Saturday, February 16, 2008

News Flash: Family Guy's MacFarlane funny in person

I was at the 2008 Canadian Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts - the Elans - last night. Last year's affair was hosted by William Shatner. This year we were treated to Seth MacFarlane, creator and writer of Family Guy (he also performs many of the voices for the show, including Peter, Stewie, and Brian).

MacFarlane launched into a 30-minute monologue to open the show, and he proved to be as funny a stand-up as he is as an animated satirical television show writer.

Riffing on how Canada is different from the United States - "everything that we do wrong, Canada does right" - MacFarlane also demonstrated that he is not afraid to push a few buttons. Not that that is a surprise to anyone who's a fan of his show. He joked about Heath Ledger, AIDS, and Jesus Christ ("it's time for America to invent a new imaginary friend").

He's clearly taken with our country, though, saying that he's from Hollywood, the land of movie making, but it was nice to be in Vancouver where they actually make the movies. He also said that his asking price for hosting the show was $100,000, which was only about 400 Canadian dollars.

What I didn't know about MacFarlane was how talented an impersonator he is. Given his ability as a voice actor, it doesn't come as a complete surprise, but his Michael J. Fox, circa Back to the Future, was uncanny. He's a passable Bryan Adams, Bill Cosby, and Bob Hope, too.

How about that exclusive?

I had the chance to interview MacFarlane before the show began. I asked him why he used his own voice for the character of Brian, the dog in Family Guy. He said that originally, it was because it was the most opposite to the voice he had come up with for Peter. "There's always a character, from a writing standpoint," he continued, "that you kind of model after yourself in a lot of ways, and Brian is probably the closest."

So Brian, then, is Seth. As an animated dog.

As for the pointing monkey in Chris' closet? "It's an easy way out of a scene," he said.

I finished my three-minute interview by asking him how his broadway musical was coming along. "It's still on the drawing board," he said. And the novel? "The novel is non-existent, I don't know who you've been talking to."

I'm not sure it was in the script, but MacFarlane ended his opening monologue with the bit where Stewie is making fun of Brian's attempt to be a novelist.

The awards went to . . .

In terms of the awards handed out to Canadian-made video games, BioWare's Mass Effect was the big winner, snaking best character, best writing, best art direction, best game design, and game of the year.

Relic Entertainment's Company of Heroes took the prizes for outstanding innovation in gaming and best PC game, Slant Six's SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Tactical Strike took best handheld game of the year, and Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed was awarded best console game and best original music score.

The end of it all

MacFarlane ended the show with a song and dance number. In the 100th episode of Family Guy, "Stewie Kills Lois," the writers and producers planned a musical number in which
Stewie, when he's President of the United States, sings about everyone who is on his "list," and who, therefore, had better watch out. The bit was cut at the last minute to get the episode down to time, and will end up as a special feature on an upcoming DVD release, but last night MacFarlane performed it live.

The video screen projected the fully-animated scene, and the soundtrack was missing Stewie's voice track, so MacFarlane - as Stewie - sang along with the video.

A priceless end to an amazing performance by MacFarlane and all the award nominees and winners.