Back to IndieWire

Tina Fey Defends Seth MacFarlane’s Hosting of the Oscars: “It’s the hardest job there is”

Tina Fey Defends Seth MacFarlane's Hosting of the Oscars: "It's the hardest job there is"

Seth MacFarlane has no plans to return to the Oscars. “No way,” he tweeted. Tina Fey, for one, who hit it out of the park at the Golden Globes with Amy Poehler, defends his performance as Oscar host. “It’s the hardest job there is,” she explains by phone. “It’s a tough room. Seth did great.”

What makes hosting the Oscars so hard? “Everyone’s nervous, and as the night goes on, more people in the room have lost. You have to play to the world and the room. Especially for a woman, it’s the amount of time trying on dresses.”

What made the Globes easier for her and Amy Poehler? “We had fun! It was a very different, more relaxed room. We finished shooting ’30 Rock’ right before Christmas, then came back to do the Globes right after Christmas. You go home, eat crackers and cookies, then the Globes were so much sooner in January than Amy and I wanted to believe. We worked for a couple of days on that. It’s a much smaller gig! You don’t have to pretape anything, don’t have to make anything. We came back, the day we went out was the Friday before the Globes, we shot the final shot [for ’30 Rock’] with Conan O’Brien in LA, finished the Globes, and went into post finishing the ’30 Rock’ finale, right before it aired.”

Fey doesn’t know if she and Poehler will do the Globes again. And while she enjoyed presenting on the Oscars with Steve Martin, it doesn’t sound like she wants to host the Oscars anytime soon. Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meon knew she wasn’t available this year, but as MacFarlane said on the Oscar show, the Academy is sure to ask again. Finally, Fey and Poehler do know how to play that inside/outside game, because they are bonafide showbiz insiders with defined personalities, they know how far they can go. And they’re better writers. We’re all still figuring out just who MacFarlane is. (Fey did tell HuffPo “No way,” that there’s not a one in a million chance she’d host the Oscars.)

Zadan and Meron said they picked MacFarlane as host because he was able to do all the things they needed him to do on their musical Oscars: sing, dance, write, and host. Well, he did the first two things better–winningly–than the latter two.

You’d never guess it was 2013 by the tone MacFarlane set Sunday night, or that women have more to offer than being “lovely” or providing fodder for fat jokes. Juvenile white male humor dominated the night, and in fact delivered the Academy’s most-wanted audience: young, straight men who don’t care about the Oscars. As @THRmattbelloni tweeted, “Most telling stat re @SethMacFarlane and the #Oscars: Ratings in 18-34 demo up 20%. Those are his fans.” Another Twitter reaction came from “The Imposter” subject @Frédéric Bourdin: “@Francparler @SethMacFarlane Really, I am so glad that you did not give us an Oscar, it would have been too hard not to punch you in the mouth #idiot.”

The problem is that the Academy has to figure not only how to play inside and outside the room, but to both young and mature audiences without alienating their core fanbase, which is older–the same demo that made all those nominated movies into hits. They would do well to remember that having hit movies in contention builds Oscar audiences more than do the hosts.

A sampling of reviews of the 85th Oscars and MacFarlane’s hosting is below:


“This has been quite a skittish and indecisive Oscar season, and fittingly it all culminated in quite a skittish and indecisive Oscar ceremony that seemed to spread the riches and threw in a few curveballs along the way.”


“Here’s to the losers,” Oscars Seth MacFarlane sang in a closing number with singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth, an ode to nominees going home empty-handed after the three-and-a-half Academy Awards ceremony concluded on Sunday evening. Like so much of the night, it was not particularly funny, a bit awkward and, as music, underwhelming.

New York Post:

“MacFarlane was surprisingly calm and self-assured – considering that the Academy likes to say (unsubstantiated by the way) that a billion people watch the show. But all that calmness and self assuredness came off as annoying and even boring to the Twittering masses last night. Why? Probably because the show itself is now a boring and controlled fashion show punctuated by awards and horrible song-and-dance routines, so the host has to knock it out of the park to keep it interesting.”

Los Angeles Times:

“Well, that didn’t work. Despite the valiant efforts of Adele, Barbra Streisand and a surprisingly witty Daniel Day-Lewis, not to mention a last-minute surprise appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama as co-presenter of the best picture award, touted as the first Oscar telecast with a theme — a tribute to musical Hollywood — was long, self-indulgent and dull even by the show’s time-honored dull-defining standards.”


“A monologue that ran over 15 minutes — setting the stage for a show that ended more than a half hour past its allotted time — and was largely about the persona of the host and not the movies was not an auspicious start to a frequently messy, but occasionally surprising and/or entertaining evening. MacFarlane had some funny moments here and there (I actually liked the sock puppet gag, and thought his variation on the tired old “this next presenter needs no introduction” was clever, to name two), but he missed way more than he hit.”

