Big Gay Following: Seth MacFarlane

The Family Guy and American Dad creator discusses funny LGBT stereotypes and outs one of his most popular characters as “almost certainly gay.”

BY Brandon Voss

January 25 2008 1:00 AM ET UPDATED: February 10 2014 4:57 AM ET

Which character do gay fans respond to the most?
Generally they respond to Stewie, because he’s arguably the most complex character. He originally began as this diabolical villain, but then we delved into the idea of his confused sexuality. We all feel that Stewie is almost certainly gay, and he’s in the process of figuring it out for himself. We haven’t ever really locked into it because we get a lot of good jokes from both sides, but we treat him oftentimes as if we were writing a gay character.

Is it odd how much people care about this cartoon baby’s sexuality?
Yeah. We’ve had letters from homophobic fans in the past, and I sort of relish the idea of saying, “Yeah, well, you know what? Your favorite character, Stewie, is gay.”

Why did you base the voice of American Dad’s effete alien on Paul Lynde?
I’ve always been a huge fan of his. It’s just a voice and characterization that I’ve always found so hysterically funny and just so unabashed. There’s an old Hanna-Barbera tradition of using character actors from the ’50s and ’60s as springboards for animated cartoon voices. No one had really touched Paul Lynde, and he seemed like such an obvious choice. They just re-released that Paul Lynde Halloween special and I picked up a copy. You just can’t take your eyes off the guy.

What makes homosexuality such a ripe source for humor?
You know, that’s a very good question. There are obviously many different types of gay personalities, but what’s funny to me is when a gay character expresses mischievous guilt about something in which there are no stakes, like, “Ew, I’m going to watch one more episode of Sex and the City — don’t tell anybody!”

What are your favorite gay stereotypes?
Certainly the singsong stereotype — you know, the guy who makes a joke and then has to say, [singsong] “Kidding!” We didn’t end up doing this with Greg and Terry because we thought they would be funnier taking the form that they do, but I’m always amused when there’s a gay couple and one is clearly the husband and one is clearly the wife. But there’s so many more, and I’m sure we’ll discover some new ones as we go along.

From Family Guy’s gay marriage episode title to Greg and Terry’s “pitcher” and “catcher” license plates, there also seems to be a fascination with the idea of tops versus bottoms.
I’m not quite sure, but it is a source of comedy. It’s as if there’s paperwork involved before the sex can take place.

Unfortunately, gay groups haven’t always gotten the joke, like the controversial 2005 Family Guy bit in which Peter’s barbershop quartet informs a man that he has “full-blown AIDS.”
Yeah, that was one that caused a lot of upset. But the strange thing is that never once in that gag did we say this was a gay guy. I heard from several people, “Well, he had a goatee, so he must be gay.” I’m like, “What? I had a goatee at one point!” On top of that, with most of the gags where it seems like we’re taking a potshot at black people, Asian people, Jewish people, or gay people, the joke is that Peter is an idiot. The character is Archie Bunker without the knowledge of what he’s doing. He has the mind of a child, basically, and a source of big laughs is when he doesn’t realize he’s doing something inappropriate. So that gag sort of took it to the next level. If you have to break terrible news to somebody, what’s the most sugarcoated, upbeat way to do it? We thought, A barbershop quartet might be nice.

Tags: television

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