LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Outspoken comedian Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy”, will host the Oscars ceremony in February in a choice seen aimed at attracting younger viewers to the movie industry’s biggest night.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which produces the Oscars, announced the selection on Monday of first-time host MacFarlane, known for his no-holds-barred humor and cultural satire on “Family Guy”.
Oscars telecast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron said in a statement they picked MacFarlane, 38, because “his performing skills blend perfectly with our ideas for making the show entertaining and fresh,” calling him the “consummate host”.
“My thoughts upon hearing the news were, one, I will do my utmost to live up to the high standards set forth by my predecessors; and two, I hope they don’t find out I hosted the Charlie Sheen Roast,” Macfarlane said in a statement, alluding to a televised sendup of Sheen on the Comedy Central channel.
The Academy Awards, which will next take place on February 24, 2013, are the highest honors in the movie business and the hosting job is a coveted spot, held in the past by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson and Steve Martin.
The Academy has struggled in recent years to appeal to a younger audience. Rookie hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco were drafted in for the 2011 ceremony but the show became one of the least-watched Academy Awards in the past decade, drawing 37.6 million Americans, and critics slammed the young hosts.
More than 39 million Americans tuned in to watch Oscars veteran Billy Crystal take the helm this year, but some critics called the show old-fashioned.
Comedian MacFarlane rose to fame and gained a cult following as the creator of Fox’s edgy comedy animated series “Family Guy,” which follows the outrageous antics of Peter Griffin and his dysfunctional family.
MacFarlane has come under fire from watchdog groups including the Parents Television Council, who regularly feature “Family Guy” on their “worst prime-time shows for family viewing” on grounds it may include “gratuitous sex” or “obscene language”.
He made his directorial debut on the big screen this year with “Ted,” an R-rated comedy film starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, about a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed teddy bear.
“Family Guy,” which attracts a strong audience in the coveted 18-34 year old demographic, has in the past depicted former U.S. President Bill Clinton smoking marijuana and a barbershop quartet singing about AIDS, as well as mocking various religions.
The success of “Family Guy” led MacFarlane to create two animated spin-off series, “The Cleveland Show” and “American Dad”.
MacFarlane, who voices the characters of Peter, Brian and Stewie on “Family Guy,” has often embraced song and dance numbers on the animated show and has hosted “Rat Pack”-themed nights at his home in Los Angeles where he performs.
He has also performed to sold-out audiences at London’s Royal Albert Hall and New York’s Carnegie Hall, and earned two Grammy nominations for his debut 2011 album, “Music is Better Than Words”.
Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and Andrew Hay