. Major Kong:

    I actually thought the skit featuring the sock-puppet version of Flight was pretty damn funny.

  75. Timb:

    Occasionally, weary ennui and know-it-all-ism is not as clever as our LGM commenters think. And, the idea that a guy who produces like 50 prime time comedies has no ability to be funny is ludicrous.

  76. SEK:

    I’m not sure why you’d think I’d want to listen to myself. I mean, have you heard me? I much prefer him.

  77. SEK:

    Not when that guy is a manatee collective, it isn’t.

  78. Mrs Tilton:

    Leeds,

    it’s the American equivalent to the Grand Prix d’Eurovision. (Or whatever it’s called these days. It just hasn’t been the same for me since “My Lovely Horse” got nul points.)

  79. John:

    But how did that happen? Specifically, how on earth did Affleck (who, again, won the Directors Guild Award) not get nominated?

  80. John:

    It’s like meeting the man of your dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife.

  81. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    Seth MacFarlane is a sort of riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in poo. I honestly cannot get a clear read on the guy. I’ve watched a lot of FG and found it really funny at times and hackneyed and sophomoric at others. I’ve even–this is embarrassing–watched the director’s commentary of some FG episodes. SM seems to genuinely appreciate the women he works with, including the woman with an unimaginably long Thai name who writes (?) produces (?) for the show, and the very talented Alex Borstein (Lois).

    Sometimes FG pushes the envelope and it’s edgy and funny. Sometimes FG pushes the envelope and it just seems like it’s nastiness and ugliness for nastiness and ugliness’ sake. I’ll be sitting there going “WTF was the point of THAT?” They seem determined to shit on any goodwill the show might engender in folks like me. It’s baffling.

  82. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    I’d like to see a woman host. Pretty much anyone from the cast of “Bridesmaids” will suffice. Kthankxbai.

  83. Scott Lemieux:

    Good one.

  84. ajay:

    Occasionally, weary ennui and know-it-all-ism is not as clever as our LGM commenters think.

    There will come a day when weary ennui and know it all ism will no longer be funny. BUT THIS IS NOT THAT DAY!
    There will come a day when subjects and verbs does no longer has to agree. BUT THIS IS NOT THAT DAY!
    /aragorn

  85. Anonymous:

    And just to think, he could have actually done “La Cucarcha” with Paul McCartney.

  86. spencer:

    Hockey and then zombies. Though, during a few of the LIghtning’s shifts, I could have sworn I was watching both at once.

  87. witless chum:

    I’m glad someone else remembers this South Park bit.

  88. spencer:

    He may well have that ability, I grant you. It just seems like he prefers not to exercise it.

  89. witless chum:

    Alan Rickman can explain to you why spoons are better for stabbing the bastard anyway.

  90. witless chum:

    Starship Troopers says that it’s wrong about Verhoeven. That movie, made in 1997, anticipated post-9/11 cable news hilariously.

  91. witless chum:

    Why is Neil Patrick Harris not just hosting everything?

  92. Rarely Posts:

    I didn’t watch the Oscars, but in general, offensive material that’s funny but not perfect works a lot better with cartoons than real people. It’s easier to laugh along with an offensive jerk without hating the offender when he (and it’s almost always a he) is not a real person. Partially that because it’s less hurtful because the victim of the offense is also not a real person. Hence, South Park, Family Guy, American Dad, Drawn Together, etc. can all get away with offensive material that isn’t really that funny, when a live-person needs to have better material to pull it off. Though I have to admit that I really don’t like South Park or Family Guy, and American Dad is very touch-and-go.

  93. BigHank53:

    How about General Franco? As long as he doesn’t execute anyone on-stage.

  94. Paul Clarke:

    Not available, he’s still dead.

  95. Moleman:

    Or his butcher, Australian, equivalent Hugh Jackman. Seriously- why they haven’t had him host again is bizarre. Christ, they’ve had Billy Crystal back again since then- was Jackman spending a year dead for tax purposes? Was everybody? (Except Letterman, I guess).

    McFarlane sometimes goes for that same sort of old school smarm, but with extra dickishness (when faced with anyone who idolizes Sinatra and the Rat Pack, remember, those guys were assholes).

