Alexandrea "Alex" Borstein is an American actress, writer, producer, and comedian. She is well known for her long-running role as Lois Griffin on the animated television series Family Guy, and as a cast member on the sketch comedy series MADtv. A native of Deerfield, Illinois, Borstein is a graduate of San Francisco State University, where she studied rhetoric. She was trained in improvisational comedy at the ACME Comedy Theatre, near Hollywood, California, and was selected to join MADtv after being scouted by talent agents who noticed her work at the theatre. She was a writer and voice actor for several television shows, including Casper, Pinky and the Brain, and Power Rangers: Zeo, before joining the cast of MADtv as a featured player, and later as a repertory player in 1997.
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Hiya folks. Here to chat about everything Family Guy and all things Getting On.
Do you ever wake up thinking how you were never nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Miss Ungermeyer in The Lizzie McGuire Movie?
Every day, my friend, every day.
Did he really "looka lika man"? and what was the inspiration for that character?
At times, yes, he did, in fact, look like a man. Ms. Swan is a direct rip-off of my grandmother. She was one of my most favorite people on the planet.
What's it like playing Montez's wife on Workaholics? Was that scene where you gave Ders an over the pants handy an awkward scene to film?
Workaholics was a blast! Those guys are great. Rubbing one out for Ders wasn't awkward for me...Ders?
Out of all the dirty, raunchy things Lois has said over the years, which line is your all-time favorite?
He's knockin' on the back door. Should I let him in?
In the first few seasons of Family guy, compared to now - or when it came back on the air Lois' voice is very different. Any reason why? Also Seth McFarlane credits you with A LOT of the jokes and writing from earlier seasons in particular - any funny stories with you and him?
Both Seth and my voice has changed a lot. It seems to have gone up in pitch. No idea why. You'd think as we aged it would get deeper, but it's the opposite. Seth and I have been friends now since 1997, which is hard for me to wrap my head around. There are way too many stories and none of them appropriate for Reddit.
Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA!
What is your personal favorite episode of Family Guy and why? Also, who is your favorite character?
I had fun doing the ep where Peter puts a bar in the basement and Lois starts singing nightly. I also loved the ipecac scene, can't recall which ep it was, though. "Who wants chowder?"
I just want to thank you for the laughs that Bunny Swan gave my family when I was growing up. My mother didn't have an easy job raising two teenage boys by herself, but cheered her up like me saying in my best Miss Swan voice "Ya okay" or "Oh tanks. You nice lady."
Anyway, will we ever see the return of Miss Swan?
Working on it ;)
Alex, I have been watching you on TV since MAD TV. It was one of my first, "I'm too young to watch this/get these jokes but laugh anyway." shows. This is the first time I'm getting in on the ground floor of an AMA, so I hope you see these!
Was there any sort of rivalry between MAD TV and SNL? Did a lot of the MAD TV folks try out for SNL, or vice versa? There were probably other skit shows on TV at that point, but in my 10-year-old mind, you were the only two.
I see a lot of Will Sasso in random places, and even see you two together along with a few other MAD TV folk (Nicole Sullivan comes to mind). Do you guys help eachother get gigs, or is the comedy scene just that close knit?
What did you think of Family Guy when it got cancelled the first time? Did it seem like a given, did you lament it as something that really could have been great (And then celebrate your correctness later)?
How do you feel about the sexualization of Lois in fan art, etc? Does it creep you out, or is she just a random character you don't identify with?
Are you immortal? I just saw your wikipedia pic and you look the same as when you were giving the ol' "Looka' Like'a man" on MAD in the 90's.
Thanks for so many awesome years of laughter!!
BTW I -looooove- your singing voice.
Wow. Lots of questions! 1) We always wanted to be as great as SNL and as popular, but I don't even think SNL knew we were on the air. So, no rivalry. I never auditioned for SNL, not sure about any other MAD folk. 2) Will and I hang out all the time. I adore him. He's one of the sweetest, funniest people in my life. We are dying to work together again. 3) Shows get cancelled all the time, figured it was just another day in showbiz. But it's second coming has been freakin' amazing! 4) I do think the Lois porn can be creepy, but I take no personal offense. Mostly I just can't believe how much free time people have to make that crap. 5) Flattery will get you EVERYWHERE!!! Thanks :)
Of your Family Guy castmates, which projects of theirs have been your favourite?
i.e. Seth – Music is Better than Words, Mila – Black Swan, etc.
I think TED is one of the funniest movies to date. LOVED it :)
Do you know what the deal is with the purple octopus in Stewie’s room? I’ve always been curious if there was a story behind it.
It's a secret shout out to elderly homosexuals. Not really. I have no idea if there is any kind of story behind it. Would be a good question for our animation team.
Welcome to /r/IAmA, Alex!
What was it like to work on the early episodes of Gilmore Girls, and did you like the direction the story took in the later seasons?
