George Graham

“Billion People” Treated to Sick (and Sickening?) Jokes

I thought I had a sense of humor – until last night. That travesty Seth MacFarlane (above, left) hosted left me wondering whether I’ve lived too long.

Browsing the pay channels on Direct TV, I’ve noticed that “humor” has changed since I was young. I used to think “comedy” in a movie title’s description meant something funny – or at least lighthearted. But far too often I find myself clicking away from some “comedy” because something that someone did or said made me sick to my stomach.

I didn’t click away from the Oscars last night because Sandra was watching it with me and she is a lifelong movie lover.  But she wasn’t laughing either. Indeed, by the end of the endless chiaroscuro, she was off in dreamland. I hope her dreams were more entertaining than the “jokes” told by MacFarlane and his tasteless crew.

The evening started badly as gushing women with hand-held microphones pretended to “just looove” a parade of celebrities – as well as the celebrities’  outfits, hairdos… and whatever.

But I can’t honestly complain about that. It’s what you expect when you tune in to a “Red Carpet” program.

It’s the show itself that I take issue with.

According to MacFarlane, a billion people were watching this year’s Academy Awards, and I suppose some of them enjoyed the relentless “humor.”

I know some didn’t. Twitter lit up with complaints during the show. And on this morning, critic Andrew O’Hehir summed up the event as “dreary, desperate and insincere.”  He lamented “the terrible musical numbers, the doomed attempts to seem hip and relevant, the amazing empty stretches in the middle of the evening occupied only by technical awards no one outside the film industry understands and commercials for ‘financial products’.”

That’s not what turned me off, however. I’ve watched a lot of Academy Awards in my long life, and I’ve come to expect all of the above. I can even tolerate the gimmickry exemplified by William Shatner’s interruption and the First Lady’s surprise cameo.

What I could not stand was the off-color – make that sick – humor.

I don’t laugh at  jokes about domestic violence and Lincoln’s assassination. I cringe.

I also cringed at the “We Saw Your Boobs” song. And, obviously, so did the actresses it lampooned.  The camera cut away to their faces during the number and they did not look amused.

Some people laughed, though.  O’Hehir said he thought it was funny… “juvenile and sexist, yes, but kind of funny.”

But O’Hehir, too, was “eventually” turned off. Here’s how he put it:

Eventually it dawned on me that all this warmed-over and self-indulgent postmodernism didn’t have anything to do with giving awards to people who make movies, and that MacFarlane was just going to keep telling increasingly distasteful fat-chick jokes and John Wilkes Booth jokes until it was time to segue into “Why is this show so long?” jokes. Because the show has to be unbearably long – like “Ring of the Nibelung” on OxyContin long — to get in all the commercials, and because even though this was a really good year for movies there was, as usual, no actual drama left in the Oscar race. And because Hollywood is consumed by fear and panic about its future and basically hates all of us, although not for the reasons the right-wingers think.

OK so I don’t get a lot of “inside” jokes any more. I am not in the loop. And I admit it. I still think Bob Hope was funny. I think Jackie Gleason was funny. I think Danny Thomas was funny. I think Eddie Murphy is funny. I think Richard Prior was funny (he and Gene Wilder were hilarious in “See No Evil, Hear No Evil”). I am even “hip” enough to think Lenny Bruce was funny…

But the humor in last night’s Academy Awards was so crass that when  Jennifer Lawrence did a prat fall on her way to accepting the best-actress award, I thought it might be part of the show.

I don’t watch the “Family Guy”  TV series, which MacFarlane is famous for creating. New York Times “culture reporter” Dave Itzkoff called that show “bawdy and irreverent,” and I imagine that’s what the Academy Awards show producers were shooting for.

I suppose Ted, the talking teddy bear (above with “Ted” star Mark Wahlberg), begging to be invited to an orgy after the awards could be classified as “bawdy and irreverrent.”  But it seemed awkward to me.

As for the teddy bear’s anti-Jewish rant … well it’s nice to know that Hollywood can laugh at itself, but who in this day and age still makes fun of Jewish noses?

I think it’s time to give ethnic jokes a rest.  When I was a boy, it was the Irish who got laughed at, then came the Polish jokes, and the Newfoundland (in Canada, anyway) jokes and the Pakistani jokes… and on and on and on…

Yes, I’ll probably watch the Oscars next year. And the next. And as long as I’m around. And I expect I will be just as curdmudgeonly then, too.

Click here for the critique.

Click here for Twitter comments.

Click here for this year’s winners.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for