A few weeks ago, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane shocked his fans by killing off one of his main characters, Brian Griffin. My thoughts? I didn’t see the episode myself (I honestly couldn’t bring myself to watch the episode because Brian is my favorite character), but I heard the news on the radio the next day. I was floored, not so much as a fan of a show, but as a writer. My first thought was, oh my god. MacFarlane just killed his own canon. How can he do that?!
With the way I work as a writer, when I’m building a storyline, I create a canon. This is what I use as the foundation for any project. I have my basis of characters, places, plot points, likes and dislikes…the absolute bare bones of what to expect from a story. By killing off Brian, MacFarlane killed his own foundation for his television show. I was so shook up about it, I even sent the man a message about it over Facebook (yeah yeah yeah. I’m sure he’d never read it. But the point was that I had to speak up!) saying that what he did made absolutely no sense.
I should have known better. It was revealed over the last week that it was a time machine story line (or a horrendous publicity stunt, depending on who you talk to). Either way, it left MacFarlane thoroughly entertained (and me relieved).
Once this twist was revealed, I began to think to myself that I’ve seen little twists like this before. While some call what MacFarlane did stupid, I’m willing to bet there are some who would call it genius. “Like who?” you might ask?
Well, how about this guy?
Andy Kaufman was a comedian who loved to (for lack of a better term) f*** with people. Anything that made the general population go, “What the hell?” was fair game to him and he loved it. For MacFarlane to pull on people’s heartstrings and have it all be a good gag on his part is something Kaufman would totally go for. Not to mention that MacFarlane is also a fan of shock when it comes to comedy.
For example, in the biographical movie Man on the Moon, Jim Carrey plays Kaufman. During this scene, not only does he insult women for the absolute hell of it, he also meets his future wife. Who knew?
I can’t help but be reminded of Seth MacFarlane’s performance during the 2013 Oscars where women were outraged over his original song, We Saw Your Boobs.
MacFarlane knew before he did anything with the Oscars that people were going to be offended. He still went for it however. It very well could be that he realized that it didn’t matter no matter what he did, but people were going to hate him and/or his Oscars performance anyways.
So is MacFarlane just enjoying himself in his own brand of comedy? Or is it a case that he is analyzing what Kaufman did with his writing and comedy and is contouring it to fit his own taste? Or is this all a coincidence? More than likely, it is just a coincidence. There are comedians in this world who have stolen the work of others, but that is simply not MacFarlane’s style. However, I will say this. If he is going to follow the formula of Andy Kaufman, don’t do something as ridiculous as Tony Clifton. Instead Mr. MacFarlane, on your next big band album release, do a couple of songs in the style of your famous characters. And for the love of all that is holy, will you release your version of The Way You Look Tonight on iTunes? I can’t live on YouTube alone, ya know.