phenomena at the height of their popularity

this past weekend was hugely anticipated by me. besides the adult. show friday, saturday and sunday brought a type of joy i haven't had for over 3 years: fresh laughs from the family guy, which i've already enthused about here before.

last summer my best friend actually sold his devo tickets (one of his favorite bands), to go see family guy live as part of the montreal comedy festival on the same date. obviously this kind of devotion made enough of an impression that they decided to do it again in los angeles and nyc. all shows sold out, even at fairly high ticket prices. though my wallet wasn't happy, i knew i'd be sorry if i missed it.

the town hall is an odd venue for comedy, or maybe i just think so because my first show there was dead can dance in 1993. it had to be expensive for them to get. they also had to pay the stagehands, the director and cameramen, get a giant screen and sound system, and probably pay the 8 people onstage a little something.

after a brief announcement, they played "stewie's sexy party video" which you can see a clip of under the live in vegas section of "multimedia" on the official site. this was unfortunately marred by sound so bad i couldn't make out 3/4 of the lyrics. fortunately, the soundman turned up the volume and clarity by the time of the main show.

creator seth mcfarlane came out first, introducing the rest of the cast. executive producer david goodman had the thankless job of reading all the stage directions, followed by danny smith, who not only does a lot of good supporting cast voices, but is the originator of the mock-rage expression that gave birth to the infamous evil monkey. writer steve callaghan's best reason for being there was doing the midget's creepy dance from twin peaks. but mike henry was the night's secret weapon. he has one of the funniest faces ever, especially when gearing up to do one of his perfectly placed voices, especially dirty old man herbert.

all of the cast so far had cups of booze in their hands, except for smith who walked on raising a six-pack of coors light (to which one audience member did a joe swanson impression and bellowed "silver bullet!"). seth green topped him by entering with a glass of red wine and then having a stagehand bring him the whole bottle during the performance. mila kunis was inexplicably howled at various times during the night by a distinctly neanderthal chorus whom i would have assumed would be too dumb to get half the jokes on this show, but i guess they like the gutter humor. this element of course increased that night due to it not being on television as seth green admitted, "it's like third grade up here," but it was hilarious. alex borstein was a bit more risqué in general and appreciated the attention, while taking it with a grain of salt. when one man shouted "alex, you're hot!" she said, "that's really sweet, but you may be a closeted homosexual. those are the type of men who usually think i'm 'hot'."

the cast read through the classic episode "to live and die in dixie," which is one of my favorites. between the stage directions, ad-libbing, and audience reactions, the half-hour script was doubled or tripled in length, to everyone's delight. hecklers who crossed the line (mostly at mila's expense) were dealt with in brilliant form by one of the two seths ("you do realize you're in public, don't you? we're not just hanging around at your house while you're in your underwear"). in addition, mcfarlane and borstein came out front and performed a song from the just-released soundtrack cd.

then mcfarlane announced that the fans had "waited long enough" to see new material and introduced the first act of the first new episode. someone shouted out "i saw it on the internet," which prompted seth too look up with a brilliantly-timed mixture of sheepishness and mild annoyance. "yes, well...for the rest of the people...who were probably out that night...." as brian or stewie might say, ba-zinnng.

the whole thing ended up with a question-and-answer session which had predictably mixed success. the queries ranged from simple and uninteresting to really good, to outright vile (the last most often directed once again at mila kunis). it's one thing if a performer chooses to make sexual innuendo a part of their own schtick - for example, both mcfarlane and borstein willingly participated in visual sexual jokes on the split screen with seth green. on the other hand, kunis has always clearly seemed a little uptight and prudish in her public persona, and although she's not the greatest actor or voice artist, people should respect certain lines that shouldn't be crossed. fortunately, the others were able shift the focus back to comedy. it was a great night and money well spent.

even better, this was on the eve of the season 4 premiere. the first act, which i saw saturday, was hilarious, leaving no room for disappointment (including the expected dig at fox for cancelling them). the rest of the show was funny too, although not on the same level. the shows are usually appreciated with repeated viewings, as the reruns and dvd sales proved. i look forward to the next 34 weeks. it turns out some of the people involved in the show keep their own blog, so lovers of ephemeral minutiae can visit there often.

the title of this post comes from a hilariously overlong shredding given to another character by stewie.