Q & A with Seth MacFarlane
(CBS News) The animated TV hit "Family Guy" is the singular creation of the multi-talented Seth MacFarlane. Busy as he is, he recently agreed to sit down with our Mo Rocca for some Questions-and-Answers:
He's a Grammy-nominated recording artist, a stand-up comedian, a voice actor . . . oh, and executive-produces THREE hit animated TV shows.
If it seems like Seth MacFarlane suffers from attention deficit disorder, it's a spectacularly high functioning form of it. He's been successful in every single one of his many endeavors.
"What makes me happy is just keeping my brain challenged and stimulated and on its toes," he said.
"When you're singing, you seem pretty happy," said Rocca.
"Yeah. That's like a vacation, though," he said.
"When's the last time you took a vacation?"
"Last time I took a vacation was probably about two years ago," he laughed. When asked to describe it, he replied, "I don't remember."
MacFarlane's been rewarded for his hard work. In 2009 he became history's highest-paid TV producer with a $100 million, three-year deal for the three series he created for Fox's primetime lineup: "American Dad," "The Cleveland Show," and the smash hit "Family Guy."
MacFarlane described it as "an animated program about a fictional Rhode Island family that uses the animation medium to satirize everything from pop culture to politics, and is really out to make you laugh with sensibilities high and low."
MacFarlane voices three of the main characters - dopey, undependable dad Peter Griffin; Brian, the Griffins' martini-loving, talking dog; and Stewie, the diabolical British-accented baby who's bent on killing his mother.
You may not get the joke. But millions of fans do.
"With your head shaped like that, how was childbirth for your mother?"
Speaking as Stewie, MacFarlen replied, "You know, the initial evacuation was rather difficult," he said.
The series is based on his college thesis project at Rhode Island School of Design. He says he was influenced by Fox's other animation juggernaut, "The Simpsons."
"That's the first sitcom that I can really remember where pop culture references were made on a daily basis. And when you or I go through our day, I mean, how many times do we reference brand names? A lot."
An episode of "Family Guy" can feel like a mash-up of pop culture, with rapid-fire references to showbiz in riffs disconnected from the plot. Characters break into song at random (in one instance, a barbershop quartet informs a man he has AIDS). The fans love the antic quality . . . critics, not so much.
And yet "Family Guy" is the most popular scripted show with men 18-24, a demographic coveted by advertisers.
But MacFarlane says that his brand of humor isn't just for the boys.
"I don't think fart jokes are the exclusive province of men," he said. "I think there are plenty of women who think that stuff's funny. My mother thought fart jokes were hilarious!"
Some of the raunchiest jokes MacFarlane ever heard, he says, came from his mother.
"There was no joke I could make that was too offensive," he said. "I can actually remember at least one time where my mother told me something that, I was like, whoa!"
"Can you repeat it?" Rocca asked. "We'll bleep out whatever we need to bleep out."
"I can't even tell you the story. Like, that's how bad it is!"
It was "anything goes" at home, but not in public . . .
"I was, maybe like, seven years old, and I said to the waitress, 'Hey, lady, can I have another Coke?'" MacFarlane recalled. "And my parents got all up in arms: 'That's so disrespectful what you just said.' And I said, 'What? Fred Flintstone calls women 'lady' all the time!'"
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