Seth MacFarlane on Family Guy #100

Family Guy hits 100 and Seth MacFarlane spills the beans.

craveonlineby craveonline

Seth MacFarlane on Family Guy #100

If you think Family Guy is funny on the air, imagine hearing a live reading of an episode. To celebrate their upcoming 100th episode, the Family Guy cast read “Stewie Kills Lois,” doing all the voices (with fill-ins for Chris Griffin and Joe the neighbor). All the flashbacks and cutaways played as well, if not even better, without the visual aids. Just hearing someone describe a Lake House reference, douchebags with guitars, Harrison Ford looking for his family, or a live action Rob Lowe and James Woods speaks for itself. And yes, Stewie really does kill Lois and it ends with a cliffhanger, to be continued. We caught up with Seth Macfarlane after the reading to get the scoop on episode 100 and the season premiere, an entire Star Wars episode. 

CraveOnline: Were you as frustrated by The Lake House as the rest of us?

Seth MacFarlane: Yeah, I guess so. I can’t believe I’m answering this question. Anything having to do with time travel, I’m interested in. So I went to see the movie and yeah, you kind of know that he’s the guy who gets hit within the first ten minutes.

CraveOnline: And Harrison Ford looking for his family?

Seth MacFarlane:  That is an invention of Mr. John Veiner who did the voice.

CraveOnline: And douchbags with guitars?

Seth MacFarlane:  Also John Veiner.

CraveOnline: Do you see Lake House and come in ready to attack it, or does someone just pitch it?

Seth MacFarlane:  The gag has to have an angle to it. It has to have some sort of point of view. It can’t just be saying, “This movie sucks” although I think we did that with Road Hogs. That was all that gag was.

CraveOnline: Do you sit around a table, or start with a target, or start with a gag?

Seth MacFarlane: It can go both ways. It’s literally just a spit balling kind of thing. Everyone’s tossing ideas around. In that instance, that was done in what we call a gag room. When the main writer’s room is working on the body of a script, we usually have two gag rooms going at once because there are so many cutaways and so many jokes. They’re assigned to write the last line of a scene which obviously is called a scene blow and has to be really funny, or a cutaway gag or something so that we can actually get the show done on time.

CraveOnline: The episode flashes forward one year after Lois’s death, so will we see Stewie aging?

Seth MacFarlane:  No.

CraveOnline: Is it all a dream?

Seth MacFarlane: I can safely say it is not a dream. We do resolve it in a satisfying way. I don’t know, maybe it’s not. No, there’s probably going to be a lot of people who are pissed.

CraveOnline: After all these years, gunning her down seems like the least outrageous way he’s tried to off her.

Seth MacFarlane:  I don’t know, well, Captain Kirk fell off a bridge.

CraveOnline: You specified the music Clocks by Coldplay. Do you have the rights to that?

Seth MacFarlane:  We do. It’s 50/50. Sometimes we get the rights to a song. Sometimes we don’t.

CraveOnline: Were you surprised how the flashbacks play in a table read?

Seth MacFarlane:  For some reason, sometimes hearing something read, the dryness of a stage direction is funnier than seeing it.

CraveOnline: Do you thrive on the groans of people getting offended in the audience?

Seth MacFarlane: Not really. I’m not angling for that. If anything, it’s kind of annoying. My reaction oftentimes is, “Come on, guys. Lighten up. It gets way worse than this. Really? You’re really that offended? I’m not buying it.”

CraveOnline: They said this is not the final air version and you did use F words and stuff. But what is going to be cut for air?

Seth MacFarlane:  Without going into specifics, there is some stuff in there that you won’t see on TV and other stuff that you will. A lot of it is, for example, pleasuring a man with a socked foot will probably not make it to Fox. It’ll make it to the DVD and it’ll probably make it to Adult Swim.

CraveOnline: An entire Star Wars episode, how haven’t you exhausted Star Wars pool for jokes?

Seth MacFarlane: That’s a good question. Somehow we haven’t. There’s so much to draw from and there are so many different takes on the same scenario. There’s always room for more Star Wars.

CraveOnline: How did you construct an hour long plot in that territory?

Seth MacFarlane: Well, the plot is basically the movie. The plot is Star Wars. As far as story breaking, we didn’t really have to do anything. Peter is playing Han Solo. Lois is Princess Leia. Stewie of course is Darth Vader. So we cast those characters in the parts of the movies.

CraveOnline: Are there cutaway jokes?

Seth MacFarlane: Not really. Once we get into the Star Wars story in the show, that’s where we stay.

CraveOnline: How specific did you get for the fanboys out there?

Seth MacFarlane: As specific as we can possibly go without just being utterly indecipherable to people who don’t know the movie. Right down to specific line readings. Aunt Beru shouting, “Luke? Luuuke?” It really gets as specific as vocal cadences.

CraveOnline: Can you put those characters in inappropriate situations?

Seth MacFarlane: You can to an extent. We’re walking a line because Lucas has a certain brand as well that they want to preserve, but I will say that they were unbelievably easy to work with and they really made it possible for us to do the show and do Star Wars but at the same time keep enough of Family Guy to have it feel like our show.

