Seth McFarlane isn’t the only big shot writer behind Family Guy. There’s also a team of writers who come up with the brilliant ideas of the show: Danny Smith, David Goodman, Mark Henteman, Steve Callaghan and Chris Sheridan. We caught up with the funny team and got the lowdown about those insanely controversial jokes and their loyal fans.
What’s the process like when you work with newsy, hot-off-the-press items in pop culture, politics, etc.?
It takes us a year to produce one episode. So it’s really hard to get anything topical on the show. Sometimes we can slide a joke into an episode that’s in the later stage of animation. Throughout the production process we have different screenings and we get our colorized animation back from Korea about ten months into the process a few months before it airs. So if a joke doesn’t work in one of those episodes we can slide in maybe
a topical joke because that will be on the air in a couple of months. So anything that we don’t think will work in a year we try to slide into one of those episodes. But even that is hard because we have to try to decide if it’s still going to be relevant in three months.
Describe the process from the brainstorming session to the finished product.
Three or four times throughout the process we have table reads or screenings in front of sixty or seventy people that work on the show. They’re a pretty good barometer. They’ll laugh at stuff if it’s funny. If we do a joke and there’s a lot of groans, we’ll pull it out. So, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t get in, not necessarily because the censors say we can’t do it, but we realize it’s just not going to be funny. But at the same time there’s stuff that we put in that we think maybe wont work.
Can you give us an example of when this has happened before?
Like the first time we started approaching the 9-11 jokes. I’m trying to remember what the joke was and I can’t remember it off the top of my head. But we did a joke in reference to 9-11 and it got a huge laugh and we were sort of shocked at that. So you never really know. But we get a sense from the audience and the room and the people we work with when we’re screening it. And if we get groans or, you know, we usually take it out.
How have Family Guy fans been involved in the success of the show?
As you know the show was canceled and during those dark days it looked like the show was done with. There were these guys who run this web site called Planet Family Guy and they were really great about supporting the show, and helping us march a letter writing campaign. And in a small way I think they were part of the whole process of us getting back on the air. And we’re really thankful to them and they were always really supportive. So not only have we given them some exclusive content to put on their web site but they sent us photos of themselves and we drew them into an episode.