  96. Barry Freed:

    If by “you folks” you mean “Americans” I have a two word reply for you, Leeds man: Question Time.

    As for me, I was watching the BBC America broadcast of “The Tomb of the Cybermen” which is great fun and the Walking Dead was on too.

  97. Barry Freed:

    Yes, with Stephen Colbert to fill in on occasion.

  98. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    Yup. That movie has only gotten more timely.

  99. Uncle Kvetch:

    As my gravatar would suggest, I’m something of a FG fan…but I do think the show ran out of steam several seasons ago, and the ratio of genuine laffs to those WTF moments has become such that I really don’t bother with it much anymore.

    Seth MacFarlane is a sort of riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in poo.

    That’s awesome. I think he’d appreciate it.

  100. Nigel Tufnel:

    What’s wrong with being sexy?

  101. elm:

    They can always bring Whoopi Goldberg back! Guaranteed fun time for all.

  102. Leeds man:

    I watched the last three episodes of BSG for much the same reason, I think.

  103. JB2:

    Agree. FG was at its best right before and then right after the hiatus.

  104. chris:

    THIS DAY WE MOCK!

  105. chris:

    Wouldn’t it have been a little awkward for Jackman to host while being nominated? Or do they often do that? (I don’t keep close enough track.)

  106. Halloween Jack:

    I pretty much gave up on both James Wolcott and Cintra Wilson when they both wrote posts about how disappointed they were that the Oscars that year didn’t contain any particularly embarrassing moments. Depending on awards ceremonies for grist for a column is sad enough, but when life doesn’t give you lemons, find something better than handing out glasses of sugar water and shrugging, “Eh, what can you do?”

  107. Halloween Jack:

    Why on earth did you do that?

  108. Halloween Jack:

    I loved that interview, especially the bit where she says that the producers kept saying, “You should be paying us for this.”

  109. Chuchundra:

    That would be like asking Picasso to set up a stand on the boardwalk and do caricatures for twenty bucks a throw.

    Yeah, it would be brilliant, but there are much more productive uses for his talent.

  110. JL:

    This is pretty much my take. I eventually gave up on FG because the ratio of terrible to brilliant (or at least reasonably funny) made it not worth sitting through the terrible.

  111. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    Why does this never fail to make me smile? You think I’d be tired of it by now…but no.

  112. BigHank53:

    Even better. Roll him over to Industrial Light & Magic and tell them to get cracking.

  113. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    Yup. At some point, FG went from must-see to “meh.”

  114. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    but I do think the show ran out of steam several seasons ago

    What’s funny is that apparently SM agrees with you. I mean, I’ve pretty much heard him say as much.

  115. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    You must be a fool for stools.

  116. wjts:

    The decline started much earlier than that – “My Lovely Horse” was the lone bright spot in the post-”Bing Tiddle Tiddle Bong” wasteland.

  117. Royko:

    The tumbling socks in the dryer made me laugh out loud.

    I think I’m the only person alive who enjoyed the Von Trapp gag. Yeah, it was stupid, but it was stupid in a way that made me smile.

    For me, the lowest low (if I understood the joke) was his roundabout way to use Rex Reed to call Adele fat. It was a bewildering joke that had me googling to figure out the reference, only to eventually work out that it was more insulting toward Adele (and Melissa McCarthy) than to Reed and that it just seemed outright mean-spirited. I mean, say what you want about the boob song, at least it’s an ethos.

  118. Richard:

    I think the reason is that Argo was released earlier in the year without a lot of fanfare. It was something of a surprise hit and, unlike a lot of movies today, picked up attendance after the first weekend through word of mouth. Attention to it was still building when the Academy members started sending in their ballet nominations.

  119. Richard:

    I agree. Some good stuff, some bad stuff. Given that the theme of the show was Music in the Movies and that McFarlane is a pretty good pop singer in a Rat Pack way (and I mean that as a compliment), he was a good choice although his jokes were hit and miss. The song about Losers to end the show was pretty funny.

