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Interview: Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane talks about The Cleveland Show and their next special.

Interview: Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane is always good for a laugh. Whether he’s writing episodes of Family Guy, providing the voices or just answering questions in the press, he’ll always bring a controversial touch. The new season of Family Guy is underway and its spinoff, The Cleveland Show, is due on the air in January. Plus they have another long awaited special in the works.


Crave Online: What’s the status of your Empire Strikes Back spoof?

Seth MacFarlane:   We just had our animatic screening. We are shipping it off to be animated and I don’t know when it’s supposed to air but it’s coming up soon. There was some talk at some point that it would be released on DVD first and then be aired. I don’t know if that’s happening. It may air first but it’s basically done. It just has to be animated but all the writing is done, the animatic is finished.

Crave Online: Is there anything you are afraid to joke about?


Seth MacFarlane:   If something is a recent tragedy, like something that has happened in the last six months we will generally steer clear of it. You sort of develop a sixth sense about it. We are treading into the territory of jokes about 9/11 believe it or not.
 
Crave Online: Do you think audiences need time then?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   Yeah, in some cases. In some cases more time has passed.
 
Crave Online: Is there anything you feel a bit dirty about?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   No, and I credit the folks at Fox standards for that.
 
Crave Online: Do you find it weird that women have crushes on Brian? 

Seth MacFarlane:   Yes, that is sick and disgusting. They should be ashamed of themselves. We sort of think of Brian as a person and when the network gives us notes about things like, “No, no Brian can’t do this it is too disgusting.” And our sponsors go, “No wait a minute he’s an individual he should have the same rights.” We start to get indignant about it. He’s a dog, yeah.

Crave Online: When did you guys make the decision to take Stewie from homicidal maniac to gay little song boy?

Seth MacFarlane:   It wasn’t a conscious decision. Characters evolve in certain ways and we found that doing the take over the world thing every week was getting played out and was starting to feel a little dated. It was weirdly feeling a little ‘90s and believe me, if we were still doing that the show would be on its last legs. I only half jokingly go by the guideline that if it is something that might possibly ruin the show, it is a story we should probably do.

Crave Online: Guillermo del Toro was like a giggly fanboy talking about you in Hellboy II. Is that a mutual admiration you have for each other?

Seth MacFarlane:   He had just done Pan’s Labyrinth when he started doing Hellboy and he was so impressive to me. He knew exactly what he wanted. He had a very clear idea of how he wanted that character to sound and to appear, but it was exciting because after having been on the other side of the record booth I know that it is vitally important to have some idea of what you want and not just be throwing things against the wall. He knew exactly what he wanted. It was clear it was an absolute joy to work with him. In a weird way it lent me some credibility beyond Family Guy.

Crave Online: He didn’t think you would want to do it, something about you having your own franchise and not needing to do it.

Seth MacFarlane:   I do stuff if it sounds cool and if it sounds cool and its somebody I want to work with.
 
Crave Online: Were you a fan of the first Hellboy?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   Ironically I had not seen the first Hellboy.
 
Crave Online: Do you share Peter’s hatred of the English?

Seth MacFarlane:   No, I love the English. My God, they brought us Benny Hill, Monty Python, The Office, Neville Chamberlain.
Crave Online: So why does Peter hate the English?

Seth MacFarlane:   Because he’s an idiot. He is a sheltered New England man.

Crave Online: The Cleveland Show is coming next year. Would you ever do a spin off with Quagmire?

Seth MacFarlane:   Probably not because he wouldn’t be able to sustain it in the same way that Cleveland could. Quagmire, one of the things that is funny about him is he’s so despicable and if you had to do an episode a week where Quagmire had to go through some revelation…
 
Crave Online: It would be like Joey?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   Yeah, but probably not as good.
 
Crave Online: Have you ever had to pull a Quagmire storyline?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   No, we haven’t. Not yet. I’m sure we will at some point.

Crave Online: A lot of your jokes go a long time and then they go longer and then past the point that anything should have stopped they keep going. How do you know how far to take something?

Seth MacFarlane:   You see it on screen. You do a test and then if it is funny you let it go and if its not, a lot of times it is just instinct. At this stage in the game you just go, “Is this likely to be funny or not?” Those jokes are easy. Those are easy jokes to do, because the seconds tick by and you don’t have to write new jokes.
 
Crave Online: When are you going to do another Vegas show?

Seth MacFarlane:   Well, we are doing another show at Carnegie Hall with an orchestra in the fall in November.

