Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane says no topic — including the Prophet Muhammad — should be off-limits for a comedy show. As long as it’s a funny joke.
“No one is a bigger critic of organized religion than I am,” says MacFarlane in reaction to the recent terrorist death threat levelled against South Park over its spoofing of Muhammad.
Broadcaster Comedy Central eventually censored the episode without the cooperation of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
“It’s tricky. You pick your battles,” says MacFarlane. “You have to judge how real the threat is against how funny the joke is. How much do I care about the joke?”
MacFarlane — whose Sunday cartoon empire also includes American Dad and The Cleveland Show — says potentially controversial jokes on Family Guy go through “internal discussions” before they air.
“It depends on what the joke is about. Immediacy has a lot to do with it. A recent shooting or plane crash, we try to stay away from.”
In one instance, a joke about Scientology was dropped, while a bit about Terri Schiavo — the U.S. woman at the center of a right to die debate several years ago — was used.
“The issue had received an enormous amount of attention. It was our duty as a comedy show to comment on it in some way,” he says.
MacFarlane —whose recent US$100-million deal with Fox has made him the top paid writer/producer in TV history — says the much-talked-about Family Guy movie is still in its “early stages.”
As for future one has to ask — is there a fourth animated series currently kicking around MacFarlane’s brain?
“No immediate plans. Just devolving into a miserable, alcohol-induced deterioration,” he laughs. “I have a hefty workload with the three shows I have.”