The Good, the Bad, and the Boring: The Best Reactions to Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar Performance


When we learned that Seth MacFarlane would be hosting the Oscars, the 14-year-old boys of America cheered while cinephiles who didn’t care for the Family Guy creator’s trademark sexist and racist humor rolled their eyes. MacFarlane’s actual performance was just as divisive, with reactions ranging from “better than James Franco” to, “Really? A song about boobs?” Our host was well aware that he would face heavy criticism from all the people who shudder at the sound of Peter Griffin’s voice, so he threw in a lot to chew on: an array of original musical numbers, flash-forward jokes with William Shatner, an appearance by his own CGI creation, Ted. So, how did he fare? We’ve rounded up some of this morning’s best takes, from critics to Twitter.

The Good:

“Give this to MacFarlane: He threw everything he had at it. He dressed up like The Flying Nun. He played with sock puppets. He radiated charm, if not cool. And, of course, he told jokes, a tad nervously, perhaps, but he did manage to land a fair number of them. He even got Tommy Lee Jones to laugh at a joke about getting Tommy Lee Jones to laugh, which has to count for something. Oh, and he sang and danced. A lot.” — Robert Bianco, USA Today

“MacFarlane was relatively tame if you know anything at all about his canon, and he was respectful through and through. As a guy who can actually sing and has recorded a successful album (fueling more jealousy and backlash from his detractors), his pick was more spot-on than anyone gave the Academy credit for. But they did get lucky. He didn’t give up, like Franco. He took the job extremely seriously and put himself out there. Ultimately, he excelled at balance.” — Tim Goodman The Hollywood Reporter

The Bad:

“Seth MacFarlane… crooned sappy standards (‘The Way You Look Tonight’) and carried himself like Fred Astaire. But he also stayed true to form, taking crude shots at Jews in Hollywood, women and even the Lincoln assassination. (He made a joke that despite brilliant impersonations by Daniel Day-Lewis and Raymond Massey, the actor ‘who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.’)” — Alessandra Stanley, NY Times

“Time for me to turn in my Guy Card, I guess. I’ll give ABC credit for taking a chance. But where James Franco and Anne Hathaway were inept two years ago, and Billy Crystal was fine-but-dull a year ago, MacFarlane was uncomfortable, smarmy, unfunny – and not even bad in any memorably creative way.” — James Poniewozik, TIME

“At this point there’s no question that Seth MacFarlane was a terrible Oscar host. Not only were his jokes unfunny, tired, self-centered and boring, but also incredibly sexist, homophobic and racist. Boob jokes. Diet jokes. ‘No homo’ jokes. Rape jokes. Abuse jokes. Slave jokes. Jew jokes. And to add to the atrocity, the whole act was punctuated by MacFarlane’s absurd preoccupation with whether or not he was a good host, which — as mentioned — he clearly was not.” — Kate Bennert, Gawker

“The event, honoring the best in cinema for 2012, was a disaster, with host Seth MacFarlane — the creator of a few TV series, including Family Guy, and the blockbuster comedy film Ted — doing an incredibly awkward Rat Pack-meets-Crank Yankers routine, replete with silly jokes touching on rape, race, sexism, Nazis, and the Lincoln assassination.” — Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast

“Had Seth MacFarlane elevated his persona beyond his brand of usual shtick, this could have worked: With his deep announcer’s voice and musical talent, he’s got the raw material for a good Oscar host, after all. But he was totally unable to marry his irreverent Family Guy side with the class that we usually expect from an Oscar emcee, and this was never more apparent than in the opening monologue, where MacFarlane would lurch awkwardly from casually racist jokes to actually-this-isn’t-a-joke musical numbers.” — Vulture

The Boring and Beyond:

“From there, the jokes just got more and more… well, what’s the word? Calling them offensive gives them too much power, which isn’t to say that black people shouldn’t have felt uncomfortable about MacFarlane pretending to mix up Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy, or that half the population needn’t have squirmed when MacFarlane called Zero Dark Thirty‘s plotline an example of ‘a woman’s innate ability to never let anything go.’ What the jokes were, really, was stupid, boring, and empty: humor that relied less on its own patently sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. content than on admiration for or disgust with the host’s willingness to deliver it. So much of comedy is about the shock of recognition, of seeing some previously unacknowledged truth suddenly acknowledged, but the only recognition MacFarlane offered was that some people say dumb things about other peoples’ gender/racial/sexual identities. Which, of course, should not be shocking at all.” — Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic

“The star-filled audience, which initially reacted hesitantly to jokes about Mel Gibson and Chris Brown, seemed to warm to Mr. MacFarlane as he mixed his ‘fake’ skits with musical numbers more in the tradition of past hosts like Billy Crystal. But his humor was hit-and-miss throughout. A joke about John Wilkes Booth and Lincoln fell particularly flat.” — Ben Fritz, Wall Street Journal