Daily Beast contributor, Marlow Stern wrote a scathing attack on Seth McFarlane and his Oscar performance titled, “The Juvenile Oscars”, claiming, ”Seth McFarlane bombed terribly hosting the 85th Academy Awards honoring the best in cinema for 2012”.
To bolster his complaints, the Daily Beast offers a video mashup containing many of the jokes Stern cites as proof of McFarlane’s “sexist” and “cringe-worthy”, ”incredibly awkward Rat Pack-meets-Crank Yankers routine”
Watch the clip here: Seth McFarlane’s Worst Oscar Jokes.
Watching the clip, I was struck by one major thing: Whatever you may think of their content or appropriateness, the jokes worked! You may find them cringy, sexist, frat boy or however you choose to paint it, but the audience laughed. As a stand-up comedian of many years, I know the difference between “did well” and “bombed” and that difference is the noise that comes just after the punchline. Or doesn’t. And here, it clearly does. One is left wondering how Marlo Stern determines whether a performer bombed or killed. Did he watch this show in closed caption and no sound? Am I being insensitive to a deaf journalist here?
The video mashup contains a total of 16 punchlines. Of them, 5 receive strong loud laughter. 1 gets moderate but extended laughter that grows into Strong loud laughter. 6 receive moderate laughter. 1 receives moderate laughter followed by some groans and 2 cut away too soon to ascertain what kind of response they received while only 1, gets an immediate groan.
Let’s start with the last two jokes in the mashup. McFarlane is just coming off this joke; “Django is a movie where a woman is subjected to violence, or as we call it, a Chris Brown and Rihanna date movie.”, which gets moderate laughter followed by some groans which prompts McFarlane to say, “Ohhh, Oh No. No, that’s what we were afraid he would do.”, followed by strong two stage rolling laughter, but the mashup is not edited in a way that you can know this. We come in as McFarlane says, “That’s as bad as it gets if it makes you feel better.” which receives immediate, strong laughter and he tags with, “It’s really not as bad as it gets”. and the mashup ends, leaving us with no clue if the tag got a laugh.
The tag did indeed earn a very nice laugh as can be seen/heard in this clip.
In an attempt to label McFarlane a sexist, Stern writes, “Later in the night, he even quipped that we’d “reached that point in the evening” where Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, or someone else [read: attractive Latina] comes onstage and “we have no idea what they’re saying, but we don’t care, ’cause they’re so attractive.” but McFarlane actually said, “Well, we’ve finally reached that point in the ceremony where either Javier Bardem, Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz comes onstage and we have no idea what they’re saying, but we don’t care, because they’re so attractive.”
Is it sexist to refer to the very male Javier Bardem as an attractive Latina or just Freudian?
Now let’s analyze what Stern describes as “The joke that attracted the most groans”, A joke about the Lincoln assassination. McFarlane says, “Daniel Day-Lewis is not the first actor to be nominated for playing Lincoln. Raymond Massey portrayed him in 1940′s Abe Lincoln in Illinois. I would argue, though, the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.”
After quoting the joke in his article, Stern hangs this sarcastic word as his only critique of the Lincoln joke;
And for that one single moment, he got something right. That joke was very clever. It was well written and well delivered and dare I say, McFarlane was well aware that it might get the groans it earned. This is how good performers work. Knowing that not every joke will kill and even, on occasion, telling a joke for it’s technical prowess and clever structure, fully prepared to drop a saver tag that becomes the real punchline and reminds the audience that they aren’t as much in control of this performance as they might like to think.
That’s exactly what happened. McFarlane followed those groans like a seasoned pro with, “Really? 150 years and it’s still too soon?”, which garnered very strong laughter over which McFarlane sarcastically stated, “I got some Napoleon Jokes coming up, you guys are gonna be so mad!” creating another wave of strong, rolling laughter.
In closing, Stern laments, “We should’ve really all seen this coming, since his Oscar promos leading up to the ceremony were unfunny, to say the least.”, linking to a Variety piece by John Weisman lambasting a promo video whose link does not function.
Here’s a mashup of some ad spots. I won’t presume to tell you what you should find funny. I’m sure you can decide for yourself but I will say, I don’t find Marlow Stern’s article the least bit funny but that video mashup up is hilarious.