Nervous laughter

Oscars’ awkward ‘Jew’ jokes

Character created by host Seth MacFarlane spanks the Academy with segment about Jewish control of the film industry

The puppet star of "Ted" claimed he was Jewish at Sunday's Oscars, and co-presenter Mark Wahlberg called him an "idiot." (YouTube screenshot)
The puppet star of "Ted" claimed he was Jewish at Sunday's Oscars, and co-presenter Mark Wahlberg called him an "idiot." (YouTube screenshot)

The Jews — they run Hollywood.

That was the gist of one of Sunday’s segments at the Academy Awards, where TV writer Seth MacFarlane received decidedly mixed reviews in his first outing as host.

Hired by the Academy to add some irreverence and relative youth to the broadcast, the 39-year-old MacFarlane pushed buttons with jokes about women, gays, the Lincoln assassination and Adele’s weight.

Also stretching the boundaries of political correctness was a segment featuring the stars of “Ted,” the monster 2012 hit written by MacFarlane and starring Mark Wahlberg and a stuffed bear.

Like the characters on “Family Guy,” MacFarlane’s long-running TV cartoon, the stuffed bear’s function is to make others squirm with inappropriate, arguably hateful comments. His focus during the Oscars was on gaining acceptance in Hollywood — so he could attend an orgy after the ceremony — and his strategy was ingratiating himself to the industry’s Jews.

“You know what’s interesting? All those actors I just named are part Jewish,” the bear informed Wahlberg, after naming nominees Joaquin Phoenix, Alan Arkin and Daniel Day-Lewis. (For the record, Arkin is Jewish on both sides of his family, and Phoenix and Day-Lewis have Jewish mothers.)

“Oh, okay,” Wahlberg responded, pretending to be a bit flustered.

“What about you? You’ve got a ‘berg’ on the end of your name. Are you Jewish?” continued the bear, voiced by MacFarlane.

When Wahlberg clarified that he’s Catholic, the stuffed animal whispered, “Wrong answer. Try again.”

The segment then shifted into a series of claims by the character that he’s Jewish, including the news that he “was born Theodore Shapiro,” and that “I would like to donate money to Israel and continue to work in Hollywood forever. Thank you.”

The bear also boasted he’d receive a private plane at “the next secret synagogue meeting.”

We’ll give the bear the benefit of the doubt, and assume MacFarlane was ironically mocking, rather than perpetuating, anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish control of Hollywood. Whether that joke will be understood in other parts of the world is less than certain.

Either way, the “little club” of “bloated, overprivileged [Hollywood] Jews”  is certainly one of MacFarlane’s running themes.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Monday derided as “offensive and not remotely funny” the segment, saying it was “sad and disheartening that the awards show sought to use age-old, anti-Jewish stereotypes for laughs.”

“For the insiders at the Oscars this kind of joke is obviously not taken seriously,” the ADL said in a statement. “But when one considers the global audience of the Oscars of upwards of two billion people, including many who know little or nothing about Hollywood or the falsity of such Jewish stereotypes, there’s a much higher potential for the ‘Jews control Hollywood’ myth to be accepted as fact.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also condemned the segment.

“It is unfortunate that at a time when anti-Semitism is so prevalent throughout the world that Seth MacFarlane used the pulpit of the Oscars, before an audience of more than a billion people, to contribute to the myth that Jews own Hollywood,” the Center said in a statement. “The Oscars are transmitted to every corner of the globe, even to such places where such hateful myths are believed as fact. Every comedian is entitled to wide latitude, but no one should get a free pass for helping to promote anti-Semitism.”


Editor’s note: This report was updated on February 25 at 6 p.m. to add comments from the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed