Seth MacFarlane: The Restless Mind of a Complicated Cartoonist
To know MacFarlane is to know he has little interest in slowing down -- much less being confined to one medium. "One of the things that I'm enjoying about my career is that it encompasses many different disciplines. Nothing ever really gets dull," he says, noting that his hobbies -- reading (science-related, mostly), watching movies (Jackass, Annie Hall, Star Wars), playing piano, discussing politics, working out with his personal trainer (9 a.m. daily) and spending time with his friends (famous and non-famous) -- are similarly diverse. More recently, he has taken up horseback riding, which like getting onstage for the roasts he finds freeing.
Mark Wahlberg, who stars as a seemingly normal guy who happens to have a walking, talking, skirt-chasing teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) in Ted, jokes that he's spent the past six months trying to find flaws in the first-time director. "I'll find something wrong with him eventually, but I haven't yet," Wahlberg says of a man he describes as a "visionary," "creative genius" and "goofball."
Push MacFarlane to define his brand and he'll try to convince you that it can't be done. He'll point to Family Guy and tell you that it's more than just a sophomoric comedy, as many assume. He'll argue it has its share of "character comedy, satirical comedy, dare I say even highbrow comedy?" he says of a mix he enjoys. "Then there are the shit jokes."
What MacFarlane, who counts Woody Allen, George Lucas and occasional lunch date Norman Lear as role models, will add to his plate next depends on what he has time to say yes to. His longtime agent, WME's Greg Hodes, regularly fields calls for him to do everything from directing or starring in films to producing live-action shows or digital series to taking on Broadway. "I need to clone him 10 times over," Hodes says, laughing.
Fittingly, all are things MacFarlane has dabbled in or would consider, but don't expect a theater run to look like Book of Mormon from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. "If I did a Broadway musical, I'd probably want to do something a little bit more old-fashioned," he says, himself a Broadway junkie. "I wouldn't necessarily do something that was as edgy as what they have done. The challenge to me would be more along the lines of, 'Gosh, can somebody write Oklahoma! for 2011?' "
Although he'll say his litmus test for deciding which projects to take on is "Will I have fun doing them?" you get the sense there's more at play here -- the album and concerts, the guest spots on Real Time With Bill Maher, the emcee gigs for Comedy Central. (MacFarlane admits he likes the idea of hosting the Emmys as well but imagines the crude nature of the roasts have likely killed any chance of that happening.) Perhaps it's a desire to achieve the one thing he hasn't yet in his career: recognize-me-on-the-street fame.
Asked if that's appealing, MacFarlane shrugs. "There's not an active, aggressive desire, but it amuses me when that happens," he says, pausing to give the question some thought. Then, with a shrug: "Everybody likes to be credited for work that they've done."
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