Seth MacFarlane may be the most multi-talented guy in Hollywood. His resume includes artist, writer, director, producer, actor, comedian, impressionist, singer and TV host. Not even James Franco has a music record!
MacFarlane was born in Kent, Connecticut in 1973. He liked to draw from a very young age, even doodling cartoon characters like Fred Flintstone and Woody Woodpecker when he was still a toddler. At the age of 5, he made flipbooks and wanted a career in animation.
He even drew a weekly comic strip for the local paper at the age of 9, and one of his first controversies involved a comic he made where a character was kneeling at a church altar taking communion and asking, “Can I have fries with that?” Not at all surprising for a nine-year-old to write, but the local priest was not happy about it. This would not be the last time MacFarlane would upset churchgoers.
He studied film and animation at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. He intended to work for Disney but changed his mind after watching The Simpsons.
MacFarlane’s thesis film The Life of Larry, which was an early inspiration for Family Guy, was submitted to Hanna-Barbera and MacFarlane was hired by the studio as a writer and storyboard artist for Dexter‘s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel and Johnny Bravo.
MacFarlane’s 1996 sequel to The Life of Larry, Larry & Steve, was seen by executives at FOX and for the first time MacFarlane was offered the chance to make an animated series for prime time, which would end up being his most famous show, Family Guy, which premiered in 1999. MacFarlane liked working at Hanna-Barbera but felt that the edgier style of prime time was his true calling.
In Family Guy, MacFarlane plays four main characters: Peter Griffin (husband/father), Brian (talking dog), Stewie (baby) and Quagmire (neighbor) in addition to various citizens of Quahog, Rhode Island, the town in which the show takes place. The show has a reputation for pushing taste to the limit with its outrageous un-family-friendly humor but the show is so funny and cleverly-written that it has amassed a huge audience and even critical acclaim for being a smart satire (MacFarlane’s comedic influences are Jackie Gleason, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Monty Python and Norman Lear). It was cancelled twice but returned due to its popularity in DVD sales and Adult Swim reruns.
Despite its popularity, Family Guy has been a target of disdain from organizations like the Parents Television Council, who has criticized the show’s humor as offensive and tried to get it off the air by filing complaints to the FCC. MacFarlane would brush off these complaints as criticism from people who knew nothing about humor.
The success of Family Guy would lead to other ventures for MacFarlane. He co-created other animated series like American Dad! (2005) and Family Guy spin-off The Cleveland Show (2009). He directed the film Ted (2012) and its sequel Ted 2 (2015), he executive produced the revival of Cosmos (2014) that aired on FOX and NatGeo hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and being the Star Trek fan that he is, he has also created a sci-fi television series for FOX called The Orville (2017) in an attempt to bring back the spirit of optimistic sci-fi.
He has also acted in the movies and shows of other filmmakers, both live-action and animated, including the films Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Sing, Logan Lucky, and the TV shows Gilmore Girls, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Star Trek: Enterprise, Robot Chicken, and The Simpsons.
Something MacFarlane often did on Family Guy was sing, and he has even released four different albums in which he sings Sinatra-esque big-band numbers in each one. The albums are great throwbacks to the days “when music was fun” as MacFarlane puts it, and so far they include Music Is Better Than Words, Holiday for Swing, No One Ever Tells You, and In Full Swing (MacFarlane’s musical influences are Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin, and the Rat Pack).
I’m a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane for several reasons. At first I was just a fan of Family Guy. That show makes me laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed and I think it broke ground as an alternative-alternative comedy. But my love for that show has led me to the man who created it, and thanks to seeing his name on shows like Cosmos, I have sought out the original PBS Cosmos from 1980, which led to my discovery of Carl Sagan, who I am now a huge fan of as well.
MacFarlane has morphed my taste in comedy, my taste in music, my enthusiasm for science, and he is also the main reason why I am on Twitter and one of the first people I followed on the site. His retweets and recommendations have led me to some of my favorite discoveries, including the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, which explores the mass incarceration of African-Americans and has opened my eyes about things I didn’t even know existed until I read it. I’ll always be grateful to MacFarlane for recommending that book, which I may have ignored if not for his acknowledgment!
MacFarlane is one of my favorite stars because he clearly knows how to use his celebrity for good.