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REVIEW: ‘Family Guy Live’ at Toronto’s JFL42

MacFarlane isn’t afraid to be dirty, be daring, and almost always be dancing.

By: Anthony Marcusa
Published: October 2nd, 2013 in Culture » Stage » Reviews
Family Guy

It’s almost as if Seth MacFarlane’s interests and talents are too divergent to be completely enjoyed by any group of people. His divisive performance at the Oscars was not exactly the familiar comedy from his stand up and roast appearances, while his first feature film Ted was the number one comedy in 2012, despite being indulgent, overly long, and given average reviews by many critics. Now too it can be said that his popular animated television show empire (Family Guy leading the way, with The Cleveland Show and American Dad! riding coattails) does not exactly translate to a live format, and again, fans seem torn.

That doesn’t mean it’s not hysterical though.

Saturday night marked the Just for Laughs 42 presentation of Family Guy Live, an entertaining and endearing mess of jokes, songs, and a very uncomfortable question and answer period. Bringing to the stage the cast of the long-running Fox animated sitcom for a live reading, MacFarlane offered up plenty to laugh at and with, but not all of it was likely what fans expected.

It’s not to say that fans of Family Guy don’t like Broadway show tunes, song and dance, jazz numbers, and well, live reads, but what took place Saturday night was less a celebration about a cartoon that has run for 14 years, and more a Seth MacFarlane & Friends Revue – funny, and odd.

A 40-piece orchestra opened the proceedings with a lengthy version of the show’s theme song, and soon thereafter MacFarlane and Alex Borstein (the voice of Lois Griffin) came on stage to sing the memorable lyrics. The packed house roared at the first sound of MacFarlane doing Peter Griffin’s voice, but the theme song itself is short, making for the first odd moment of the night. After singing it once, the two on stage turned to face the orchestra as they played a lengthy interlude, after which MacFarlane and Bornstein sang it again.

Then joined on stage by a cast that includes most notably Seth Green and Mila Kunis (Danny Smith, Mike Henry, and John Viener were there too, all of whom voice various minor characters), the group proceeded to read aloud the script from a timely episode (because of a Breaking Bad connection) called ‘Farmer Guy.’

Many cheered upon hearing the previously unknown title announced, but it didn’t mean all the jokes hit. So much of what Family Guy does comes from the random and the absurd, with flashbacks and cutaways dominating each and every episode. For better or worse, the show is a rather simplistic template from which to build myriad comical situations (this formula was dissected and eviscerated effectively by South Park on a series of episodes).

Viener read aloud the direction, and most of his work came in the form of those cutaways and flashbacks, which undoubtedly to some in the audience just weren’t nearly as funny as seeing them. This had to have been very apparent to MacFarlane and company, as a handful of times such scenes were simply shown on a monitor instead of being read aloud.

So the cast read out the three acts, with the rambunctious audience occasionally yelling out their commentary. In between acts, the cast entertained with popular songs from the show and other divergent delights. Borstein, for example, sang a very dirty parody of The Little Mermaid’s ‘Part of Your World’ in the voice of Lois, while in another instance MacFarlane did a little jazz routine with the backing band. Borstein later had another solo, riffing on Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ in order to snipe at the successes of MacFarlane, Green, and Kunis.

Most hysterical was a loving and sexually provocative duet between MacFarlane and Borstein, singing in the voices of Peter and Lois. While funny and dirty, as expected, the performance was made all the more memorable for Borstein, prior to singing, identified a young boy in the audience, asked his name, and dedicated the song to him. She questioned why a parent would bring a child to such an adult event. Henry offered, in the voice of Herbert the Pedophile, “That’s okay.”

Related articles: Family Guy Live, Seth MacFarlane, Toronto, Just For Laughs, JFL42, Comedy, Mila Kunis, Seth Green, Alex Borstein, Peter, Lois, Stewie, Brian, Chris, Meg
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