Marlee Matlin on 'Family Guy' gag: 'Lighten up, people'

Marlee-Matlin_lLast night, Marlee Matlin appeared in a Family Guy Presents Seth & Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show sketch (see video after jump) that played her speaking voice for laughs. In an interview conducted via email with EW, the hearing-impaired actress explained why she participated in the skit — and how it ties in to a new cable series she’s developing.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you become involved with this special?
MARLEE MATLIN:
I had been in touch with Seth MacFarlane’s office to ask him to let me use my own voice in the segments where they had a cartoon character based on me. After all, I have an Oscar and Alex [Borstein], who voiced me, doesn’t. God knows, I would have done a far better job of playing me than her.

Were you aware of being mocked on previous Family Guy episodes?
Mocked isn’t the right word. I was just part of the joke. I learned a long time ago from when I did Seinfeld never to take anything seriously and to be part of the joke is the best way to show what a good sport I was.

Were you ever offended by those jokes, or did you always think they were funny?
I personally have dealt with any adversity in my life with humor. That’s why I told America to “Read my hips!” on Dancing With the Stars or was happy to play along with Jason Alexander and Jerry Seinfeld in the great restaurant scene on Seinfeld. I know a lot of deaf people might have been offended when they made fun of my voice but remember, it was MY voice they were making fun of. I was more than happy to show up and show them that I could dish it as well as I could take it and that being offensive works both ways.

What about this skit — offensive or funny? (Or both/neither?)
It was sick. It was twisted. It was rude. And it was very Family Guy. People love [MacFarlane's] stuff. They don’t pay him the big bucks for nothing and I was glad to be part of it. I want to do it again and BE the voice. BTW, it only would’ve been offensive if I hadn’t laughed and I loved that you couldn’t quite figure out if I was seriously angry at Alex or not!

As a very visible member of the hearing-impaired community, were you hesitant to be involved in a skit like this?
No. If I were, I wouldn’t have ever done Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, Howie Mandel’s hidden camera show, My Name is Earl and this show. And it’s why I’m developing a very politically incorrect and very funny show for Showtime with Mario Cantone and Carol Leifer (who, BTW, wrote my episode for Seinfeld).

Were you aware that Microsoft withdrew its advertising from this special due to its controversial content?
Yep. That’s their right. But I had a hard time believing that they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they said they’d sponsor a show written by Seth MacFarlane.  What were they expecting? Sesame Street?

Did you find any of the other controversial jokes in this special to be offensive?
Offensive. No. Sick, very. But that’s Seth and Alex. Humor comes in all forms and everyone has their cup of tea about what makes them laugh. But the day we censor humor is a sad one for sure. All I gotta say is, “Lighten up, people.”

Also, read Ken Tucker’s take on the entire special.

Photo Credit: Albert L. Ortega/PR Photos

Comments (117 total) Add your comment
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  • TVGord

    Marlee Matlin, you are awesome!

    • Victor

      I don’t know maybe she’s right to be such a good sport, but I found it disturbing at a gut-level Can’t say I’m right or wrong, that’s just how I feel. And she is awesome, intelligent, and beautiful after all these years. And it’s a terrible immitation of her. She’s easy to understand.

      • Anne

        it’s only a ‘terrible’ imitation because they always exaggerate stuff for comedy. The ‘movie phone guy’ doesn’t sound like that either, and Randy Newman doesn’t sound quite like Will Sasso does him (although it isn’t far off).
        It’s comedy, and I really do agree people should lighten up. I have a strong belief that many times, those you target for humor are those you admire, whether secretly or not, and that often ends up happening in comedy shows.

    • Dave

      Finally someone who’s not all whacked out over doing something sick and funny. Everyone needs to lighten up over all of this PC stuff. Relax people-if you don’t like it-don’t watch it. Most of these people who have a hard tme with this are most likely hypocritical I would guess. Laugh to themselves than preach how its wrong. I was a huge fan of Marlee’s from Seinfeld and even a bigger fan now. She’s a grounded person willing to laugh at herself-a lot of people could learn from this. Dave in Denver

    • Mike Tarasewich

      I didn’t even know about Marley’s accomplishments until she showed up on the “Almost Live” family guy episode. All I can say is WOW! I would love to date that lady regardless if she’s deaf. I hope this show opened the eyes like myself that pre-gudgement about ANYONE is just wrong! And I looked at her comments about the show, she didn’t mind. What’s the saying?….. “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, weep… and you weep alone.- MIKE

  • Joe

    Wow. She may not be able to hear a word that I say, but damn if she isn’t Sexy as hell and Intelligent to boot!

  • GoMe!

    Marlee Matlin is a cutie patootie!

  • ld70

    I love that she has a wicked sense of humor. Way to go Marlee!

  • Dysthymia83

    Christopher Walken, Cartman, and now Family Guy. People really hate “Poker Face”, lol.

    • kerr

      Dream on, idiot.

  • Ben

    Bravo to Marlee for being such a terrific sport and someone not so narrowminded that they don’t see that there is humor in all of us and always a reason to laugh at ourselves. Part of overcoming diversity is accepting who you are and making the most of it, and she does that spectacularly

  • Dominic

    Brilliant all round – props to Marlee and Alex here – nothing more powerful than making fun of yourself and owning it.

    And Marlee is looking great!

  • Sarah

    It is awesome when people are not only able to take a joke but become part of it. We are too damned serious in this country. She’s right – we need to lighten up!

  • Sina

    That skit, the whole show, was so funny. When you can laugh at yourself, it makes you look even more likable. You can tell she’s secure in herself. When they did that Poker Face bit I started crying. That was so funny.

  • Cole9219

    First, I have to say “Good for her!” Now…That show was stupid and horrible. It was worse than the new Family Guy episodes. I couldn’t believe how unfunny it was. I kinda like Family Guy but that was the most stupid thing I have ever seen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • Jeremy

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!! Seth MacFarlane, here is your next spin off…Marlee Matlin yells at all of your critics and teaches them that same sign.

  • susan

    Made me like the show Family Guy even more. To be a part of something like this is to really live your life. Go Marlee

  • Bo Dunn

    I love Seth MacFarlane and now I LOVE Marlee Matlin. The show seemed a tad strained, but I think it was a wicked spoof of the old variety shows of the 50s and 60s.

  • Epi L.

    The skit was funny…Marlee Matlin making her surprise appearance made it even MORE FUNNY! She still looks sexy and her sense of humor makes her even sexier!

  • Omacolt

    I am not a Marlee Matlin fan as I think she has been riding the coat tails of an Oscar win for over 20 years. However I commend her on her good sportsmanship. She has earned some respect from this critic of her.

    • M

      Yeah, I mean it’s great that she’s done all she’s done after overcoming a lot of these problems, but she keeps on mentioning that she has an Oscar in every single interview…

      • wakeforce

        B**ch please! If I had an Oscar I would be carrying that thing around. Do you remember who else won an Oscar 20 years ago! I’d be reminding folks every cahnce I got!

      • Diggity

        I’d have my Oscar turned into a necklace and I’d wear it every day. I’d make people call me “Oscar winner Diggity”

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