Crave Online: Do people try to get you to record their outgoing message on their voicemail?

Seth MacFarlane:   Not a whole bunch of times a day. People have come up to me in airports and asked me to do that.
 
Crave Online: Would you do the “You’ve Got AIDS” song if they asked you to?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   Sure, yeah.
 
Crave Online: Would you ever make a Family Guy movie, theatrical, not the DVD?

Seth MacFarlane:   Yes, actually we’ve been talking about it seriously. We have very unconventional ways to approach it I can’t reveal yet, but we have one extremely unexpected approach to the movie. There is no way you could do this on TV, let’s put it that way.
 
Crave Online: When do you think that would go into production?

Seth MacFarlane:   Honestly that’s a good question and I was about to talk out of my ass there but I don’t know. I would hope within the year that it would begin.

Crave Online: Would it be this season and then the movie and then the plot line goes on after that?

Seth MacFarlane:   The movie would have to be something that exists on its own and doesn’t interrupt the flow of the series. What we have in mind for the movies is in some ways the universe of the series and in some ways not. We don’t want to do just a long episode we want to do something that could only be done in a movie.

Crave Online: What does get cut by standards and practices?

Seth MacFarlane:   Usually it is religion based. Usually if there is a joke that has to do with Jesus or somehow pokes fun at Christianity or Judaism or Islam or what not, usually that’s a problem for them.
Crave Online: Killing babies is fine?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   I’m an atheist so I don’t give a sh*t.
 
Crave Online: Are you planning any crossover episodes with The Simpsons?

Seth MacFarlane:   Like the Flintstones meet the Jetsons kind of thing? It is enough work to get our own shows done on a weekly basis. Its funny, I’m not joking when I say that Matt is a great guy and that we have developed a friendship he’s fantastic. It is certainly possible that if I asked him he might say yes. I don’t know, but the physical task of doing it would be next to impossible just because there is no time.
 
Crave Online: What about having character cameos in the movie?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   Maybe that’s a possibility.
 
Crave Online: Do you ever forget which one is your normal voice?
 

Seth MacFarlane:   No, when I’m not on the clock, I sort of instinctively leave the voices there.

Crave Online: Do you have to put on a different face for each character?

Seth MacFarlane:   It happens naturally. When I do Peter, it’s kind of like that and when I do Stewie, it’s kind of like this stretched out lip thing.
 
Crave Online: Have you ever done them wrong?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   Yeah, at a table read, yeah, absolutely.
 
Crave Online: What’s going on with The Cleveland Show and will you be involved?

Seth MacFarlane:   Rich Appel and Mike Henry are going to be at the helm of this thing, but I haven’t decided if I’m doing any voiceover on the show or not. I’m stretched so thin that my time is so limited, but I’m debating it.

Crave Online: Is there one thing that you haven’t done on Family Guy yet that you want to do?

Seth MacFarlane:   The funny thing is that when I think of something like that I immediately get on the phone with the writers and say, “We’ve got to do a story about this because we haven’t done it.” That’s hard enough to find as it is.

 
Crave Online: What else are you working on?
 

Seth MacFarlane:   Just the Google shorts that are coming out a little later this year. It is television budgeted animation made specifically for the internet and it is a ground experiment of sorts.

Crave Online: Is it Family Guy or new characters and storylines?

Seth MacFarlane:   No, it is basically like a sketch show. Each one is different. It is like animated versions of the type of things you would see in a Farside one panel.

 
Crave Online: This is internet exclusive so no censorship?

Seth MacFarlane:   Nope, it is the wild wild west. The company I am working with is MRC. They are a relatively new company that is pretty revolutionary and the whole economic model of the thing is completely untried. It is very much creator driven, creator controlled and one of the directors from Family Guy, Greg Colton, is directing the shorts. The universe, my visual style and what I like to see on screen will definitely be reflected in it. It is definitely its own thing.

Crave Online: So your role in this is creator?

Seth MacFarlane:   Creator. As with Family Guy we have several directors like you would with a live action sitcom who work on the show at any given time and they work on various episodes and each one is assigned a different episode. In this instance they are all being done by the same director.

 
Crave Online: You are doing all the voices?
 
Seth MacFarlane:   Doing a lot of voices, yes.
 
Crave Online: What are some examples of some of the sketches?

Seth MacFarlane:   There is one with the game show Name that Animal Penis. There is a bit with two ducks watching Meet the Parents and talking about how they just can’t get invested in it. It is kind of bizarre.