Not so with MacFarlane, whose considerable Hollywood clout has been built behind the scenes — and primarily in TV. A writer, animator, producer and voice actor, he sits atop a media empire that began more than a decade ago with his
Though he will host film's biggest event this weekend, MacFarlane hadn't even made a movie until debuting his comedy "Ted" last year. If you look closer, none of that matters. Fortune magazine estimates the "Family Guy" franchise alone to be worth more than $1 billion; the man is a serious force in Hollywood. What MacFarlane is not is a name recognizable to viewers who aren't between the ages of 18 and 49 or tapped into MacFarlane's specific pop cultural niche.
That makes him an unlikely but intriguing choice as Oscar host. The broadcast has long fought its reputation as a glamorous but drearily staid and navel-gazing affair — especially if the year's most popular movies at the box office (the ones 18-49ers sought out) are nowhere in sight on the nominee list.
Young viewers are the bull’s-eye for
What MacFarlane offers — maybe — is the best of both worlds. A lover of musical theater and big band standards, he is a showman at heart. He has said he’s taking inspiration from the legacy of emcees including Crystal,
What does MacFarlane get out of all this? Despite his irrefutable success, he has stated a frustration with being known only as a "cartoon guy." But we return to the question: Who is this guy?
His career technically started when he was 9.
The 39-year-old was born and raised in New England. At 9, he starting drawing a weekly comic strip for a local paper in his hometown of
Hollywood takes him seriously.
“Family Guy” debuted after the Super Bowl in 1999 on Fox, where it aired until it was canceled in 2002 due to declining ratings. Hugely popular repeats on the
MacFarlane, whose deal earns him $33 million a year, has two other Fox prime-time animated series on Sundays: “The Cleveland Show” (a spinoff of “Family Guy”) and “
Last year he dipped his toe into the world of film with “Ted” (which he wrote and directed), about a slacker (
MacFarlane will get his first shot acting on camera in the spring, starring in his latest multihyphenated effort, a comedy-western called "A Million Ways to Die in the West."
He's a hard worker, almost obsessive.
"I once went 15 months working seven days a week, and I put myself in the hospital, just from exhaustion," he told The New Yorker in 2012. He told at least one publication that he's put in 150 hours a week to prepare for Sunday's broadcast.
He is not a fan of the FCC — which could prove dicey during a live broadcast.
"Family Guy" is unequivocally a dirty show — often wonderfully so. In 2005 MacFarlane devoted an entire episode to razzing the FCC. Asked two years later what subject matter tends to raise eyebrows the most, he told Tribune Newspapers: "Poop jokes are at the top of the list. I always joke that no one at the FCC or Congress is allowed to go to the bathroom."
But MacFarlane says he won’t be working as blue as you might expect on
"It's still Disney, for Christ's sake," he told the Associated Press. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, he stressed that the tradition-minded Oscars broadcast is the "performance style that I enjoy, very old-fashioned."
As much as he may joke about Hollywood’s predisposition toward vanity and moneyed self-importance ...
“The biggest challenge,” he told
... he himself has fallen prey to these absurdities.
The aforementioned New Yorker profile, by Claire Hoffman, is especially revealing and includes this anecdote, about a woman who began showing up at the "Family Guy" offices a few years ago: "Without explanation, she would wheel a large piece of equipment into the lavatory just off the writers' room and wait there for MacFarlane, who would excuse himself and then disappear into the bathroom. Several former staffers (said) although everyone could hear the whooshing sound of a spray-tan machine, no one dared make a joke about it when MacFarlane emerged, bronzed and burnished."
The quiet, nerdy boy has transformed himself into the ultimate insider.
Per The New Yorker piece, “When he arrived in LA, he could have been mistaken for a Boston I.T. guy on vacation” but has since “polished away his boyish awkwardness.” He started using a stylist and working out. And he began taking advantage of the dating pool available to rich and successful TV producers, going out with actresses
Expect a few song-and-dance numbers. The man can sing.
Two years ago he released a Grammy-nominated solo album of American standards called "Music Is Better Than Words" and occasionally performs in jazz clubs.
Even if he wasn't hosting, he'd be there.
MacFarlane is an Oscar nominee this year for co-writing the song "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from "Ted."
He has a chip on his shoulder, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't root for him. He's just less adept at hiding his insecurities.
"The ideal Oscar host," he told USA Today, "is somebody who goes into the awards show knowing that, even if he sprouts wings on stage and levitates five feet off the ground live on television, that Entertainment Weekly will still go, 'Eh.'" The magazine's outgoing TV critic Ken Tucker hasn't been a fan of "Family Guy," which might have fueled that statement.
Of course, MacFarlane sat down just a few weeks ago for an extensive interview — with Entertainment Weekly — and noted that, despite spending the past six months prepping for the Oscars, "I'm still going to get savaged in the press." It was a moment that sounded less like minimizing expectations and more like it was revealing something about MacFarlane himself. "It's so ingrained in me that, 'Oh, we might be hated by everybody,'" he told the magazine. "So it's become this sort of inability to process any kind of positive feedback."