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With shows like Family Guy and American Dad, Seth MacFarlane has built a career on tasteless jokes. But the comedian and recent Oscar host is distancing himself from an offensive Internet stunt involving his TV characters.
Some knuckleheaded YouTube user spliced together two unrelated scenes from the March 17 episode of Family Guy, which basically implicated the main character, Peter Griffin, in the Boston Marathon bombings. The practical joker started with the following scene about the Boston Marathon:
Then he cut to another, unrelated scene in which a terrorist hands Peter a cell phone. When he dials, he hears explosions in the background. The overall effect: Family Guy appears to have predicted Monday's bombings (and suggested that Peter Griffin helped carry them out).
Spinning a conspiracy theory out of an episode of Family Guy sounds like a silly joke. But it's not quite so funny when you consider that right now FBI agents are feverishly working to track down the terrorist who killed three people and maimed over 150 others -- many of them children. To his credit, MacFarlane has made sure to condemn the stunt on Twitter.
The edited Family Guy clip currently circulating is abhorrent. The event was a crime and a tragedy, and my thoughts are with the victims.— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) April 16, 2013
According to Reuters, Fox has pulled the episode from Internet sites like Fox.com and Hulu, and won't rebroadcast it on TV.
This is the second time in five months that Fox has had to pull one of MacFarlane's shows in the wake of a violent incident. As the New York Daily News reported a few months back, Fox had to yank episodes of Family Guy and American Dad in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, "because they featured humor about punishment of children."
MacFarlane and his network deserve some praise here: They had the decency to hold back the mean-spirited zingers during a time of national grief. But here's something MacFarlane may want to consider. When his network finds itself having to pull an episode of his show every few months because it might aggravate victims of real violence and widespread pain, maybe it's time to reconsider his brand of comedy.
Maybe there's another way to make people laugh -- one that viewers could turn to in times of horror and grief? It may be more challenging to write jokes that don't involve hurting children or mowing down runners with your car, but who knows? If he rises to that challenge, this talented comedic writer might end up being even funnier.