#2. Seth MacFarlane
I don't know how old most of our readers are (there is literally not a single piece of demographic information that this site trusts me with), so I'm not sure what version of Family Guy you're all familiar with. You might know the current version, the show that feels more like an ironic commentary on itself, a super meta Family Guy full of intentionally alienating non sequiturs and in-jokes that are way too self-aware. The "saved" Family Guy that was rescued from cancellation several years ago.
You may not remember the version of Family Guy that was worth saving. I do. I remember a show that was hilarious and exciting and completely different from everything else on television at the time. I don't know if I'd call it ahead of its time, but when it debuted, it certainly stood alone. The references were sharp, and their sheer joke-per-episode ratio was incredible.
Then it got cancelled, which was bad. Then it came back, which was worse.
You did it, Seth. You're infallible.
If you want to know what happens to a kid who never gets told "No," look at Seth MacFarlane's career. The resurrection of Family Guy was the worst thing to happen to his ego, because it was basically a way for him to tell himself "Hey, I was right. All of the higher-ups who said the show was too weird, or that not enough people watched it, or that I was more obsessed with making obscure references than I was with telling stories and, occasionally, jokes -- that was ALL HORSESHIT. I never should have doubted myself. And I never will again."
That's what happened. Fox apologized and then handed Seth MacFarlane the keys, and that's why the majority of Sunday night TV is owned by MacFarlane. The freshness that made Family Guy great when it first came out is gone now. How can it stand out among its peers when its peers are also MacFarlane-created cartoons about dysfunctional families and animals that talk for no reason?
He's even taken his brand and wit elsewhere; his first movie, Ted, will be out later this year, and it's about a not-too-bright New Englander whose best friend is a vulgar Teddy bear that walks and talks and does inappropriate things, for no reason. The jokes all sound like Family Guy jokes, only with (mostly) real people instead of cartoons. Mark Wahlberg, as the dumb man-child, plays the Peter Griffin role in this movie, basically. Also, Seth does the voice of the bear, and he's using the exact voice he uses for Peter Griffin, so I guess he's also being the Peter Griffin part in this movie, and just everyone's Peter Griffin, it's a goddamn Peter Griffin parade. He's his own Tim Burton to his own Johnny Depp, constantly reminding himself that he's infallible. How will MacFarlane ever learn to doubt himself if he's so wrapped up in the amazing American underdog story that is his tremendous comeback?
He's clever and talented and very bright, but with all of his new power, he's also the Establishment over at Fox at this point. And no comedian should be the Establishment; it's just not how comedy works.
If he could take some time away from the perpetual motion device of Family Guy American Dad Cleveland Show Ted, he might actually learn some new comedy tricks (or learn that making a thing talk when ordinarily that thing wouldn't talk isn't technically a "trick").
In 1994, Alice in Chains was very popular. Jeff Buckley released one of the most depressing (and critically acclaimed) albums of all time. Bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots were all over the charts. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain killed himself.
In short, almost everything musical in 1994 was taken very, very seriously.
We are very serious adult men. This song's about a school shooting.
And then Weezer showed up.
We're not! This album is our blue one!
Weezer was one of the only non-Weird-Al-Yankovic-related bands in the mid-'90s that weren't afraid to say, "We're making silly rock and roll music with our instruments and having a very good time!" They were funny, and goofy, and never seemed to take themselves as seriously as the other popular acts that surrounded them. They only wrote catchy pop songs with easy-to-remember choruses, and their songs almost never lasted more than four minutes. They didn't write about fights, or black hole suns; they wrote about how much fun surfing is, and how that one guy looks like Buddy Holly.
It sounds easy and stupid (it sort of is), but it was so refreshing to hear a band that wasn't afraid to sing about how sweet it was being in a band. Their first two albums, Weezer ("The Blue Album") and Pinkerton, have some of the catchiest and most fun rock-for-nerds songs I've ever heard.
And then they Just. Kept. Going.
It's weird to hear new Weezer music. They're still just as goofy, but it all feels so manufactured now. Rivers Cuomo is still writing the same kinds of songs he wrote when he was 19, but he's over 40 years old now. Watching scrawny Rivers sing about sweaters in the '90s, I thought, "Oh, boy, this is so fun!" but watching him sing about eating candy and hearing him try to say things like "I'mma do the things that I wanna do" at 42 years old is more than a little off-putting. You're a father, Rivers. Stop singing about how rad you think everything is and go home and play with your kid.
Weezer showing up in the mid-'90s was important; they were a clear reaction to music that had gone a little too far up its own ass. But it's 2012. We don't need jesters anymore; music is goofy as shit now. One of the biggest bands in America right now is called "fun.," people win pop stardom on television and something called Skrillex got famous for creating an album that tries to sonically represent the sound of two fax machines fucking.
Weezer, you've served your purpose. Please take care of your children.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked's senior writer (ladies), and he'd probably do well to take some time off for a while. He'll be speaking on a comedy panel on 5/16/12 for Digital LA alongside Funny or Die's Scott Gairdner and CollegeHumor's Spencer Griffin. Check it out if you like things.
For more from Dan, check out Why Humanity Can't Get Past The 7 Deadly Sins and 6 Insanely Awesome Things The 1900s Thought We'd Have by Now.