For people who
are not familiar with 'American Dad,' what was the origin of the show?
It was right after the election and me and co-creator Matt Weitzman, were
so frustrated with the Bush administration that we would just spend days
bitching and complaining and we figured we should channel this into something
creative and hopefully profitable.
are you going to try to shake things up?
In television, you never really know. With 'Family Guy', we're working
on our 100th episode and still kind of figuring out exactly what that
When does the 100th
It airs I think in about a year.
Wow, so you're
that far ahead?
Yes, for any given episode it's usually about a 10-month production time.
I guess with animation
you have to be that far ahead?
Yes, there's no shortcut to the process that anyone's been able to come
up with. I guess it's different if you're using computers, but for the
style that we use, you know that hand-drawn style, there's just no shortcut.
People have tried doing that with computers to make it faster, but it
looks like a computer did it.
With season one,
you were getting your feet wet. So what did you learn from season one
say for season two?
We've learned how to make the show feel different enough from 'Family
Guy' for one thing, and the creative direction of that show has been largely
guided by Barker and Weitzman, which has really worked in its favor. They've
really taken the reigns on that show and given it its own voice.
What about next
As far as where it will go in the next season, if there's some radical
shift in the thinking of the country, 'American Dad' will definitely reflect
that. We sort of look in a very broad sense, because the show is very
different. We look to 'All in the Family' as a template for how to do
a political show that doesn't feel so specific that it won't be relevant
10 years from now.
You don't want
to be so dated?
Yes. There's an advantage and a disadvantage to a show like, say 'South
Park,' that has like a three-week production time or something like that.
It can be very current. If something happens in the news, they can do
a show about it almost immediately.
of in animation.
Yes, and it makes that show very unique. But, the downside to that is,
if you do an entire episode about John Bobbit, after a few years it's
going to feel incredibly dated.
It's like, "Who's
Exactly. I don't think they've done that particular episode. I'm just
pulling that out of my ass. (Laughs).
What can we expect to see on the finale of 'American Dad?'
Let's see, what can I say without giving it away? If I'm remembering this
correctly, this one takes place over the course of an entire year in a
half hour. The 'Family Guy' 100th episode is the first obvious season
finale that show has done, because for a lot of the time we didn't really
know what was going to air when. So we couldn't even really do holiday
episodes because we just don't know when they are going to go on.
That must feel
exciting to have two animated shows on TV on a major network?
Yes, if I had the time to come up for air and enjoy it, I think it would
feel good. It's an enormous amount of work. What goes into putting together
an animated show, it's just staggering. It's interesting; I did my first
live action sitcom pilot this year. It was written by, created and written
by Ricky Blitt who was a 'Family Guy' writer who's gone on to write movies
for the Farleys. It stars Rob Corddry from 'The Daily Show.' I always
knew there was a lot of work that went into making an animated show. Doing
a traditional sitcom, process wise it feels like a breeze compared to
doing an animated show. You can get it all done in a couple of months
as opposed to a year. Doing an animated show, it's like putting together
a little movie every week. Everything is storyboarded with the intricacy
of a feature film action sequence. You have to edit with a musical score
in mind. And of course, we use an orchestra for each episode. So it's
really like putting together a little feature each week and I was just
shocked at how much, not to underplay all the work that goes into live-action
sitcoms, but my God, it's definitely a much more difficult medium to me.
Did anything from
working on the animated shows help you to do the live-action sitcom?
Yes. For example, composition wise and cutting wise, when you're dealing
with a scene with a couple of characters who are having a conversation,
all the same cinematic rules of editing and shot composition apply. It's
the same language. So, it certainly helped being very familiar with what
constitutes a good edit or a bad edit. The real surprise to me was the
flexibility you have of cutting to different angles.
You don't have
to plan months in advance to do that?
Exactly. There's no such thing as coverage in animation. With editing
you can't say, Oh yeah, it would be better to have a close up of
Peter here. And you can do that, but you have to have an animator
that takes a week and a half. So the flexibility of how you can change
the look of a scene and editing was had a good side and a bad side. In
animation, you have control over almost every frame.
So has the show
been picked up or are you working on it?
No, not yet. We're just a pilot.
What's the basic
It's called 'The Winner' and it's a coming of age story for a guy who's
32. The guy lived at home with his parents. He's never dated, never had
sex and never had a job. He's this guy who's stuck in his adolescence.
His old grade school crush comes back into town and gets a boot in the
ass to make up for 15 years of adulthood in a compressed amount of time.
The series is his story of growing up as fast as humanly possible, so
he can get this girl.