I did the pilot as Sookie and had a blast. Amy Sherman Palladino is one of the most talented writer/director/creators I have ever worked with. She makes it all so easy for us actors because her words do all the work. I then did the roles of Drella and Miss Celine, which were a blast. Although having to take harp lessons wasn't easy.
If Disney channel was to make a new Lizzie McGuire movie, would you be open to playing Ms. Ungermeyer again? Thanks for doing the AMA, Alex!
In a heartbeat. Especially if it shoots in Rome again. Or maybe Spain this time?
Which do you prefer: voice acting or being on screen and why?
Thanks for doing this IAmA!
I really love them both. I do find that when I do one for an extended period of time I start longing for the other one. Voiceover is great because the characters are limitless. I'm not stuck playing people that my body dictates for me. But then getting to do shows like Getting On gives me the opportunity to become the character in 3D, to use my face and my whole person to convey what I want.
Love you so much. You have created a great career as a writer, actor and voice talent, that is for sure. But if you could only do one of those things for the rest of your career, which would it be?
This question is a Kobayashi Maru.
I heard you on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast recently and it was hilarious. What's your experience been with improv comedy shows? How much improvising do you get to do on Family Guy?
I started at a theater in LA called ACME Comedy Theatre where we did a lot of improv in the school. Then we wrote sketches and performed them. All writing comes from improvising, it's just not always done aloud and in front of an audience. I will very rarely alter a line in the FG script because the brilliant writers have worked their asses off to make the scripts great and who the hell do I think I am?
I know Family Guy has had a lot of controversial episodes and I bet a lot of ideas get scraped. In your opinion what episodes did you think Fox wouldn't allow but got aired anyway?
PS saw you on @midnight and you were hilarious as usual.
Fox had originally banned the WHEN YOU WISH UPON A WEINSTEIN episode, but then it was released on DVD. Also PARTIAL TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. ps @midnight was a blast
Which quote do you hear most often from fans?
He look like a man!
is there anything Peter could do that would make Lois divorce him?
Nope. She's stuck.
How were you cast as Louis and how were you cast as Dawn? Thanks for the Ama!
I was working on MADtv at the time and the woman who had developed MAD for FOX was then developing FG with Seth. She asked me at some party if I would be willing to help out with some voices for a pilot presentation of an animated series. I says YES!!!! Then I met Seth at a recording studio a few days later and the rest is history. For Dawn, I was working with the BBC folk who were developing GETTING ON and they thought of me for the part. And thank god they did! I had just had my baby up in Seattle when I got the email regarding the audition, so I put myself on camera and emailed the audition down to LA and viola! Here I am.
Are you friends with Melissa McCarthy? You guys were on Gilmore Girls! Also, do I look like a man?
You look like an Italian man. I knew Melissa from Gilmore Girls days and we've sent some emails here and there in the last few years, but we haven't seen each other in ages. Almost impossible with both of us working and having two kids.
You're role in Catwoman was inspiring. We can all relate to the dilemma of face cream making your face hard, and it was great to see how you overcame that.
My question is how it felt to be in a revolutionary and award winning movie?
I still can't believe I wasn't nominated for that film. But I hold fast to the knowledge that I was a part of the revolution. I was there America!
what's your favorite time of the day?
Don't care for the day. I'm a night girl.
Thanks for doing this! I'm a huge fan of yours since the MadTV days. You're so very talented.
What's it like working on Showtime's Shameless and which character is the most fun to write?
I LOVED writing on Shameless. The only bummer about doing Getting On is that the schedules conflicted and I wasn't able to write this past season. But I did get to come back as "Lou" Frank's sleazy lawyer, so that was fun. I always liked writing anything for Joan Cusack because you never knew how she was going to deliver it. She is truly one-of-a-kind.
So my husband thinks it's great that he's very much like Peter and with that in mind he wants me to be more "Lois"
I'm sorry. Get out while you can.
Is there a film/show that you’ve worked on that you think went under the radar?
The Lookout. Such a great movie written and directed by Scott Frank, starring Joseph Gordon Levitt
Are there any up-and-coming talents that you think are worth checking out?
Lateefah Holder was just on Getting On with us and I thought she was amazing. It was her very first acting gig post college.
Hey Alex! I love your work so in turn I ask: on Family Guy, which character of yours is your favorite to voice and why?
I love Lois, of course, but it's so much fun to show up and see some new random character that I get to make up a voice for. Just did a 1920's librarian the other day that was fun.
If you could have a crossover Family Guy episode with any other animated franchise, which would you choose and why?
The Jetsons. Cuz flying cars...duh.
Because your name is kind of ambiguous, did you ever get mistaken for a man when sending in a resume or paperwork?
Yes. That was the reason I used Alex as a nickname, actually. It was always easier to get interviews, open mic spots and called back.
What grinds YOUR gears?
other humans in my way when i wanna do stuff
Thanks for talking with us! So, have you ever been so furious with Seth you physically harmed him?
No. We;ve only had one "fight" in our whole relationship and it was over an ostrich. I kid you not. But he made up for it by giving me a Lois painting that now hangs in my bathroom.
We have only had one "fight" in our relationship and it was over an ostrich. A live ostrich, I kid you not. But Seth made it up to me by giving me a Lois painting that now hangs in my bathroom.
Do you ever get annoyed/tired/etc. by your own voice? Especially when doing Lois!
I realiZe this might sound like an insult, but I promise it isn't! I'm just referring to your unique voice. :)
YES! I find my voice incredibly annoying, not just when I'm doing Lois. I feel like I talk all day long and this two hour Reddit break of just typing is actually such a relief.
Are you anything like Lois in real life?
We both have vaginas, boobs and children.
How long do you estimate Family Guy will be on the air?
I'm hoping for 2025...oh my god, that could actually happen, right?
How do you feel about the fact that women have it so much harder in comedy than men? What do you think of Bill Burr's opinion on the matter? (Linked)
Women have it harder in life, so why should comedy be any different? We have old white men in suits and robes across the country deciding what we get to do with our bodies. We have little or no consequences for people who abuse us and aging is a bitch on boobies.
How much influence do you have in the material that makes it into the episodes of Family Guy? Or is it simply just providing the voice of Lois?
For many years I was also a writer on FG, so for those episodes I had lots of opportunity to pitch in for Lois and al the characters. And I am actually thinking that I might return as a writer next season :)
What's your favorite movie?
Being There, The Jerk, Ordinary People, Defending You Life, Tootsie, A New Leaf, Wall•E
If you can think of anything Lois hasn't done yet that would make for a hilarious episode, what would it be?
I will be returning as a writer this next season on FG, so I don't wanna blow my story ideas now. You'll jus have to wait and see.
What did you know about Family Guy and what were your thoughts about what it might be before you auditioned?
As soon as I read the script I knew it was very different. It wasn't like anything else I'd ever read. I had no idea it would become the cultural phenom it has, but I knew it was bent in all the right ways.
Can you tell us something about yourself that we may find surprising?
Not a huge fan of g-string underwear for men.
Alex, what's your favorite Family Guy cutaway joke?
Not a cutaway, but my favorite line: Who wants chowder?
Would you like to be Lois for one week?
Love love LOVE your work and miss you on Mad TV. (Edit: I miss Mad TV in general, not just you on it.)
Would you ever consider doing sketch comedy on television again?
It would have to be a really different format, just to do something new. It's always hard to try to relive something that had it's time already. Might feel like going back to college and living in the dorms.
Hi Alex! thanks for doing an IAmA, you rock! If your were a real-life Pewterschmidt heir, would you still marry someone like Peter Griffin?
Hmm, probably not, but what do I know. We all make mistakes, right? Some just happen to weigh 365lbs
Today is my birthday so i decided to be lazy and use the computer.
I've been watching family guy since before i can remember, and I'd really like to thank you for all the laughs.
My question for you, is what is it like to work on a television show for such a long time, and to see something as simple as a show for adults bloom into something that millions of people watch?
It is almost unheard of to get the opportunity to work this long on one project. I feel so lucky, so appreciative and aware of the fact that it could end at any moment. Life is good and I'm happy to help make some people laugh every week.
When is the last time you did a Harold? Did you like doing them?
btw this is an improv related question not asking about your sexual history
Never done one.
What is your favorite memory from working with Hilary Duff?
She was just a little kid then, so funny that we both have toddlers now! Life moves fast, people. She was always a sweet girl.
Do you have any real life persons that you base the character of Lois Griffin on?
The voice is based on a cousin of mine in Long Island.
my cousin in Long Island. please don't tell her
Have there been any family guy jokes that you were uncomfortable with or you thought may have gone too far?
Nope. Most of the horrific stuff never makes it on the air. We have so many table reads and reviews that anything that sucks is cut.
What's your favorite character you've ever played? A character you always wanted to play?
Dawn Forchette on GETTING ON
What was your favorite skit on MadTv?
The first and last Swan sketches were divine. Also loved The Gap Troll.
People might not remember Mad TV too well but they sure as hell remember Ms. Swan. Thank you for that.
Did Michael McDonald Roll in spoiled food to get into character for Stuart? Stuart looks like he would stink.
Hi! Has playing a character with such strong personality for x years impacted your own??
No, probably the opposite. I think I've seeped into Lois a bit :)
Is there any episode of Family Guy you don't like?
No. Each episode has so many gags, so many cutaways, so many great moments that there's always something I love in every show.
Did you enjoy dressing up in burlesque for the "Lady MadTv" video? I still watch it from time to time and it always cracks me up.
YES! That was so much fun. That wig was to die for. The wardrobe and make-up and hair people on that show were total unsung heroes. AMAZING!
What's on your Netflix queue?
Waiting for new Scandal season. Just finishing up The Fall and loving it!
Saw you on At Midnight last night. You had some good ones. How was that experience?
@midnight was so much damn fun. Those guys are funny as hell and everyone is so chill. Which is rare.