Seth MacFarlane

March 19, 2014

Seth MacFarlane's AMA.

Hi, I’m Seth MacFarlane, executive producer of “COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey,” airing on FOX and National Geographic Sundays at 9pmET/8pmCT.

I also created “Family Guy”, directed “Ted” and the upcoming film “A Million Ways to Die In The West.”

I've never done this before, so I would like only positive feedback please. Alrighty. AMA.

Thanks everyone for your questions! I'll try to type faster next time. Keep watching "Cosmos" Sundays at 9 on Fox, and check out "A Million Ways to Die in the West" in theaters May 30th! Have a swell day!

Who would win in a fight: NDT or Carl Sagan?

I think it'd be more of a love-fest.

Hey Seth, big fan. What was the biggest reason you took the job to produce Cosmos?

I think there's a natural curiosity about the universe that we're all born with, and which has been starved in recent years by a media that was once more interested in feeding it. There hasn't been any real science on network TV in a long time.

Where do you see comedy heading in the future? Do you see audiences responding more to slap stick humor or do you expect more informed and educated viewers? Thanks in advance!

I think comedians like Monty Python proved that there's room for all: cultural, political, and religious satire paired side-by-side with jokes about fat guys throwing up. They did both. Too often the critics today forget about the second part.

Hey, Seth, big fan here! Is your involvement with Cosmos a sign that you're moving towards more serious/less funny artistic pursuits?

No. My bread-and-butter is still yuks. But Cosmos is a passion project that was too exciting to pass up.

Hey Seth! You're pretty much my hero. Anyway, how much have you influenced the direction of COSMOS? What's been your favorite part of working with NDT?

My influence in Cosmos is more in the area of mass awareness than hands-on production. I'm involved in the making of the series, but it's Ann Druyan's baby, and of course I'm not a scientist. Neil is the world's greatest hang, because you can ask him all the big questions about the nature of the universe and what science has revealed to us, and you can let your curiosity run wild.

Did you take a selfie with Dr. Tyson?

Edit: Dr. Tyson. Can you send both Neil and Mike my apologies?

Yes but our shirts are off, so I'm not going to show it to you.

How happy do you feel when you beat the Simpsons to a joke?

edit: forgot to mention that I am a massive fan, especially American Dad

Well, it's generally because they have the good judgment to stay away from things that we don't.

What is the main difference between Dads and Cosmos?

One deals with the nature of humanity's place in the universe, and the other stars Neil deGrasse Tyson.

How happy are you with the reception to Cosmos (ratings, critics, fans on the street, etc.)? Do you see any chance for a 2nd edition that goes further than these 13 eps?

The positive response to Cosmos has been incredibly overwhelming, and we're very grateful to everyone who's watched. If it continues to be a success, there may be room for more, but that's up to Ann Druyan.

Would you say your upcoming film is a similar, more modern "Blazing Saddles"?

It's natural for a Western comedy to be compared to Blazing Saddles as a first knee-jerk reaction, but this film sets out to be something different. Think of it as a John Ford Western combined with a modern "Ted"-style comedy combined with a love story.

If there were a biopic made about your life, who would you want to see star as Seth MacFarlane?

Gilbert Gottfried.

Any advice for aspiring voice actors? Any tips or tricks in order to more confidently create character voices?

Many of the greats like Mel Blanc and Daws Butler used to occasionally start with an impression, and build outward from there. Barney Rubble is influenced by Ed Norton from the Honeymooners of course, just as Stewie emerged from Rex Harrison.

Hi Seth. Thank you for helping bring Cosmos to network television. Do you have any other plans or ideas for advancing science to popular culture?

Cosmos' reception will ultimately determine that. If we reach the end of our 13-week run and we've held onto enough viewers who like seeing a mind-blowing science extravaganza on a network, then the cosmic horizon is the limit.

How was it to work on Cosmos without a professional or educational background in science?

Most fun job I've ever had. I learn new things about science from Ann & Neil every day.

What is the one MAIN thing you want viewers to take away from watching Cosmos? love everything u do :)

Always think critically. The more incredible the claim, the more concrete the proof we should demand before accepting it. Oh, and let's rebuild our space program.

Who's the Meg of Cosmos?

The tardigrades. You can throw any kinda shit at 'em, and they'll survive.

as a celebrity what are somethings that you do to make you feel 'normal' ?

like do you go to the car wash and wash your own car? or other things to humble you instead of paying someone to do it.

do you do your own laundry?

