Review: Seth MacFarlane is a family guy at the Bowl’s John Williams tribute

Seth MacFarlane
Actor Seth MacFarlane sings standards at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday and Saturday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Seth MacFarlane: Live at the Hollywood Bowl!

A sentence perhaps many thought or wished that they would never see. But there he was, the “Family Guy” creator, in the cool of a beautiful August evening, dressed in a formal white jacket and a black vest and bow tie, singing Cole Porter. 

For those of us who know MacFarlane from his ribald slate of Fox comedies, it was a bit of a shock. It’s not like those of us from TV-land were completely blindsided though. 

After all, we did witness the voice of “Stewie” host the Oscars in 2013, where he mostly conformed to the norms of the august occasion. Still even then, he did sing “We Saw Your Boobs.”


And maybe he would have eventually turned to his trusty tool box of boobs, body parts or functions as he so often has in his comedies, if only he would have had more time. But on Friday night MacFarlane was a special guest for John Williams: Maestro of the Movies, and as a result was on stage for only three songs. 

A veritable Bowl tradition, the spry Williams’ tribute to the movies was again a big hit with audiences. Powered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the movie composer’s “Star Wars” theme music -- not to mention the accompanying hundreds of twirling light sabers -- ruled the night.

But for his part, MacFarlane didn’t say, do, or sing anything that would have offended the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, who movingly sang “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from the movie “Amistad.”

In fact, the animator and comedian has a wonderful baritone voice that rendered lovely versions of “Luck Be a Lady” and “You’re Sensational.” He also sang “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from his movie “Ted,” about a stuffed teddy bear come to life with a foul mouth and an appetite for drugs and porn.


It seems that MacFarlane has more dimensions than his cartoon characters. He studied with Frank Sinatra’s vocal coaches and is fond of selections from the Great American Songbook. 

In 2011, he made an album of jazz and big band numbers, which was nominated for a Grammy. And he recently recorded a holiday album with Norah Jones that is slated for release later this year. 

Let’s see Stewie, Brian or Ted try that.

Indeed, MacFarlane was a perfect gentleman Friday and his quick wit came in handy for audience members, who at times confused him with one of his crude-minded creations. After one gentleman let out a very loud grunt heard throughout the packed Bowl, MacFarlane replied: “You know you’re not in your house, right?”

It was obvious during MacFarlane’s performance he loves these old standards. And yet as he crooned away, he was also smirking through much of it -- just in case, perhaps, someone in the faceless audience, or one of the satiric voices in his head, wanted to mock him for caring about something unreservedly.

Twitter: @latimesmmiller