We had the pleasure of catching up with Seth MacFarlane and Mike Henry to talk about their latest project – this fall’s The Cleveland Show. Check out what they had to say below!
Why did you choose Cleveland as the character for a spin off show?
Seth MacFarlane- Of the non family characters, he was the most multi-dimensional. He’s the most layered. He was the one guy that you could kind of see being at the center of yet another bizarre animated world. Also, I’ve known Mike since college. Mike is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in such a unique way. None of his characters feel derivative of anything else you’ve ever seen. That’s kind of a rare thing. A lot of it had to do with the fact that he was somebody that kind of made sense to have a show revolve around him. He just sort of has that ability to tap into a comedic tone that no one else has tapped into before.
Mike Henry-The timing was great for me actually, because I got to do a lot of things before Family Guy as far as stand up, or sketch, or directed shorts, and commercials. Then I really got to learn this whole new world through the process of watching Seth sit down in the writers room and pitch stuff out as Stewie and Brian and whoever else. I love being able to just sit in the Cleveland room and start ripping on something knowing what needs to be accomplished, and making sure that gets accomplished, and whatever is going on. Kind of just getting to be crazy. I learned how to be crazy from Seth.
Does The Cleveland Show and Family Guy ever cross paths?
Seth MacFarlane- For the most part early on, we kind of keep the two shows separate. There’s one episode of Family Guy where the Griffins visit Cleveland and his family. For the most part at the moment, they are kept separate.
How involved will you be with The Cleveland Show compared to your involvement with Family Guy?
Seth MacFarlane- Producing one animated show on a weekly basis is next to impossible, yet somehow it gets done. Producing any more than that, two or three, you just can’t do it. What you have to do is find people who can run these things. My method has been to co-create with other writers and then they go off and run the shows themselves. That’s what Mike and Rich do. Mike and Rich run The Cleveland Show on a daily basis. I think it also helps to make the shows all feel a little bit different. I don’t think it would be a good thing if everything felt like Family Guy. If you had three Family Guys on the air, I think that would be overkill. It seems to have worked really well. You see in The Cleveland Show a tone that’s completely different from the other two shows, and yet at the same time true to the universe in which they all live.
Why do you think animated shows have grown in popularity so much compared to live action shows?
Seth MacFarlane- The animated shows are all hopefully funny. There isn’t a lot of comedy on TV that is actually laugh out loud funny like Seinfeld was.
Mike Henry- There more inventive. You don’t really have to rely on practical production, or getting a person to play themself. The short attention span of it all – like all the cut aways on Family Guy just blends itself. I love watching an episode of Family Guy because I don’t remember based on the story which cut-away gags are in there. So it’s fresh every time you see them.
Seth MacFarlane- It’s also, I think, the only place left on TV that you see anything close to character actors. People like Carol O’ Connor, they don’t exist in comedy any more, which is – that’s part of the problem. The result is sort of a disconnect between networks and their audiences. There’s a fear of casting unattractive people. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. There’s somebody that you really like, but you know that they’re not going to make it because they’re to charactery or they’re not attractive enough. There’s no live action of Peter Griffin or Homer Simpson, or any of these characters on TV. As they say, comedy isn’t pretty. God that was lame.
Interview By: Emma Loggins