Seth MacFarlane's Nazi gag at Oscars announcement

As the Oscar nominations were announced, the Academy Award organisers had a chance to get a preview of presenter Seth MacFarlane’s style in advance of the February 24 ceremony. They might have been excused for having a few qualms about the edgy humour of the creator of Family Guy and Ted.

After criticism that the ceremony had become bland and predictable, especially in contrast to the Golden Globes where Ricky Gervais has been particularly abrasive about celebrities, the choice of MacFarlane was seen as a bold attempt to pull in a younger audience. Family Guy and Ted are both notorious for humour that is some distance from traditional middle American sensibilities.

As the nominations were unveiled. MacFarlane began with a few innocuous gags, albeit with a hint of his trademark spikiness. "These are adapted screenplays, keep in mind, so that means the writers just copied stuff from Microsoft Word and pasted it into Final Draft," he said.

He got into his poor taste stride when announcing the shortlist for best foreign film. "I read Amour was co-produced in Austria and Germany," he said. "The last time Austria and Germany got together and co-produced something it was Hitler, but this was much better."

That gag brought a few sharp intakes of breath. The ABC programming chief Paul Lee was asked if that was the kind of material he expected on Oscars night. "Look, I'm a huge Seth fan," Lee responded. "What he brings first is a sense of joy. He wants to be there. He brings a lot of energy to it . . . He's coming to the Oscars with a great sense of respect, but brings a really contemporary feel."

He also brings an ability to hold a show-tune very impressively. The Academy may hope he sticks to the songs and cuts back on the Nazi gags on the big night.

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