Seth MacFarlane is a comedy god. He has three successful shows on Fox. His film directorial debut, Ted, scooped up $54.1 million this weekend, the third biggest opening for an R-rated movie of all time. The film has been well-reviewed by critics (a healthy 69% Tomatometer reading) and audiences (A- on CinemaScore). The little teddy bear that fucks women with vegetables, smokes pot and says racist things has warmed its way into America's heart. It's a triumph of the talking-animal movie spirit.
Thing is, I found Ted grossly unfunny, and not because it's gross. MacFarlane's comedic rhythm of pop culture reference-slur-fart, repeat, brutally dulls the senses. There's nothing particularly sharp within his allusions — we're just supposed to laugh because we recognize the Knight Rider theme or because Hootie & the Blowfish were a band.
At the end of a date with Mila Kunis' character, Joel McHale's character farts and then says, "Finally." That is the entire joke.
When Ted almost causes a car accident, he yells out the window, "My bad, I was sending a tweet!" That is the entire joke.
As in any piece of MacFarlane media, he uses his characters as puppets to make sweeping generalizations about minorities. "Turkey burgers? Are we having homosexuals over for dinner tonight?" says Ted. Since MacFarlane is an open supporter of the gay community, he probably cancels his jabs out. Not sure what he does in his downtime to rectify lines like, "There's an Asian family living next door, but they don't have a gong or nothin' so it's not too bad," though.
I kid. These jokes will only offend the most bored of the bleeding hearts, but they're also based on such broad stereotypes that they might as well have been beamed in from the '50s. They are edgeless because they are too unspecific to contain even a glimmer of the truth. Just as his references are too specific to say anything about their sources, his generalizations are too general.
Here's how MacFarlane explained away his stereotype-based humor in a New Yorker profile a few weeks back:
We are presenting the Archie Bunker point of view and making fun of the stereotypes—not making fun of the groups. But if I'm really being honest, then maybe there's a part of me that's stuck in high school and we're laughing because we're not supposed to. I don't know the psychology. At the core, I know none of us gives a shit... Some people say that stereotypes exist for a reason. I'm in no way qualified to make that determination. But I'm sitting in a room with a writing staff that is in large part Jewish, and those are the guys that are pitching the jokes.
Soooo, it's bigotry that's funny oh wait no, it's the funny that's funny because we're all in high school and also Seth MacFarlane has Jew friends. Got it? I don't. I know that comedy needs to be inherent and that is why terrifically funny things are virtually impossible to write about, but I'd love to hear an articulated defense of MacFarlane, just so I can wrap my own head around his shit. So let's talk about it below: is Seth MacFarlane funny?
[Image via Getty]