Guy's Gal

MF: Who would win in a fight between Lois and Miss Swan?

AB: Well, Swan is well versed in martial arts-Swan Fu-and then Lois did some martial arts . . . but Lois is taller and younger. She might have an advantage power-wise, but Swan might be able to talk herself out of the fight to begin with.

MF: Do you have a favorite episode of Family Guy? One that was more fun and/or memorable to work on than others?

AB: There's one that I wish I could do over. The one where Peter builds a bar in the basement, and Lois becomes the entertainment there-she sings. And it was so early on in the show and in my relationship with Seth MacFarlane that I was just really nervous and so unsure of myself [with the singing], and Seth is such a music aficionado that it made me more nervous, so now I wish I could just call a mulligan on it and have a whole do-over. I think I know Lois better now-she's definitely changed a lot and grown and become looser, and her voice has changed, so it would be fun to have another go at that. But in terms of my favorite . . . that's such a hard question, and I always think next time I'll be prepared for it, and I never am. We have one coming up that I'm very excited about that I wrote. It's called "It Takes a Village Idiot and I Married One." It's kind of my homage to Hillary Clinton-Lois runs for mayor and wins. So I really wanted to do it with the coming elections, and we also have a book that's gonna come out with it at the same time; it's a companion piece poking fun at Hillary's book, It Takes a Village. But it's really just fun. The episode makes a small comment about most politicians having good intentions at the start and how what happens from there is inexplicable. [Laughs] So that's kind of a new favorite; I guess I keep having new favorites.

MF: What are the writing sessions like for Family Guy? Is it just crazy spontaneity or is it more measured and deliberate?

AB: It's a little of both. The process of completing one episode is nine months. So it's constantly being done in a round-you start one, it gets shipped off to start the animatic and animation process, and then you start another one, and another; so you have these plates constantly spinning. It's so different from a live-action sitcom in that you spend a week writing [the sitcom], you shoot it, and then it's over-it's never revisited. But this haunts you for nine months. You break the story ideas as a group-there are 15 writers, and then it's assigned to one writer. You get a lot of help, too-the room comes up with areas and gag ideas and joke ideas, and then you're sent off and you have two weeks to write your first draft. Then you come back, and sometimes they have you do a second draft, but if not, it's just brought into the room and a big rewrite is done by the whole group. It's brutal-it's just like dogs tearing at a carcass.

MF: How much of the original survives at that point?

AB: It's interesting, it really depends. If the story is strong and everything works and the structure is good, sometimes a lot of it can stay. A lot of times it's really no fault of the writer but something's just not working, and we'll have to throw out a whole section or a whole idea. So you can have a page-one rewrite and sometimes 75% to 80% of someone's draft is gone. When it's Seth's draft, generally there's less to rewrite, because it's his world-it's in his head and he knows what he wants and he's the one that we're working to please, so usually we like it if he does a script assignment, because we know it'll be that much less work in the rewrite. But then it goes off to be animated in the black-and-white animatic version, which is almost like still shots of the scenes that are put together to give you an idea of what it would look like. Then we screen the animatic when it comes back from being sketched or drawn, and we do a rewrite based on that animatic, which is usually rather large-at that point, we can still throw out almost the entire story if need be. So we do a rewrite based on that and then it goes off and gets color animation, and we have a color screening a month later, and at that time we do another rewrite. And then right before it airs there's usually another rewrite based on censor standards, broadcasting issues, or some things that are no longer current. So it's one of the most difficult writing processes that most of the writers have ever experienced, because it never goes away, but I think it makes it so funny and so fast and so dense, and it makes it a great show.

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