COLUMBIA — Seth MacFarlane, the creator of TV’s edgy animated series “Family Guy,” has been pushing the envelope of comedy since he was a boy.
“At nine, I got my first hate letter... from a local priest,” MacFarlane said in a speech at MU’s Jesse Hall on Friday night.
Growing up, he worked at his hometown newspaper drawing a comic strip. The strip that got MacFarlane into trouble depicted a man taking his first communion and asking for french fries instead.
MacFarlane got his big break after his alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design, entered one of his films into a contest that led to him being hired by Hanna Barbara, the animation studio famous for hits like “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons.” After spending several years working on popular shows for Cartoon Network, he pitched an idea for a show called “Family Guy” to FOX Studios.
McFarlane was allowed to create a pilot with a budget of $60,000. The star, clad in a leather jacket, explained that the typical budget for an animated pilot is usually $1 million.
Despite the budget woes, the show was picked up and first aired after the Super Bowl in 1999. But after several seasons, the show’s popularity dropped and it was cancelled.
Luckily for MacFarlane, the release of “Family Guy” on DVD helped renew interest in the show. FOX couldn’t deny that fans wanted more of the show based on the revenue coming from DVD sales.
The studio brought the show back to prime timeand it remains a hit among young audiences. That popularity prompted MacFarlane’s trip to Jesse Hall.
The performance, which was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Friday, was postponed until 8:45 p.m. because MacFarlane was stuck in traffic. Fans in Jesse Hall didn’t seem to mind the wait — they passed the time by watching an old episode of Family Guy on the projection screen.
MacFarlane took the stage with a bottle full of an unidentifiable liquid. One fan asked what MacFarlane was drinking.
“Frank Sinatra drank Jack Daniels and so do I,” he replied.
The show’s creator, who helps write, produce and animate “Family Guy,” gave a brief biography of his life before getting into the production details for making an episode of the show. For example, each episode of the show takes nine months to produce.
It takes a lot of time, but MacFarlane doesn’t complain.
“It’s been a very satisfying experience,” he said. “It’s seven days a week and I haven’t had a vacation in 14 months.”
As the speech went on, MacFarlane gave the audience a behind-the-scenes look at how the show is made, offering up stories and anecdotes that included impersonations. MacFarlane performs many of the main characters’ voices on “Family Guy” and other shows, including “American Dad.”
At the end of his performance. MacFarlane rewarded the audience for his earlier tardiness by offering a sneak preview of the latest episode of “Family Guy” before it would air on FOX.
After the screening, MacFarlane took questions from a long line of fans to close out the night.
One fan asked how MacFarlane thought his show affects society.
“I don’t know that we affect society,” he said. “I mean, I hope we don’t.”