  120. Richard:

    I thought it was funny as well. So was the Mel Gibson joke and the Rhianna-Chris Brown joke. Other jokes, not so funny

  121. S_noe:

    I wrote 800 words about Proposition 13 instead of watching anything.
    7800 to go, so it wasn’t that awesome, but utterly free of sophomoric humor. (Though not sophomoric politics.).
    Thanks for letting me share :)

  122. Richard:

    I think it was more insulting to Reed but it just wasnt that funny. How many people in the tv audience got the reference? This was way too much of a inside joke to be told at a show like this.

    By the way, Adele is an amazing talent but Skyfall is a stupid song and not deserving of her talents

  123. Shane:

    Would you like him to get off your lawn, grandpa?

  124. Tyto:

    “Why a spoon, cousin? Why not a . . . “

  125. Ed:

    Such things do happen with the Oscars. It ended up helping Affleck in the end, politically. He was not the only surprise omission from the director nominees – Tarantino and Bigelow did not make the cut, either, and both of them made popular pictures. I was pleasantly surprised for Ang Lee and Benh Zeitlin, particularly the latter – nice to see him get some recognition over the big action flicks directors.

    And possibly not everyone thought Argo was such a masterpiece……

  126. sharculese:

    ballet nominations

    Can we please add this category to future Oscars and watch the studios fall over themselves trying to qualify for it.

  127. wengler:

    I wanted to see how effective an argument it was. In the end, I don’t even know what it was arguing for. That Michelle Rhee is a hero? That every school should be ultra-selective? That every school should teach the same things at the same time in the same way? All of these were presented as cures for every problem in society.

    It’s a confusing documentary. The only through-line seems to be unionized teachers are awful, especially in inner-city schools. And there are too many regulations, but teachers should all be graded on the same test. Really, just a terrible fucking movie.

  128. Leeds man:

    Après le Bing Tiddle Tiddle Bong, le déluge.

  129. Richard:

    I enjoyed Argo a lot (good thriller with a few comedic touches) but if I had to vote for best director of the year, it would have been Bigelow

  130. Leeds man:

    pas de duh

  131. Wrye:

    I should have specified: read the sentence that says “She also spoke to us” and then click the button that says “listen”.

  132. Just Dropping By:

    I’m glad to hear someone else finally say that. I love Adele, but “Skyfall” is a pretty weak song. There are other Bond themes that are stronger than it and which didn’t even get nominated, let alone win. (Garbage’s “The World is Not Enough” is my off-the-top example.)

  133. Royko:

    Agreed on Skyfall. I felt it tried so hard to be a Bond theme that it forgot to be a good song.

    On a related tangent, I’m not absolutely convinced that the Shirley Bassey performance wasn’t a Maya Rudolph sketch.

  134. swearyanthony:

    Maybe I should rewatch it, because at the time I thought it was dreadful. I think it applies fairly well to Verhoeven’s entire body of work though.

  135. actor212:

    Oh no, it’s absolutely dreadful, in a scintillatingly entertaining way.

    It’s like Idiocracy, but lighter on the self-referential performances.

    For my money, the intentionally bad movie that’s taken on a whole new meaning in the past decades is Roddy Piper’s They Live.

  136. actor212:

    I was kinda surprised by that. Watching Argo, I got the distinct sense that Affleck could have clipped an awful lot of extraneous scenes without losing the dramatic thread and maybe even increasing the ever-present tension of the backdrop by picking up the pace where it slacked.

    In other words, he indulged himself a bit much. Don’t get me wrong, a really good film by any measure.

  137. actor212:

    It’s an inside joke to the ultimate inside crowd.

    One thing I learned a long time ago about the Oscars telecast, the emcee has to play to both the TV and live audiences and the live audience hasn’t gotten drunk yet. It’s only 5 o’clock.

    It could be the hardest gig in Hollywood after being Michael Bay’s location manager (“No, I promise. No explosions.”)

  138. skippy:

    roddy piper, a heretofor untried wrestler-turned-actor, replaces john carpenter (the director, who had made several well-received films before this) in the zeitgeist as the celeb by which that great bad movie is known (it was previously billed as john carpenter’s they live).

    now that’s irony.

  139. skippy:

    you oughtta know.

    now that’s irony.

  140. skippy:

    now that’s irony!

  141. swearyanthony:

    Hey, leave “They Live” alone. Everything about that movie should be terrible, but somehow, it just *works*

  142. timb:

    It’s a singular attitude, Aj, not two different attitudes

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