Fox's "The Family Guy" is fast becoming my go-to comedy on Sunday nights. It's always laugh-out-loud mix of bizarre, clever, and highly inappropriate. So I was very excited recently to interview Alex Borstein, the show's supervising producer and the voice of Lois.
The MadTV veteran just released a DVD of standup comedy, Alex Borstein: Drop Dead Gorgeous in a Down-to-Earth Bombshell Sort of Way", which tackles the issues facing women in Hollywood. In one particularly funny bit, Borstein adds commentary to several real-life "character breakdowns" for TV shows and movies, including one that asks for the "down-to-earth bombshell." I spoke to her about writing for "The Family Guy," her "MadTV" past, and her love for "Charlie's Angels." (And no, her real voice does not sound like Lois's.) To see what she had to say,
Q: How do the "Family Guy" writers come up with ideas?
There are 15 writers, and everyone brings their stories together in one room. Someone is assigned each script, and you have two weeks to write it. Then you come back, and the writers have at it like a pack of wolves.
Q: Is anything left out for being too inappropriate?
You kind of wouldn’t believe it. If someone came into our writer's room, we would all probably be behind bars. It’s wildly inappropriate and filthy and politically incorrect and horrendous, but it's the smartest, funniest group of people I’ve worked with in my whole life.
Q: What makes the writing team so good?
Everyone has a really varied background, which I think helps make the show great. Our age range is amazing too; we’ve got people up in their 50s and writers right out of Harvard and Yale, which helps with so many different references. We can make fun of Paris Hilton every week and do Sinatra bits. I think that’s what makes the show unique.
Q: How did your experience on MadTV prepare you for this?
MadTV was the most incredible training ground for developing characters and learning how to write for yourself. You’re constantly pitching and trying to sell yourself, and you often have skits that don't make it on the air, so it was great training for rejection. That really helps prepare you for when your joke doesn’t make it into the script on "Family Guy."
Q: Tell me a bit about the new DVD.
If you like the word vagina and you’re partial to the C-word, you’re going to love it. It's me spending an hour fleshing out the horrors of Hollywood. What the hell happened? Growing up, I had the chicks from "The Facts of Life," "Charlie's Angels," and "Mary Tyler Moore," and now the girls have Paris Hilton. They have nothing to look at that’s cool and smart women. Now we’ve got "Ugly Betty," but even that has to be about someone fighting back. We sort of lost that. Yeah, Charlie's Angels did work for a man they never saw, that was a little weird. But they were pretty independent, they had a cool car, and Kate Jackson wore pants.