Here’s How Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Johnny Bravo’ Years Brought About the Biggest Celebrity Guest on ‘Family Guy’

The ‘Family Guy’ creator spent one season writing for ‘Johnny Bravo,’ where he met the future mayor of his fictional town
Here’s How Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Johnny Bravo’ Years Brought About the Biggest Celebrity Guest on ‘Family Guy’

If it weren’t for Johnny Bravo, Quahog, Rhode Island would be missing a mayor.

When it comes to cartoon comedies, it’s not uncommon for A-list guest stars to play themselves, seeing as the medium makes it hard for fans at home to recognize a celebrity by voice alone. Unfortunately, as is the case with so many new Simpsons episodes nowadays, that strange dynamic of adding a real-life superstar into a cartoon universe too often creates an atmosphere of ass-kissing and humorless celebrity worship that leaves fans wishing that Lisa never went Gaga

However, there is a certain class of celebrity whose sense of humor is so advanced and unselfish that they’re willing to fully adapt their personality into a comedic cartoon instead of awkwardly playing a true-to-life version of themselves who can’t take a joke. The late, great Adam West was one of those select few stars, and his performance as himself in the role of town mayor on Seth MacFarlane’s flagship franchise Family Guy never would have happened if not for West and MacFarlane’s mutual friend, a burly, boorish Elvis wannabe named Johnny Bravo.

The Cartoon Network series was characterized by its many celebrity cameos and walk-ons — for instance, former child star and “Mormon Michael Jackson” Donny Osmond was a regular member of the cast, playing a version of himself in his teen idol years. Along with Osmond, Johnny Bravo featured appearances from basketball great Shaquille O’Neal, comedy legend Seth Green and, of course, the original Batman.

West appeared in two episodes of Johnny Bravo playing himself, and during his time on the show, he caught the eye of an up-and-coming animated TV writer, producer and star. Two years before he launched his own cartoon empire, Seth MacFarlane wrote on the first season of Johnny Bravo, and he thought that West’s performance as a heightened version of himself the show was too good to stay in children’s animation.

MacFarlane would later say of the Adam West character, “I wrote on a show called Johnny Bravo when I was at Hanna-Barbera, and he guest-starred as himself. He was so funny, and he’s got this way about him. I think he likes playing into what he’s known for, even on a casual basis.” MacFarlane continued, “He’s a really fun guy to work with, and genuinely gets comedy. It’s not the type of situation where you just bring somebody in to make fun of themselves.”

When West agreed to join the cast of Family Guy, MacFarlane avoided doing the obvious and forcing West to entertain too many superhero jokes. As MacFarlane explained, “The character we’ve created is kind of this alternate-universe Adam West where he’s mayor of this town, and we deliberately have not made any references to Batman, because we like keeping that separate. It’s the obvious place to go. … He’s one of the characters we get the most requests for more of. It’s nice, because to me it means we’ve built a funny character around him that doesn’t just play off of the fact that he’s a celebrity. He’s playing himself, but he’s not playing himself.”

As for West’s thoughts on the matter, before his passing in 2017, the legendary actor reflected on his time spent working with MacFarlane, saying, “We had the same kind of comic sensibilities, and got along well. When Family Guy came around and Seth became brilliantly successful, he decided to call me and see what I was doing. He asked if I would like to come aboard as the Mayor, and I thought it would be neat to do something sort of absurd and fun.”

However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows — when asked if he had any fun behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Family Guy, West sarcastically cracked, “No, except they abuse me terribly over there.”


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