Pete Hammond

Seth MacFarlane was approached to host the 85th Oscars fairly recently, although he says he can’t remember if it was before or after his successful hosting gig on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on September 15. It was “roughly around the same time”, he tells Deadline in a conference call with Oscar show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron this morning just after the Academy’s announcement.

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The producers had “promised” the Academy they would name a host by the end of September, and they met the deadline. “He was great on SNL, he’s an amazing, amazing host and we’re well aware of the multi-faceted Seth. It has been a great year for him, so why not have him be considered. I think what we wanted was the consummate host, whatever came along with that package and we think Seth is that person,” said Meron. Zadan adds they had been talking about MacFarlane for a long time and wanted to work with him one day. They informed the Academy of their idea and started to get everyone on board even from the moment they first got the Oscar job. “The thing that makes us most excited about Seth is that in order for us to produce a show that is versatile and has great entertainment value, the more diverse the host is the better the show”, Zadan says. “The fact is Seth does everything. He does comedy, he sings, he dances, he’s a great comic writer; I could go on and on. He just does so many things so well, he gives us an embarrassment of riches to create a show that is really entertaining”.

As for MacFarlane, he’s “ecstatic. I was surprised. I have done a fair amount of hosting in the past but nothing of this magnitude. I was very, very pleasantly surprised.” He says the timing is great since Tedwhich he wrote and directed and voiced the title character — has been  a much bigger hit than anyone imagined and it gives him an added foothold in the motion picture business, rather than someone primarily just known for TV work.

So what kind of plans does he have for the show? “It’s so early on, it’s hard to give a specific answer to that”, MacFarlane says. “It is the Academy Awards so I think you can expect anything. It’s the Oscars so you always want a musical component and you want an injection of comedy and so I think it will be a mix of many elements”. He added that he doesn’t plan to copy other hosts and specifically mentions Johnny Carson but says he “would never dare to try and emulate him, he’s my favorite host”.

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MacFarlane is not afraid of the live aspects of the show either, even after his gaffe last week at the Emmys when as a presenter he went to the wrong mike and couldn’t be heard, but he quickly made a joke of it: “I have done a lot of live gigs over the past several years, many with a hosting component and you sort of learn to just kind of roll with it and if something comes up that is kind of a surprise you just learn to turn lemons into lemonade and make a joke, and generally the crowd is with you.”

MacFarlane is aware the audience for the Oscars is different than other gigs and in fact many in the room are extremely nervous, but he says the key is to entertain that live audience and if they enjoy it, so will the TV audience. But just how edgy will a guy known for pushing boundaries go with his humor? “I think it’s  important to adapt to the production at hand. I wouldn’t do the show the same way I would do a roast and vice versa”, he says. “The trick is really going to be to make it as funny as I can and true to what I do but at the same time respectfully adapting the tone for this event which is a very different event than I have been a part of in the past. What that tone is has yet to be determined but it is something I am going to keep a watchful eye on”.

As for the writing staff who will help with that tone, producers have not had creative meetings to talk about hiring. But will there be a shakeup from past shows that may not have worked as well as hoped? “You said it, we didn’t,” Zadan says. “We are talking about writers that we admire or are excited about, that we want to work with. There are writers that Seth works with that he’s excited about. When we put the writers list together I am sure it will be a conglomeration of people we all want but it is hard to say since Seth has had the job for exactly one day. That process will hopefully start next week. We’ll certainly look at all options.”

Even though MacFarlane’s shows, Family Guy and American Dad!, are strongly associated with Fox, the producers said that was no problem for anyone including ABC, the network that broadcasts the Oscars, because as a performer MacFarlane is not directly associated with any one network.

Does the MacFarlane move now mean we will see Ted as a presenter on the show? “He costs too much money. That’s a $6 millon dollar presenter. And the perks are outrageous,” the producers said. I am still betting they find a way to work the foul-mouthed teddy bear into the year’s biggest show.

As for his own fondest memories of past Oscar shows, MacFarlane had to think about the question. “It’s been on and off over the years. I have seen many more Oscar shows than I have missed. I have missed a few for various reasons. But I don’t know. Odd bits like Juliette Lewis’ cornrows pop up. Why that’s the first thing that comes to mind I don’t know but that is the most honest answer I can give you.”

Oscar expert or not, MacFarlane, who is widely known for his work in animation, already seems to have his confidence level up about the job after researching it. “I am looking at this list of past hosts and it says Donald Duck hosted one year. It says he shared hosting duties with somebody — doesn’t say what year. I think we are gonna be just  fine,” he laughs.

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