I just got off the phone with my sister.
It’s pretty much known in my family that when it’s Oscar ceremony time, I have a certain disease where I religiously watch every year and drink up the entire proceedings. I am an Oscar purist – I love movies. Movies were the first love of my life, and as a kid the Oscars were a big deal to me – and that has continued all my life. So, I make no apologies – people may think the show is bombastic, over the top, gaudy, celebrity worshipping and long as hell. It is, and I love it. I love it because it reinforces my love of movies, and my love for storytelling. For the longest time as a kid, winning an Oscar was something I had always wanted. Once those dreams floated away, I could settle with at least holding one (which I did!)
So, let me reiterate again that the Oscars make me giddy.
Last night was another Oscar ceremony yet again – our usual ritual every year is to order a pizza and watch together. This year, rather than pizza, we ate some yummy lasagna leftover from a friend of mine and we settled in for the usual festivities.
I don’t know Seth McFarlane – was never into Family Guy or American Dad. I saw Ted, and I thought it was funny in parts. But, I was looking forward to his hosting. Last year was Billy Crystal’s return to hosting, and what was made evident within the first few minutes of his monologue was that his jokes had gotten stale, and perhaps only worked well in a different era.
So I was ready for fresh, “new”, funny – and this Seth McFarlane fit the bill. My friends love him, and I loved his banter during the Oscar nominations announcement with Emma Stone. This guy was going to be cool.
Within five minutes of his hosting duties, I turned to Mara and said “Um…he’s not really funny.” It felt forced, it felt weird and the pacing (which was something that lagged throughout the entire show) was so off. I didn’t have a good feeling.
Then, William Shatner came up and we heard Seth’s “boob” song.
Everyone is roaring with laughter – and I’m silent. Is this what people think is funny? This song is completely demoralizing some groundbreaking films and performances (“The Accused”, “Silkwood”) and most of all the women who played these characters – and everyone is laughing their heads off.
I was confused.
This wasn’t funny, people.
Now, I’m not a prude and I love some great political incorrectness like the next person – but when it’s done cleverly.
This was not clever. This was dumb and degrading.
And as the night progressed, we heard jokes around homosexuality (really? we’re still thinking this is funny?), race (again, not clever just dumb), and a terrible Chris Brown/Rihanna joke (which clearly everyone thinks that that is funny because if Rihanna doesn’t take the graveness of her choices seriously, then why should we!)
His only funny joke? That Flying Nun bit with Sally Field – that’s it.
On top of that, there was just an air of sarcasm, of cynicism and just plain rudeness. Cutting people off during speeches playing the music from Jaws? Really? That’s not funny – that’s fucking rude. (Play off a rambling celebrity when they’re getting a bit too verbose with their list of THANK YOUS – but don’t do that to a Shorts filmmaker who has worked their ass off to make their tiny film, and then get some Oscar recognition.) And close the whole show with Seth and Kristin Chenowith singing a song that name-drops all of the people who lost? Smug.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not that naive. I know that the Oscar producers knew what they were getting into. They wanted edgy and risky – they got it. Seth McFarlane has a brand of humour that millions of people love and enjoy. He didn’t change it. Fine.
But like any deft comedian, you need to know the audience you are playing to. That doesn’t mean compromising your material, but it means adapting and molding your craft according to who is receiving your message.
These jokes weren’t clever or witty – these jokes appeased the lowest common denominator. And that’s sucky.
The show ended and I was bothered.
And now back to getting off the phone with my sister…
We talked about the Oscar show – and like most people, she said to me “he wasn’t as bad as people are making him out to be.”
Ok. Fine. Therefore, the fact that this material bothered means that I am anal, and can’t take a joke. Because everyone else thinks it’s funny.
Well call me a prude then, because if that show was funny – there’s a bigger issue going on than just an awards ceremony. That we’re in a society that breeds smugness, sarcasm, racism, homophobia and gender degradation for laughs – count me out.
I’ll be unpopular then.