In his widely panned bow as Oscars host, “Family Guy” and “American Dad!” creator Seth MacFarlane lived up to his reputation for transgressive frat-boy humor by biting the proverbial hand that feeds. He attempted to bag on just about every A-list actor and Hollywood heavyweight within his sightline at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night in a performance that, nonetheless, many observers found boring while also failing to live up to the host’s usual standard of crassness.
“MacFarlane was occasionally crude and mildly offensive; unfortunately, he wasn’t very funny,” Mary McNamara observed in The Times.
Still, as host, MacFarlane displayed a startlingly comprehensive aversion to political correctness, managing to verbally punk Jewish people, native Spanish speakers, African Americans and women – mainly women – over the broadcast’s 3½-plus hours.
Pretending to mix up Eddie Murphy with Denzel Washington with winking they-all-look-alike-to-me brio, MacFarlane professed to having loved the “Flight” star in the Murphy-starring “Nutty Professor” movies.
That bit didn’t win any points with Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron, who had joined MacFarlane on stage earlier for an opening dance number. “Ooh, that was too far,” Tatum was heard saying to Theron backstage.
Meanwhile, the “We Saw Your Boobs” song MacFarlane sang by way of kicking off the evening – a comprehensive catalog of Hollywood’s top leading ladies’ most famous topless scenes from over the years set to show tune-y music – needs little further comment. But his description of Jessica Chastain’s character in “Zero Dark Thirty” as a “celebration of every woman’s innate ability to never let things go” found him tarred in such outlets as New York magazine’s the Cut, Salon.com and the Daily Beast as a sexist and misogynist.
He even managed to ruffle the feathers of American history buffs. “The actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth,” quipped MacFarlane to a smattering of jeers from the audience.
“Is 150 years too soon?” he responded. “If you don’t like that, I’ve got some Napoleon jokes to tell you.”
Of all the movie-biz big shots MacFarlane proceeded to roast, only one easy target seemed to give him pause. Early in the evening, MacFarlane gave external voice to his internal moral dilemma before tossing a verbal hot potato in the direction of actor-director Ben Affleck’s uncharacteristically hirsute appearance in “Argo.”
“I thought we’d cut this joke but, really? Want to still do it?” MacFarlane asked producers off-camera. “OK. The first time I saw that dark beard, I thought, ‘My God! The Kardashians have finally made the jump into film!”
From the podium, Affleck responded somewhat cryptically: “I thought the show was going pretty well. But maybe you can turn it around.”
Also providing the voice for a hologram of Ted — the potty-mouthed, bong-smoking teddy bear protagonist of “Ted,” the surprise movie blockbuster MacFarlane directed — he paid lip service to the old showbiz trope that Jews run Hollywood. And in an effort to land himself more work in film, the stuffed toy proclaimed his spiritual alliance, eliciting scanty laughter in the process: “I am Jewish. I was born Theodore Shapiro.”
Apparently aware of early verdicts of his performance, the TV-movie hyphenate managed to regroup after the awards broadcast at his own after-party, held at the West Hollywood venue the Lot. Announcing from a stage that he was drunk and singing a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” MacFarlane entreated guests not to judge him too harshly, referencing James Franco’s disastrous 2011 turn as Oscars host in the process.
“Do me a favor and don’t read the press tomorrow,” MacFarlane said. “They’re going to do to me what they did to Franco.”
Times staff writer Rebecca Keegan and contributor Jasmine Elist contributed to this report.