Advertisement ..............................................................................................................................................................
American Dad Interview

Advertisement ................

Seth MacFarlane, American Dad Interview

By Troy Rogers
"Stan Smith is the quintessential post 9/11 paranoid American, who believes everything he hears, and with zero critical thinking, everything is a knee-jerk, angry reaction."

Advertisement ...................................................

When you think of top-notch animation on TV, there are only a select few names that are worthy of your brain power. At the top of our list is Seth MacFarlane, and for good reason since he's given fans two of the most hilarious animated shows on the air in Family Guy and American Dad. With Family Guy currently in its sixth season and American Dad making its sophomore debut on DVD, Seth is enjoying life as he takes his animated creations to new heights. To celebrate the DVD release of American Dad: Volume 2 we caught up with Seth to pick his brain on the Bush administration, the character of Stan Smith, the upcoming Star Wars episode of Family Guy, and his recent work on Robot Chicken.

UGO: Given the success of American Dad, you must be really thankful for the Bush administration.

SETH MACFARLANE: I don't know if thankful is the right word. It serves the show well, but I would trade it all in a second to not have that bonehead in office. It's made for some dark ages that have served comedy well.

UGO: How would American Dad have been different during the Clinton administration?

SETH: It probably wouldn't have existed. American Dad probably would not have existed if progress had continued to move forward instead of backward. Stan Smith is the quintessential post 9/11 paranoid American, who believes everything he hears, and with zero critical thinking, everything is a knee-jerk, angry reaction.

UGO: Do you still have trouble doing Stan's voice?

SETH: Yeah, that's still the case . When I do Stan Smith I just get unbelievably winded. After a full day of it, I'm just completely annihilated.

UGO: Given the lengthy production time of American Dad, how hard is it to stay relevant and topical so many months later?

SETH: There's a certain degree of relevance that we try to not go beyond. All in the Family is always a good reference, because that was a show that was very much of its time and very relevant to the early to mid-70s. But the stories were kept general enough that in re-runs it still works wonderfully. A lot of the issues they discussed and wrote episodes about were general enough that they still apply today. With American Dad, I think that, hopefully, if we're doing our job right, that the issues are kept specific. But at the same time, not so specific that it doesn't feel dated two weeks after the episode airs.

UGO: You've obviously had to respond a lot to the South Park parody of Family Guy. I spoke to Mike Barker last year for American Dad, and he didn't seem too pleased about it. What are your thoughts?

SETH: The way I look at it is that if you're going to dish it out as much as we do; I mean, Jesus Christ, you have to be able to take it. I would be a huge hypocrite if I [couldn't]. I was astonished at the amount of time they devoted to talking about Family Guy. They devoted two whole half hours of their airtime to talk about Family Guy, and to me I don't see how that can be a bad thing. It's also what the animated shows do and I don't know what their actual take is. The Simpsons have made fun of us, but I know a lot of the guys on The Simpsons and I know Matt Groening. No matter how scathing the gag is, I just take it as a gag, because they're all such nice guys. I don't know Trey [Parker] and Matt [Stone], so I don't really know. I only know what everyone else knows from what we've all read in interviews. There's definitely a lot of anger that comes through, but I don't know if that's a put on or if they're actually pissed off guys.

It was an interesting thing that they latched on to. They really don't like the cut-aways, so it's just a taste thing. To me, I look at the cut-aways as animated, one frame Far Side panels. They're just pure jokes. When you're in a cut-away, you don't have to service any kind of f**king sitcom story, which is nice because all of the sitcom stories have been done. It's just a matter of finding ways to tell them differently. I will say that they are the hardest things in the world to write, because several times in an episode you have to come up with a completely new premise and execute it with a twist in some kind of funny way, and it's hard and time consuming. When I look at Robot Chicken and I see those little pops that they do, it astonishes me at how good those things are because it's one thing to write something that's long and wordy and have it be funny. But to do quick pops that are smart and funny, which is what we try to do with those cut-aways, there's nothing harder. It's so quick that what you are giving them has to be gold.

UGO: On the Family Guy front, you're devoting a full episode to Star Wars called Blue Harvest. Can you fill us in on what fans can expect or get excited about?

SETH: Yeah, that's our Star Wars episode and Lucasfilm has been just great to work with in every way on this. We've shown them the first color footage and they really responded to it. It's very rare in that most of the time companies will have a tight, mindless grip on their properties and this is something that is very much, in many ways, a comedy love letter. Lucasfilm saw it for what it was and said that they would be willing to allow us to do this. The premise is basically the story of Star Wars as told by Peter Griffin and we try to stay true to a lot of those subtle moments that the fans know so well; sometimes right down to the inflection to the way a piece of dialogue is delivered. The Star Wars characters are all played by members of the Family Guy cast, so you have Chris as Luke Skywalker, Peter as Han Solo, and so on. Visually, it's going to be very impressive. We did a lot of computer animation for this episode and it turned out wonderfully. The whole thing is an hour long and it was just a labor of love. I think the fans will hopefully be sh**ting themselves.

UGO: Was there anything in the galaxy that was off limits?

SETH: No, we weren't really given any guidelines. Obviously, if something is so raunchy as to be flat out degrading to one of their characters, I can imagine that would be a problem. They were very sensitive to protecting their brand and franchise, while at the same time allowing Family Guy to be what it is. It displays an extraordinary amount of creativity for a legal department that I frankly have not seen anywhere else.

UGO: What can fans expect from your stint on Robot Chicken?

SETH: I actually saw the first cut of their Star Wars episode and it's absolutely hilarious. It's just so funny and so smart, and very different from what we did. Seth Green and I were doing this at the same time and neither of us said it, but I'm sure we were both thinking, "Oh sh*t, what if we're doing the exact same show?" But I watched a cut of it and it's very different from what we are doing, and just unbelievably funny. Robot Chicken is a hilarious, brilliant show. Any time I'm asked to do it, I jump out of my chair and say yes.

UGO: Is The Winner still on the air or is it gone for good? I noticed Fox still has the show on its website?

SETH: I don't know. I'm expecting to find out next week. Fox is very unpredictable and I have no idea. I've got no inkling from them at all as to which way they're leaning. Right now, it could go either way. It would be disappointing if it got cancelled because it was only on for six episodes. I didn't write that show or create it. The only thing I did was produce it, but I think I have a little bit of objectivity. Ricky Blitt wrote a hilarious unbelievably original script and it would be a shame to see it gone after six episodes when there's so much out there that gets picked up season after season that's so God awful.

Miss Howard TV 08

Miss Howard TV 08

24 Showguide

24 Showguide

Name That Movie

Name That Movie

Lost Trivia

Lost Trivia Challenge

UGO Video Blog

UGO Video Blog

Foxy Fans

Foxy Fans Match Game