As i write this, I'm cleaning up cat puke.

Hi, Seth! Huge Family Guy fan, and already falling in love with Cosmos.

A few questions:

Do you think your version of Cosmos will match or exceed the impact of Carl Sagan's version?

What message is Cosmos sending to the world, or rather what message would you like for it to be sending?

How do you think the cultural landscape of science has changed since the old program, and do you think more people will be open to using science and logic to answer questions about the universe in the future?

I hope that is what Cosmos does. Since the original aired, we've seen a disturbing regression in scientific awareness and understanding. It manifests itself in everything from the deterioration of our space program to the terrifyingly irresponsible trend of parents not vaccinating their kids. It is my hope that Cosmos gets the train somewhat back on the tracks so it can move forward.

So I work in TV, and on the whole, network executives seem to be awful people. We've been asked to cut characters because they're too fat, been told to not write so 'highbrow' but more for the average WalMart shopper, etc., and worse. In a TV landscape like this, how does ANY intelligent programming break through?

There are good and bad execs. I've worked with both. Fox is currently under the management of some great ones, which is why Cosmos is on the air.

Seth if you have given yourself advice 20 years ago what would it be?

Write and direct "Titanic".

What's your opinion on the backlash from the religious right concerning Cosmos?

Cosmos does not set out to be political. It simply sets out to present what we know in the world of science. In recent years, certain well-supported scientific theories have BECOME politicized, but that has nothing to do with the science itself. As Neil is fond of saying, "The beauty of science is that it's true whether you believe in it or not."

How is it recording an extended scene with yourself, like the episode of family guy where Stewie and Brian get locked in a bank vault?

Do you do it all at once? Is there anyone else around? Is it weird?

Edit: WOW, totally did not expect Seth to answer, or the gold, but thanks!

Often I'll record one voice first, leaving pauses for the other character's lines. I'll then play back the first character in my headphones while voicing the second character, so it feels like I'm playing opposite another actor.

When was the last time you took a vacation?

I think Dawson's Creek was still on the air.

How long before a crossover episode of Family Guy and Cosmos?

The Family Guy episodes "Road to the Multiverse" or "The Big Bang Theory" are your best bets. Neil deGrasse Tyson actually has a consulting credit on the latter, I believe.

Why did you feel the need to include the music video "Dancing in the Street" in its entirety in that one episode of Family Guy?

A cautionary tale.

Hi Seth. If you could bring back and work on any TV show you wanted, what would you choose?

All in the Family. Hands down.

Hi Seth! I've been wondering about this for ahwhile. When you guys killed off Brian, did you really plan on keeping him dead but have the episode of him staying alive already made up and on reserve just in case people would be more upset than you thought?

I remember the footage at, I think Comic Con?, hwhere you guys said that the character you're killing off would stay dead, so I thought it was fishy that the episode bringing him back aired so quickly.

We get this a lot. It was always planned this way from the start. Remember, each episode of Family Guy take s a year to produce.

Have you ever said no to a joke because it would have been too offensive?

As staggeringly fantastic as this may be to believe… yes.

Was there ever any legitimate bad blood between you and anyone at The Simpsons? I had heard that the whole sequence where quagmire kills the entire Simpsons family was not well liked by the crew.

Nope. Matt G. and I are friends, and we have a number of writers who have worked on the Simpsons writing for Family Guy and Dads. It's all very incestuous over there at Fox.

If we were to discover evidence of alien life in the next 50 years which would you prefer it to be; intelligent life somewhere in our galaxy, or microbial life somewhere in our solar system?

I'd like to see intelligent life discovered here in Los Angeles. (slowly takes a sip of beverage while never breaking eye contact with you)

Have you taken as much delight at the offense many religious folks have been expressing over Dr. Tyson's statement that evolution is a fact as many of us on reddit have?

It baffles me when I step back and think about it. There should be no reason for the outrage or offense. Evolution is not an affront to religion, it's simply a well-supported reality. In many ways, we understand evolution more thoroughly than we understand gravity. And yet there's no angry opposition to gravity at all. Why?

Hey Seth,

With all the famous actors and actresses you've worked with, which ones leave you star struck?

The one celebrity in this town who's left me completely star-struck is John Williams.

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Seth MacFarlane conducted on Reddit on 2014-03-19. The Reddit AMA can be found here.