Goodman: MacFarlane has many less-offensive talents to offer

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Meredith Goodman, Columnist

I have always enjoyed “Family Guy,” a television show known for its random cutaway gags and crude humor. So when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that the show’s creator, Seth MacFarlane, would host the 2013 awards show, I prepared myself for an Oscar night filled with edgy humor and wacky surprises.

While there was plenty of edgy humor — the kind that I enjoy in “Family Guy” — there were also many instances of offensive joking, which unfortunately are still present in the show. Yes, Mr. MacFarlane, you still cannot make a joke about one of our most famed presidents being assassinated, even almost 150 years later, without being criticized. The comedy bit with Mark Wahlberg and vulgar teddy bear “Ted” from MacFarlane’s movie, played on an old anti-Semitic stereotype that wealthy Jews run Hollywood. As a Jew, I was not impressed.

Finally, a joke declaring that the extraordinarily violent movie “Django Unchained” was a perfect date night movie for Chris Brown and Rihanna, who have struggled with domestic violence in their relationship, was grossly inappropriate. Domestic violence isn’t something to joke about, much less on Oscar night when millions of kids are watching along with their parents.

What I love about Seth MacFarlane is his old-fashioned combination of humor and an incredible talent for song and dance. His unusual comedy blend harkens back to an era where brilliant vaudeville comedians, such as Bob Hope and Fanny Brice, entertained us with sketches involving song and dance.

When MacFarlane hosted Saturday Night Live in September, he did an adorable opening monologue where he sang about the voices in his head. He perfectly imitated a droopy old dog, Kermit the Frog, and Marty McFly from “Back to the Future,” all without vulgarity. I still cannot keep from laughing after watching the song for about the 10th time.

In a “Fresh Air” interview with National Public Radio in October 2011, MacFarlane described his fascination with Sinatra-era singers. MacFarlane has a unique voice and talent, which he shows through many song and dance numbers in “Family Guy.” He even took singing lessons from Lee and Sally Sweetland, who taught Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. Why didn’t he channel more of the talent and elegance of his role models through the Oscars, echoing former Oscar host Billy Crystal, instead of relying on shocking jokes?

Perhaps the Oscars production team wanted a bold, shocking host to bring younger viewers to the telecast. MacFarlane’s crude humor resonates with the millennial generation, especially younger males. I admit I would have skipped the Oscars for homework (typical Nerdwestern) if I hadn’t been looking forward to MacFarlane’s performance so much. After years of older, more traditional hosts such as Billy Crystal (whom I still love) and Steve Martin, MacFarlane brought a youthful energy and a big boost in ratings (20 percent more viewers age 18 to 34) for the broadcast.

Although the Oscars broadcast’s ratings improved over last year’s numbers, MacFarlane said he would not be interested in hosting again. I would actually love to see MacFarlane as a host for another awards show; he is quick-witted, has a sense of ease on camera and has an irresistible smile. If MacFarlane can ditch the dirty, offensive humor and cash in on his impressive voice and charm, he could make a career out of stand-up comedy and professional singing.

Meredith Goodman is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this letter, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].