Let’s talk about Seth MacFarlane, host of the 2013 Academy Awards. Granted, this took place several months ago, but tweets and blogs are still referencing his controversial performance of edgy and so-called sexist remarks. In all fairness to Seth, he zinged almost everyone on the planet. Critics say his jokes about sex and violence were totally inappropriate. Though what still sends people, especially women, into a tumultuous tizzy was his musical rendition about actresses who appeared topless on screen.
Seriously though, this is Seth MacFarlane. What do people expect? Anyone who knows his shtick couldn’t be surprised. As creator of “Family Guy,” “Ted” and “The Cleveland Show” to name a few, the actor, producer, comedian, screenwriter, singer and animator didn’t exactly graduate from the Miss Manners School of Etiquette.
I realize this column may provoke some of you who disagree and I understand your concern. As media commentator Steve Gray put it, “film fans get one night a year to celebrate cinema and turning it into a dorm room “who can be the biggest jerk” contest is not what the Oscars have ever been about. “Like other naysayers, he says if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continue in this direction, they’ll lose viewers.
Not so fast. Nielson reports say an estimated 40.3 million viewers tuned in to see the show which is up 1 million viewers from last year. Published reports say there were nearly 9 million tweets during the show and Facebook logged over 66 million exchanges. From MacFarlane’s nearly 4 million Twitter followers, it says there are a lot of people who still think he’s funny.
Think about it. We can’t please everyone all of the time. Entertainers are notorious for offending people.
MacFarlane is among a long list of unpopular Oscar show hosts. Last year, James Franco and Anne Hathaway got ripped for being boring. Let’s not forget comedian Chris Rock. His biting humor, foul language and insults were labeled inappropriate for Oscar night.
Why then, if you know what’s coming, would you still tune in to someone you don’t like? Last month, my husband and I saw Kathy Griffin. Most of her vocabulary contains foul words, so I was amazed when people walked out of the show because they were offended. Didn’t they know who they paid to see? Would you dine at a Mexican restaurant if you didn’t like Mexican food? Would you buy tickets to see Bill Maher if you didn’t subscribe to liberal politics?
I believe there are a few things we can learn from the grumblings of others.
As a presenter or leader, are you as brave as a Seth MacFarlane or Kathy Griffin? Even if you don’t like their humor, can you stand in front of your staff or at an important event and lay it all on the line by presenting your own point of view even if you know people won’t agree or may walk out? If you can’t, perhaps you need to tweak those leadership skills. Strong leaders stay true to themselves no matter who gives them grief.
Can you stand in front of people for hours without using slides or notes? Can you be so confident in your material that you don’t miss a beat when people don’t immediately embrace your vision? Like a good comic whose timing is impeccable, can you stay one step ahead of your audience to anticipate their reaction and ultimately take them where you want them to go?
Do you spit out a lot of data without putting it in context? Or like a seasoned comedian, are you skilled enough to use familiar every day examples that help others visualize what you’re talking about?
Practiced entertainers keep their shows fresh. No matter how successful they are, they change and update material so it’s timely and relevant. For the business person, even if your message doesn’t waver, it’s important to understand your different audiences before you deliver the punch line.
In MacFarlane’s case, perhaps he could have toned it down a bit for such a large diverse prime-time audience. Though I have a feeling, like seasoned actors or presenters, he has worked too hard to develop and perfect his very successful brand to try to be everything to everyone. After all, when he saw early criticisms claiming he bombed, he tweeted a photo of his cat along with the caption, “My cat said the show went well.”