You are a big 'Star
Trek' fan. What's your take on the latest news on the new 'Star Trek'
I'm always cautious these days because there's a real instinct with a
lot of science fiction to go dark. And I have a sinking feeling that they
may fall into that hole again, but I don't know. I've seen it happen too
many times. What they've never managed to recapture is that bright, plush
environment of 'The Next Generation.' I think that's one of the reasons
it did better than any of the other shows. That it managed to tap into
more of a mainstream audience. It wasn't dark. It wasn't dirty. It wasn't
gritty. It was a bunch of people working in a really nice corporate office.
I agree. I still
watch it every night on G4.
And if you look at the movies, I thought that was a big problem with the
movies. They redesigned everything so it was dark and militaristic and
that is less inviting to a lot of people. The characters became more intense
and less casual. That's one man's opinion. I can't get into 'Battlestar
Galactica.' It's so dark. There were houseplants on the Enterprise for
There were a lot
of pastels and beige.
Exactly, it was plush and expensive looking.
Any plans to do
a sci-fi show yourself?
At some point. David Goodman, my producing partner on 'Family Guy' --
the two of us have a show that we've been sitting on for a while. There
is no time to really do anything with it because of where 'Family Guy'
is, but at some point, when we're all done with this, we may take it out.
You do a lot of
voice acting on your show. What draws you to that?
It's the ability to have as much control as possible for how a sequence
plays out. When I go in and do multiple characters, I know in my head
how I'm going to cut them all together. Often times when multiple characters
are talking over one another, and you want it to have an improvised feel,
it has to be carefully planned out. In the very beginning, it was more
about money. There just wasn't money to hire a cast.
So you're cheap?
(Laughs). Yes, well not anymore, but it became sort of a way to get exactly
what you want. Obviously, the best way to get the read that you want is
to read it yourself. At this point, we have so many actors, that we bring
in people who get the show and who know what we want the second they walk
in. When you go in and it's on paper, it's maybe not hysterically funny.
But if you read it in a certain way, you can get the laugh.
What about a show
like 'Robot Chicken,' you're a voice for hire?
Yes. With Seth Green, it's a very relaxed environment. He'll tell me how
he wants it and I'll give it back to him. There are times where the scenario
will have to be explained and I'll try to familiarize myself in a brief
period of time with what these guys came up with in the writer's room.
Pick a favorite
moment from 'American Dad.'
From 'American Dad,' there's a great one where Stan has disguised himself
as a gynecologist. You see a POV shot and you see him peel open an almond
shaped opening. It's shot from below so you're looking up at him. You
see him reaching around inside and he goes, "My God, you keep this
thing so incredibly clean." And then you cut wide and you see he's
looking through her purse. It's just a great mislead. We have, among other
things a great staff of artists on 'American Dad.'
And a favorite
moment from 'Family Guy?'
If I had to pick one moment that makes me laugh every time I see it, it
is an episode called 'The Father, the Son and the Holy Fonz.' It's a cutaway
gag. It's like, 'Jaws Five: Fire Island.' One of our writers, Mike Henry,
who also does many voices on the show, he does Cleveland and Herbert and
he does this performance artist character. And for some reason we put
that character's voice into the mouth of Jaws, and you just see these
two guys swimming in the ocean and one of them says, "You know, Mark,
are you sure we should be out this far?" And he says, "Stop
worrying, we'll be fine." And you pull out, and you see that sort
of classic poster image of 'Jaws,' looking up at them, but it's just kind
of hovering there and Jaws goes, "Oh hey, I see ya'll there, I'm
going to eat y'all. I can see right up them shorts. I'm going to eat that
hairy leg." It's just so bizarre. What does any of that mean? I have
no idea. For some reason, when Mike does that voice it just kills me.
If you could travel
back in time and give yourself advice, how far would you go back and what
the advice be?
Good question. I would probably go back and tell myself to try pot before
I got out of college. (Laughs). But, that's a question that would take
a lot of thinking. I'd probably go back to like, 1981, and say, "Hey,
there's going to be this big movie 'Back to the Future' that's going to
come out. I'll give you the plot line and you can write the screenplay
before they get to it."
has 9/11 overtones. Was that intentional?
I don't think you can do a show like 'American Dad' without those overtones.
The show was designed to be very obviously a post 9-11 show.
I heard that you
had a close call with 9/11.
Yes, I was booked on Flight 11, which was the first one to hit. I missed
it by 10 minutes or so because the combination of two things. I was drinking,
so I was hung over and running late, and my travel agent had mislabeled
the flight times. She had said 8:15 instead of 7:45. So that added to