New York Times:

“The hedged-bets, have-it-all-ways ceremony made Sunday night’s one of the longer and most self-conscious Oscars imaginable. Even the music played to expel overly loquacious winners was arch: the theme of ‘Jaws.’ But it wasn’t the acceptance speeches that prolonged the night; there were too many stars doing fatuous presentations — even Melissa McCarthy wasn’t funny.”

The New Yorker:

“As I watched the broadcast, I was bewildered by the seemingly oblivious indulgence in mind-numbing pageantry—but, in retrospect, I see it as a way (likely unconsciously motivated) of throwing up a screen of razzle-dazzle that distracts from the ideological hard core and makes the point of the evening appear to be nothing more than splashy, even raucous, entertainment,..I’ve long thought that the nudity of women in movies has often been used by producers as a sort of ugly rite of passage, a public refraction of the casting couch—but, rather than lampooning the industry potentates who pay for it and market it or, for that matter, the male voyeurism that they serve or the societal sexism that underlies the practice, MacFarlane seemed to be mocking and embarrassing the actresses themselves.”

The New Yorker:

“There are many variations on misogyny, and MacFarlane by no means confined himself to a single one.  “Django Unchained,” he said, was “the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who has been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.” Relationships are complicated, and it can take a woman more than one attempt to leave an abuser. But if any woman who goes back is told that she has forfeited sympathy and can be written off with mockery—that the whole thing is now an amusing spectacle—then we’ll end up with more dead women. There are surely better things to joke about. Instead, we got a borderline anti-Semitic Teddy bear asking where the post-Oscars orgy would be. The answer was Jack Nicholson’s house; maybe not the same Jack Nicholson house where Roman Polanski raped a girl, but still, not funny,..What the women actually showed during the evening was that they worked a lot harder, and a lot smarter, than Seth MacFarlane.”


“Seth MacFarlane made a whole bunch of sexist, reductive jokes at the Oscars last night. It’s frustrating enough to know that 77 percent of Academy voters are male. Or to watch 30 men and 9 women collect awards last night. But MacFarlane’s boob song, the needless sexualization of a little girl, and the relentless commentary about how women look reinforced, over and over, that women somehow don’t belong. They matter only insofar as they are beautiful or naked, or preferably both. This wasn’t an awards ceremony so much as a black-tie celebration of the straight white male gaze,..I dream of someday watching women win all the non-performance categories, of women making as many films as men do, of women and men being nominated for a comparable number of awards. There are a lot of reasons why that day is far, far in the future. But I’ll tell you what’s not helping: the biggest night in film being dedicated to alienating, excluding, and debasing women. Actual gender equality is a ways away, but I’d settle for one four-hour ceremony where women aren’t being actively degraded.”


“The mess wasn’t entirely MacFarlane’s fault, though his stint fell so flat that when Ben Affleck came up to present an award, the actor/director made a wince-inducing crack about how maybe the host could still turn things around. MacFarlane’s fratty humor relies on rapid churn, shock value and committed juvenilia, which made it a particularly odd fit for the event,..MacFarlane felt like the visiting creepy uncle who interrupts Thanksgiving dinner to tell obnoxious ethnic jokes no one finds funny, then spends the rest of the night hitting on his niece’s high school-aged friend.”


“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.”

The Carpetbagger:

“The debate raging loudest over Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar performance is whether it was unabashedly misogynistic or just pleasingly retrograde, like an old Playboy cartoon come to life,..many of the night’s most memorable moments – Adele, Shirley Bassey, Jennifer Hudson and Barbra Streisand performing; Quvenzhané Wallis’s natural self-confidence; anything with Jennifer Lawrence – involved women being unabashedly themselves, showing off their talents and the dedication and effort it took for them to achieve success. (And yes, they looked good doing it.)

“When the big reveal of the program is an appearance by Michelle Obama celebrating the diversity of cultural achievement, maybe it’s best to rethink the jokes about co-eds. Or at least make them funny.”


“And while the musical opener “We Saw Your Boobs” has been called immature (true) and sexist (also true) — it wasn’t just a harmless roundup of spicy movie scenes. Four of the films MacFarlane crooned about featured nudity during or immediately following violent depictions of rape and sexual assault, stripped of their context and played for laughs. Scarlett Johansson found herself on the list because of a real-life violation: Her nude photos were stolen from her phone and leaked online.

“Oh, your privacy was invaded and your breasts were splashed across the Internet against your will? That is hilarious!


“I am tired of trying to have an intellectual discussion about dog-whistle sexism in a culture where prominent politicians are still trying to grasp what rape is, and in a world where little girls are shot in the head because they want to go to school.” 

”What are you supposed to do when someone asks you to “prove” that feminism isn’t a massive conspiracy theory in a country where we’ve only had 39 female senators in the nation’s entire history, and 20 of them are serving right now? What kind of a stupid fucking question is that?”

More: 9 Sexist Things That Happened at the Oscars, MacFarlane’s seven worst jokes, Will He Host Again?

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Awards and tagged , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox