I Was Pat Sajak on Family Guy

I don’t sound that much like Pat Sajak. You can take that for what it’s worth, I suppose. I have a very particular sound, and so does he, but I guess I got close enough, because I landed the role to play him for an opening scene on Family Guy.  The episode was “I Take Thee, Quagmire,” in case you are going to look it up on Hulu or something.

It was kind of a dream gig. I’d been a fan of the show since its earliest days in the late 90s before it was cancelled the first time, and was one of those people who scoured the internet for clips of the show when they first started popping up in the early 2000s. And, naturally, I was thrilled when the show was picked up again (in large part due to the popularity of those clips).

When I got the role, I was living in LA. I’d auditioned for a number of things on the show, mostly for various celebrity soundalikes, and had always hoped something might connect. For whatever reason, Pat Sajak was the one.

It was wonderfully surreal, going to do the recording. The place they produce the show (and write and produce it) is in this non-descript building on Wilshire right near the La Brea Tar Pits. Oh, and fun note about that: If you translate that from the Spanish, it’s literally “The Tar” Tar Pits. Also, in person, the pits stink of sulfur that bubbles up from the primordial ooze. You can smell it for blocks. This is one in a long list of things about LA that are way, way less glamorous when you actually live there. Case in point: The Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame is one of the most depressing places on earth.

I digress!

The Family Guy offices, when you get off the elevator, have these giant, two-dimensional cutouts of all of the main characters, which is just so dope. It’s also kind of weird to think that it all happens from a building complex that is also home to, like, random insurance companies, but, again, that’s LA for you.

The office itself was equally divided between the writing half, which was full of foosball tables and conference rooms, and the production half, where the (duh) producers worked, and also where they had a giant fishbowl-like recording studio, with an engineer console on one side of the glass, and a booth with four mics (for doing group reads with the cast) on the other.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to meet Seth MacFarlane when I did the session. He sometimes directed episodes back then, but not always. Sure enough, he was there for my recording. It went down very quickly. I did about four takes, which were more or less the same, and he seemed happy. There was one line, though, that he didn’t seem sold on. The last line, after Peter guesses the whole Wheel of Fortune puzzle with no letter clues.

And that was the one they called me back to reread the next week. And what a stroke of luck that they called me back, because while I was waiting, none other than the late, great Don LaFontaine came in and sat next to me. For those of you who may not know, he was the movie trailer guy who coined the phrase, “In a world…” He was well known in voiceover circles, so I knew right away who it was and was a little star struck, but I tried to play it cool.

Shortly after that, Mila Kunis came in and sat down. Equally tried to play it cool. I don’t remember what the three of us talked about. I think he talked about fishing, and she told me that she sometimes tended bar for fun at place called Bar None in the East Village, which was near where Lori and I used to live in New York. Seth MacFarlane was late for the session, and so after a while, Mila called him on her cell phone and said, “MacFarlane. Where the f*ck are you? Quit sleeping or whatever and get your ass over here.” It was actually really cute.

He eventually showed up, looking, it must be said, a little tired and unshaven. I read that one line about six different ways until he was satisfied, I left, and that was it.

The following week, they had me read the role of Osama bin Laden, but at the last minute, Seth MacFarlane decided he wanted to read the part himself (and he was, I must admit, far funnier at it than I was).

I’ve tried over the years to get back on the show, in part because—and this is absolutely true—that one cartoon voice gig is still paying royalties to this day, but also because it was a total thrill. Maybe someday, if they ever bring old Pat Sajak back, I’ll have another shot at it.