'Family Guy' stars take center stage

May 12, 2008 6:41:50 PM PDT
Seth MacFarlane was driven to drink. Money trouble was definitely not the cause.

The creator of "Family Guy" was sipping from a tumbler of golden-brown liquid backstage at the Ahmanson Theatre, and to hear him tell it, it's better that he was.

"I'm drinking Jack," MacFarlane, who landed a $100 million deal with 20th Century Fox last week, told AP Television. "And it's because I'm about to do a show. And, my god, you don't want to see me straight out there. No good for anybody."

"Freakin' Sweet," billed as a one-night "evening of music and comedy" on Saturday, marked a live merger of two "Family Guy" top talents: MacFarlane and Alex Borstein, one of the show's writers and voice actors.

"(We) did it at Carnegie Hall in New York," MacFarlane said, "and it was kind of an experimental crap shoot, and it went so well over there that we decided to do it out here for the Center Theatre Group in L.A., with a big, 40-piece orchestra."

The show, which attracted a near-capacity crowd of about 2,000 who paid between $30-$250 per ticket, wasn't exactly "Family Guy: Live" - which the show's cast recorded for a 2005 CD. But most of the key "Family" members did make brief "Freakin"' appearances, including the "Guy" himself, hapless dad Peter Griffin (voiced by MacFarlane), his wife Lois (Bornstein), and their devil's spawn of an infant child, Stewie (also MacFarlane).

The show came on the heels of last week's announcement that MacFarlane had landed a $100-million deal with Fox - a deal 2½ years in the making, MacFarlane said. The pact followed recent tensions between MacFarlane and the studio, which briefly wrested control of the series from its creator to keep new shows hitting the air during the recent writers strike.

After the fact, that's a laughing matter for MacFarlane.

"I'm still so angry with them about the strike that I'm not taking the money," he announced, with tongue in cheek. "No," he continued, "I'm taking the money."

The deal makes MacFarlane, 34, one of the highest-paid writer-producers in television, and it's all thanks to "Family Guy," an irreverent font of pop-culture references that is one of television's top-rated network comedies, a massive seller on DVD and Internet downloads, and a cable and broadcasting syndication cash cow.

"I don't know what to do with that much money," MacFarlane said. "My lawyers and my agents said, 'Trust us. We can come out with a bunch of money.' And, like, 'Well, God, I'll open a bank account. I'll put it in the bank."

According to a report in Hollywood Reporter, the deal means Fox gets up to four more years' worth of "Guy" episodes and a "Family Guy" feature film, as well as more of MacFarlane's other series, "American Dad," and an option on a "Guy" spinoff series featuring the Griffins' neighbor Cleveland.

Perhaps, but Hollywood's newest $100-million man couldn't be more humble.

"You know, I credit my agents at Endeavor, my lawyers at Jackoway Tyerman," MacFarlane said. "I had almost nothing to do with it. You know, they called me one day and said, 'Hey! We got you $100 million.' And I said, 'Awesome! That's great news."'