Leave it to Seth MacFarlane, the controversial creator of Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show, to make a movie about a foul-mouthed, hard-living teddy bear that thwarts his owner’s romantic relationships. That’s the premise of Ted, MacFarlane’s directorial feature debut, which opens this month and stars Mark Wahlberg (as John, Ted’s owner), Mila Kunis and — naturally — MacFarlane himself, as the voice of the teddy bear. We caught up with the 38-year-old multihyphenate about his voice, his vocation and his regrets.
American Way: You’re the voice of Ted. Why do you like voicing your own characters?
Seth MacFarlane: It enables me to write jokes that are delivery-based. Some things may not necessarily be funny on the page, but if they’re delivered just the right way, they are potentially hilarious.
AW: Why do you think there is such a resurgence of interest in cartoons?
SM: I think it’s a generational thing. I also think that it really does go back to The Simpsons rewriting the book and creating a visual style. They did for prime-time animation what Norman Lear did for sitcoms with All in the Family. He showed how they could be 100 times more sophisticated and relevant than anyone thought they could be.
AW: Are you ever surprised about the sheer amount of mediocre TV?
SM: Yes and no. I think there really is no excuse for the amount of lazy writing that there is on TV. During that half-hour, it’s your job as a sitcom writer to make the audience laugh genuinely and loudly as many times as possible. That’s what you have to do, and if you’re not doing that, then you should be doing something else.
AW: You’ve made fun of a lot of people on your shows. Do you regret any of the parodies?
SM: There are always gags that you wish you hadn’t done, and when you’re writing at 2 in the morning, you do tend to lose perspective. I think there was a joke that we made about Matt Damon at one point, and I remember regretting it because he’s just one of the most upstanding guys in Hollywood.
AW: You’re one of the highest-paid writers and producers in history. Have you indulged in any luxuries?
SM: For the most part I don’t own any crazy rapper stuff. [Laughs] One of the catch-22s of this type of situation is that it also means you’re putting a lot of time and work in, so there isn’t really a lot of time to take advantage of the perks that that kind of an income offers.