We’re not the best fricking show on TV.... | Seth McFarlane on American Dad and Family Guy

We’re not the best fricking show on TV....

Seth McFarlane on American Dad and Family Guy

Does American Dad owe everything to George W. Bush?

American Dad emerged from our anger towards the Bush administration during the previous election. Family Guy was dead at the time, so I got together with the other writers and we were all so pissed off that it looked like he was going to win again, so we thought, ‘Let’s channel all this rage into something creative’, and American Dad came out of that. Stan very much epitomises that extreme post 9/11 conservative Republicanism, who just sees enemies wherever he looks.

Who taught you your first shit joke?

A lot of it came from my parents. My parents watch the show every week and they tell me they laugh their asses off. They both have unbelievably edgy senses of humour. I know people half their age who don’t have the spine to appreciate the jokes that they do.

Do you have to cut jokes very often?

Sometimes it’s like, ‘There’s already a Hitler joke in act one, we can’t use it.’

How did you decide upon a talking fish?

Klaus was actually a character out of an animated feature I was pitching at one point, and I had this drawing of a fish, in a glass, that could move around, with its tail sticking over the outside of the glass, and it could drag itself around like it was in a wheelchair. It just seemed like a funny visual.

Your sister voices your daughter. That must result in a weird family dynamic?

[Laughs] It's a little odd. Yeah, she did…when we were doing our initial 12-minute presentation for American Dad my sister did the voice of the daughter, and we presented it to the network, and when they picked up the series, we actually re-cast her with another actress. The network saw the pilot and said,’Listen, we actually prefer your sister in that role. Would you be OK with having her do that?’ And I said, ‘Well, obviously! That's fine!’ It was a kind of nice, very honest way for her to get that role. If anything, it was working against her that we're related.

Is there anything of you in Family Guy’s Quagmire? Were you ever a ladies man?

No I was a nerd in school, no woman would talk to me.

Why has Family Guy never won an Emmy for best comedy?

We’re not the best fricking show on TV – there’s shows that are funnier than us – but I do think that it’s conspicuous that The Simpsons has never won. People think ‘oh it’s an animated show, we’ll put it up against the Nickelodeon shows’ and it’s just a different animal.

Who does all the Disney-bashing?

That’s the whole writing team. When I was in college I trained as an animator and I fully intended to work for Disney, and then The Simpsons had started to pick up steam and was suddenly rewriting the face of animation in so many ways and I shifted my viewpoint. With Disney there’s a million things to make fun of.

Why do the South Park guys hate you so much?

It is strange. Whenever I read an interview with those guys they do tend to just spew venom about us.

Are they jealous?

They are not happy guys, I don’t know why. I read an article recently where they were just spewing venom at the writing staff. It’s one thing for those guys to take a shot at me, but when they start crapping on my people who are not making the millions and are working very hard… it would be like me taking a shot at a staff writer on Two and a Half Men. It would make me a bully.

The Simpsons has taken the piss out of Family Guy too.

Matt Groening is a friend of mine and one of the sweetest guys you’ve ever met. That show has made fun of us in the past and we have a very close relationship with a lot of people there. I don’t know what it is with South Park. Who knows, but we try not to get into that.

What are the hardest bits to write?

Those cutaways, flashbacks and whatnot, despite what [Trey] Parker and [Matt] Stone say. It’s like writing a one-frame comic strip every day. I used to read interviews with Gary Larson and he used to rack his brains every day just for that one panel. It’s a lot harder to set up a scenario and pay it off in a big way in such as short space of time.

Have you got something against moustaches?

They’re a little gay… I don’t know, there’s something inherently funny about somebody who aggressively has a fucking moustache. A whole moustache these days without a beard, it’s like ‘wow, you can still do that?’ And apparently it’s still OK. You see guys with moustaches walking around, and to me that’s hilarious.

You’re playing a bear in The Cleveland Show, the spin-off from Family Guy. Why?

We just thought it was funny. It really is that simple. It’s that old Hanna Barbera thing, like what makes this something that couldn’t be live action? I always feel like it is important to have that one element, and we didn’t want to do another talking pet or an alien, so we came up with this idea of a family living up the street who happened to be bears.

Where’s the accent from?

I don’t know. Ariana Huffington does the voice of his wife, so I just try and match that.

How do you choose the accent for other odd animal characters like the fish in American Dad?

Klaus was originally supposed to be French, but then I remembered that Dee Bradley Baker had come in to do some animal sounds for us on Family Guy, and warmed up in the booth with this aggressive, but slightly gay German voice, and I made a note of that. I had to do something with it, it made me laugh!

Here are some clips from the fourth series:

Published: 23 Apr 2009

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