Seth MacFarlane does not want to talk about sin, which is weird given that his entire career has been more or less devoted to the subject. In the wildly popular animated series he’s created (Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show) characters casually and frequently do horrible, indefensible things to one other. Perhaps the only mainstream entertainment with more sexual assault than a Seth MacFarlane cartoon is the Old Testament. The 38-year-old writer, producer, and actor writes dirty jokes for sinners, and it’s his moral anarchy that we love. His feature film directorial debut, Ted, which hits theaters in July and stars Mila Kunis, Mark Wahlberg, and a bong-ripping, chocolate bar–fellating teddy bear, promises more of the same.
So we thought it could be fun to ask MacFarlane a series of questions loosely based on the Seven Deadly Sins. We figured that an avowed atheist who likes to irritate God-fearing bigots and push the boundaries of good taste would be up for a friendly conversation about how every creative venture he’s been involved in—from his TV shows to Comedy Central’s Roast of Charlie Sheen to Ted—should, according to pretty much every religious belief system on the planet, result in the eternal damnation of his soul to the fiery pits of hell. We figured wrong.
After making it through just four of the Seven Deadlies, the phone mysteriously cut out. A week later, his publicists tried to schedule a follow-up call, but wanted a more detailed overview of the questions we’d be asking. Could it be that MacFarlane—a man we fully intended to describe in this piece with adjectives like “fearless”—was seriously uncomfortable having a conversation about sin? That’s like Paula Deen not wanting to talk about deep-fried okra, or Ron Jeremy refusing to discuss his gigantic penis. Ultimately, given our unrelenting fascination with sin, MacFarlane’s team decided to cancel the interview, which is a shame because we were just getting to the good stuff.
I’ve been thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins and which one most relates to your new movie, Ted. I guess the closest is probably sloth, right? Because it’s all about nostalgia, and nostalgia is a kind of sloth, isn’t it? It’s a refusal to look forward.
Let me just make sure I understand this. I have to connect one of the Seven Deadly Sins to Ted?
No, not at all. This is just a jumping-off point for us to talk about your work. We’re not writing a college thesis or anything.
Okay. [Laughs.] You must hate your editor.
I think it’s a fun idea.
Can’t people just talk anymore? Can’t people just have a conversation?
This is still a conversation. It’s just a conversation about sin.
[Laughter, followed by a long pause.] Okay.
In general, do you consider yourself nostalgic? Are there things in your past that you can’t let go of?
Oh yeah, absolutely. That is clear to anyone who’s ever seen Family Guy. We’ve done a number of nostalgia-related gags. And I’ve got a lot of nostalgia for pop-culture brands and icons that were meaningful to me as a kid. And certainly we reference those types of things on Family Guy, perhaps more often than we should.
You’re doing a TV reboot of The Flintstones, which could be argued is a kind of creative sloth.
[Laughs.] You’ve really got me down this aggressive path, don’t you?
Was that mean? I wasn’t trying to be mean. I just meant because it’s not your own idea. You’re taking something that’s already been created, that’s a part of your pop-culture memory and nostalgia, and making an identical version of it.
I suppose so. One of the appealing things to me about doing The Flintstones is the thought of seeing something that looks the same as it did 60 years ago, but is also brand-new on prime-time television at this point in time. We don’t want to change much at all about the look of The Flintstones. I think there’s a comfort level that people are going to feel, turning on their televisions in 2013 and seeing Bedrock and the Flintstones’ house and Fred and Wilma. [Before BULLETT went to print with this issue, Fox announced that it was postponing MacFarlane’s reboot.]
Was it a hard sell to the network?
It was and it wasn’t. The franchise wasn’t really being exploited at the time. I think Viva Rock Vegas was the last time they’d done anything with the Flintstones franchise, which is probably why they haven’t done anything with it in a while. We all know how that turned out.