JFL42 Family Guy Live Sony Centre, Toronto ON, September 28
Published Sep 30, 2013There's a cut-away gag towards the end of a recent episode of Family Guy where baby Stewie finds himself at a Kid Rock concert. "Oh my God!" a woman next to him screams after a man clutches his chest and collapses. "Help! He's having a heart attack! Is anyone here a doctor?!" Surrounded by Kid Rock fans, Stewie responds, "No fucking way someone's a doctor here."
This bit really stuck out after the entire cast of the show took to Toronto's Sony Centre to perform a live reading of "Farmer Guy," which originally aired this past May and features patriarch Peter Griffin leading his family to an uneasy fortune by operating a meth lab in the basement of a newly purchased farmhouse. The performance rode the wave of interest in the final season Breaking Bad, whose series finale aired the same weekend that Family Guy appeared for two live sets in Toronto.
Unlike Breaking Bad, Family Guy features deplorable depravity but seldom receives critical accolades for its work, which is full of an insane amount of casual racism, sexism, violence, and generally poor taste. As such, few high-minded people would ever admit to loving (or even watching) Family Guy, even though it has occasionally proven itself to be the sharpest, edgiest, and funniest animated satire on TV.
So it was telling that, once a pleasant enough night of high-watt showbiz was wrapping itself up (Seth MacFarlane, Mila Kunis, and Seth Green are all bona fide superstars and there they were, casually working a shift to voice their characters and entertain us), an audience Q&A began and really learned way too much about each other.
The show's cast sat in a semi-circle at the front of the stage, surrounded by a 40-piece musical orchestra who mostly just appeared motionless, holding their implements until intermissions between the episode's acts. MacFarlane will always aspire to old Hollywood/Broadway/Bob Hope-style class and so spared no expense to have this huge brass, string, and rhythm section on-hand to back him up on big band corn and songs from the show.
After the episode reading ended, there was just over a half hour of randomness and painfully awkward audience interaction. Mike Henry voices Cleveland Brown and Herbert the Pedophile and took centre stage to sing songs as both before MacFarlane alternated between Stewie and William Shatner for a hilarious performance of the latter's bizarre version of "Rocket Man." With visible contempt for one particular audience member, Alex Borstein, who voices Lois Griffin, highlighted the fact that at least one parent had brought an 11-year-old to this intensely offensive show.
"This one's for Dov," she said after meeting this family and the boy, to which MacFarlane replied "You're a monster." The two then inhabited their Peter and Lois characters for a seemingly tender take on the Barbara Streisand/Neil Diamond duet, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," which soon devolved into "You Don't Eat My Pussy," with Borstein emphasizing each increasingly explicit lyric by making eyes at the aforementioned family in the front row. "I'd love to be a fly on the wall on your drive home tonight." Borstein said, sending a final admonishment their way at the end of the song.
While the show was actually quite generous (including a full season preview reel and a mention of the September 2014 crossover Simpsons/Family Guy episode), by Q&A time, the audience responded to the vibe by turning on itself. There's a certain kind of self-loathing going on in the most hateful aspects of Family Guy and at least part of this has to do with a general shame in humanity. So when that humanity was given microphones, things got slightly ugly. Some questions made no sense whatsoever, some people offered obvious platitudes, one woman brought Kunis a present, which, after security vetted it and Green declared it to be "anthrax," was personally accepted.
The boos began when an audience member shamelessly plugged a business website and then asked an inane, 'Who would win in a fight?..." question. Green seemed to relish this kind of target practice the most. When a woman began with "Hi, I just want to say first that Seth MacFarlane I really, really love you and I think you're amazing and so influential and I love you so much…" Green jumped in with "And I've got a trailer out front…let's get crazy!" The poor woman followed this up with, 'My question is, how do you come up with all your jokes?' and the room reacted to this like she'd said the worst thing in the history of the world.
After the very next fan asked "How did you guys come up with the idea for Family Guy?" and more boos rained down, MacFarlane, clearly disappointed in Canada, said, "You're the most aggressive fucking audience ever. You're supposed to be a shining fucking beacon for America. If this were The Hunger Games, half of you would be fucking dead right now."
It all kind of bolstered a snobby myth about Family Guy in that it's one thing to enjoy the show in the privacy of one's home or among a small group of friends but quite another to find yourself surrounded by people who believe themselves to be diehard fans. After overhearing conversations or witnessing the Q&A, what you ultimately discover at a live show is, there's no fucking way there's a doctor in the house.