Our newest column, The Bocchetti Files, features comedian Mike Bocchetti talking one-on-one with his friends and fellow comedians about whatever crosses his mind. For his first interview he spoke with Dave Hill. This week, Mike talked with Alec Sulkin, producer and writer for television hit series Family Guy, who is also Bocchetti’s long time friend. Sulkin also co-wrote two Seth MacFarlane movies, Ted, and A Million Ways to Die in the West. Mike met Alec back in 1996 when he was a new comic, and the two became friends. Even with all of the success Alec has had in the 20 years since then, Mike says, “he has been such a good friend and all his success never changed him.”
Mike Bocchetti: What was it like the first time you meet Seth McFarland?
Alec Sulkin: The first time I met Seth MacFarlane was while we were both writing on a FOX sitcom called The Pitts. The show was created by Simpsons EP Mike Scully. It was in 2003 when Family Guy was briefly cancelled. Seth was on what’s called an overall deal with 20th (meaning he had to wear Osh Kosh B’gosh clothing all day), and he was assigned to work on The Pitts. It was my first sitcom, having just come off writing for the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. Seth and I are the same age and we started to hang out socially, mostly at a karaoke bar called the Brass Monkey.
Mike Bocchetti: How long did it take you to co-write the movie Ted?
Alec Sulkin: It took us quite a while to write Ted because we had to work only on the weekends due to our day job at Family Guy. I think the whole thing took almost 5 years. It was awesome working with a stuffed bear. They’re so cute. Most of the time during filming, there was nothing there, and the actors just had to pretend that Ted was sitting next to them. Other times we did what we called a “stuffy pass”. This is when we would actually put a stuffed bear in the shot to get a more realistic idea of what the shot would look like.
Mike Bocchetti: What did it feel like when they killed off Brian? He was such a big part of the show and an icon.
Alec Sulkin: It was very sad when Brian died. I thought the animators did an amazing job of making the whole thing look brutal and devastating. Of course, we knew that he would be coming back to life in a few episodes, so that kind of softened the blow.
Mike Bocchetti: Do you have a favorite episode of the show and why?
Alec Sulkin: My favorite episode is called Brian and Stewie. It’s the one where the two of them are trapped in a bank vault for the entire episode. It was written by Gary Janetti who, aside from Seth, is the best writer in Family Guy history. Usually, a first draft changes at least 50% between when it’s handed in and when it airs. Some change 100%. Gary’s draft of Brian and Stewie was not changed at all. Not one word. It was perfect. (runner up is “Blue Harvest”, the Star Wars episode that I wrote!)
Mike Bocchetti: Has political correctness affected the Family Guy like it did the rest of comedy?
Alec Sulkin: The show is always affected by political correctness. What’s acceptable to say and do on television changes almost weekly, and Family Guy famously pushes the boundaries. On the one hand, we get away with things that other shows can’t because we’re animated and therefore one extra step removed from reality. On the other hand, we get away with less because we are a Seth MacFarlane show and therefore under a microscope based on his name alone.
Mike Bocchetti: Where do you see the Family Guy going in 5 years?
Alec Sulkin: I see Family Guy still on the air in 5 years. They have a great staff over there and they continue to crank out funny and original episodes. Will there be a Family Guy movie? Who knows? I’d love it if there was one.
Family Guy airs Sundays on FOX at 8:30pm et.