CraveOnline: Did you see Robot Chicken’s Star Wars episode?

Seth MacFarlane:  They did one. Theirs aired and it was completely different. It was a half hour. It was sketches like the series is. It was a very different animal.

CraveOnline: Is this the year of the Star Wars spoofs?

Seth MacFarlane: I guess it is. You deal with a lot of legal departments for a lot of companies that are very myopic and very stuffy. They’d rather have something collect dust on a shelf than have it used in a way that is not entirely pure. Then you have Lucas which really doesn’t need the publicity. Everybody knows and loves Star Wars but they turn around and allow us to do this parody take on it. They’re probably the most progressive company out there that I’ve dealt with.

CraveOnline: When did Star Wars become an obsession for you?

Seth MacFarlane: It’s never really an obsession. It’s just one of those things that you can’t really avoid. It’s like The Sound of Music or The Wizard of Oz. There’s no way to avoid knowing that thing by heart.

CraveOnline: My favorite was the storm troopers eating TV dinners?

Seth MacFarlane:  Well, there’s a lot more storm trooper gags.

CraveOnline: What other upcoming episodes should we look forward to?

Seth MacFarlane:  Well, we have the 100th episode, Stewie Kills Lois. We have an episode where Peter finds out he is not technically an American citizen, that he’s actually from Mexico.We have a major development in the Brian/Lois relationship. We are trying to, without changing the characters too much, we are trying to evolve the series and not just do the same things over and over. We’re trying to allow them to grow.

CraveOnline: How has Stewie grown for example?

Seth MacFarlane:  Well, with Stewie, a good example is that Stewie used to be the guy who just wanted to take over the world and since then we’ve delved into the reasons that he might want to take over the world and why he’s so angry. Some of it may have to do with his sexual confusion.

CraveOnline: There were two gay jokes in the 100th. Isn’t that a lot for one episode?

Seth MacFarlane: Oh, I don’t think so.

CraveOnline: What are your favorite episodes?

Seth MacFarlane: Well, there’s [PTV] which is probably at the top of my list. Road to Rhode Island is still a favorite. Peter’s Two Dads turned out great and then the Airport episode we did recently I also liked.

CraveOnline: Where did Stewie come from?

Seth MacFarlane: Stewie comes from Rex Harrison who is obviously the character actor from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

CraveOnline: What about Quagmire?

Seth MacFarlane: Quagmire, when I was a kid, as is true of many kids of my generation, I was a big fan of radio dramas from the ‘30s and ‘40s. I used to be amused by the commercials and the fact that everyone was always talking so fast. Auto Light spark plugs, the best spark plugs you can buy. Quagmire kind of began as a jacked up impression of one of these 1950s’ radio pitchmen. The voice kind of went up a few notches in pitch over the course of a few years and became the Quagmire voice. The voices all come from weird places.

CraveOnline: What’s giggity?

Seth MacFarlane: A friend of mine who is a stand up comedy, by the name of Steve Marmel, used to call me and do this Jerry Lewis impression and do the geshmoigan, geflavin and all that business. Then I would do the same back to him and over the course of several phone conversations it devolved into this giggity giggity giggity, this kind of lazy Jerry Lewis sort of thing.

CraveOnline: How do you compare Family Guy to American Dad?

Seth MacFarlane: Most of my day to day work is spent on Family Guy. I co-created American Dad deliberately with two other writers who worked on Family Guy for a number of years. They run that show on a day to day basis just because it’s almost physically impossible to do one animated prime time show and get it done on time. We’ve had to push a couple airdates. It’s like doing a little movie every week.

CraveOnline: Is there actual a loving respect between you and the South Park guys?

Seth MacFarlane: It’s weird because I don’t really know those guys well personally. The Simpsons takes a lot of jabs at us but I know Matt Groening fairly well. He’s one of the nicest, most grounded class acts you’ll ever meet. I don’t know Matt and Trey but as I said, that pilot that they did was about the hardest I ever laughed.

CraveOnline: What did you think of the manatees and the idea balls?

Seth MacFarlane: Put it this way. We dish it out so much, we gotta take it, right? It was interesting. It was a funny episode start to finish. There are certain things that we admittedly do. If something is funny enough, will we step out of the story to do it? Absolutely. Who the hell watches a sitcom for the story? You watch it because you want to laugh and you watch it because you want to laugh as much as possible. It’s like Seinfeld, not that I’m comparing us to that show but they say they’re a show about nothing. In Road to Utopia, Hope and Crosby would step out of the story to do an accordion number.

CraveOnline: Did you write the commencement speech all by yourself?

Seth MacFarlane: The Harvard speech I co-wrote that with two other Family Guy writers.

CraveOnline: What do you think struck a chord that made Family Guy so popular on DVD?

Seth MacFarlane: Again, I am reluctant to compare us to any of these great shows but my favorite answer to that question, one that I think in a weird way applies, years after The Honeymooners was on, they asked Jackie Gleason why does the show endure. His answer was, “Because they were funny.” I do think that in an age where a lot of sitcoms maybe tend to be a tiny bit pretentious that people go back to something if they’re laughing at it. It really is that simple.