Upon hearing that Seth MacFarlane would be hosting the 85th Academy Awards, two reactions arose from audiences: 1) Yay! The guy who makes Family Guy! 2) Ugh. The guy who makes Family Guy. I watch Family Guy regularly, though I haven’t laughed at a new episode since 2008. But whether you think Family Guy is still good or not, I think MacFarlane is a great choice to host the Oscars. Here’s why:
He’s Young (looking): Now, simply citing youth as a reason for being a good host is flimsy, as I’m sure we all remember the James Franco/Anne Hathaway disaster of 2011. But their youth played no part in their poor hosting. Franco and Hathaway were there to attract younger viewers, but the material they had to work with was the kind of predictable, trite humor one aims at 12-year-olds. That’s not even counting the fact that Franco has absolutely zero stage presence.
With MacFarlane, even though he’s almost 40, his baby face and raunchy humor can make one easily mistake him for a man in his early 30s or even late 20s. He also has one of the most popular shows watched by the elusive young demographic the Academy has been trying to reach for years. Franco and Hathaway are indeed young, but they won’t draw teenagers into a stuffy award ceremony simply because they are young. MacFarlane actually offers something to that demographic, and it will probably help the show loosen its tie a bit. Recent older hosts, such as Billy Crystal, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, had mediocre outings, and I think a fresh injection of actually qualified youth is just what the Oscars needs.
He’s Funny: We can all agree that all those cutaways in Family Guy aren’t as funny as they are random and stupid, but believe it or not, those cutaways are not the only thing that MacFarlane does. With the popularity of Family Guy, many people overlook another show that is actually really, really funny: American Dad! The show relies on actual jokes, rather than cutaways, to inspire laughter. I imagine MacFarlane bringing his trademark inappropriate humor, rather than pandering to the lowest common denominator with cross-dressing antics like Franco/Hathaway.
Plus, though he did have his directing debut with Ted this year, MacFarlane is still primarily a TV guy on the fringe of the movie business. This means MacFarlane won’t have to pay softball with all those big-name celebs in the audience. What’s the worst that can happen? He’ll never work in movies again? I guess he’ll have to settle for writing one of the most popular shows of all time and making millions from merchandise. Franco and Hathaway rely on films to live, so they couldn’t risk hurting anyone’s feelings. With MacFarlane, it’s fair game.
He’s Got Great On-Stage Charisma: The Comedy Central Roasts are thuddingly unfunny displays that cruelly perpetuate the lie that Jeffrey Ross is funny. However, two of the more recent Roasts did actually have something to offer, and that was MacFarlane as MC. As the Master of Ceremonies, MacFarlane’s naturally soothing voice and impeccable delivery actually lent the show some credibility. MacFarlane may be a writer first, but he’s got a voice for stage.
Though the Roasts are filled with graphically insulting humor that is more uncomfortable and less funny, MacFarlane’s mere presence was enough to keep the shows running smoothly and actually seem entertaining. The Oscars frequently suffer from poor pacing, and I think MacFarlane will be effective at keeping them running as smoothly as he did the Roasts. He’s also a dynamite singer, so we may even expect a sharp-tongued serenade, perhaps even accompanied by his foul-mouthed teddy bear creation…
He Knows How to Be Classy: This shocked me when I discovered it, and part of me still rejects it. Flipping through the TV guide once day, I stumbled upon something called Seth MacFarlane: Swingin’ in Concert. I thought, “Oh, he’s probably doing a stand-up show, and he’s going to incorporate singing in some way. Splendid.” I tuned in to the show, only to discover Seth MacFarlane standing on stage with a big band behind him and an audience full of people 50 years and older. There was no comedy, just MacFarlane singing some of his favorite songs from the Big Band Era. And it was wonderful. It was absolutely delightful to watch, and to me, it will be the reason MacFarlane isn’t just a good Oscar host, but a great one.
MacFarlane will no doubt be risqué and borderline offensive with some of his jokes, but I have no doubt that in the end, a feeling of graciousness and civility will permeate his hosting. If MacFarlane does not show any of the class I saw in that concert special, it will be a horrible missed opportunity to elevate his performance and actually leave something behind worth remembering for the right reasons.