The immaculately groomed MacFarlane, then, is an old-fashioned guy, musically. But he’s a progressively minded - that is, gleefully offensive on occasion - scriptwriter and joke machine. Does that dichotomy sit easily within him?
“Yeah, but that’s something that I can’t take credit for myself. I view Monty Python as the great originator of that combination. The Meaning of Life in particular comes to mind, and my favourite example is Every Sperm Is Sacred.” MacFarlane is rhapsodically smitten by the troupe’s satirical song about the Catholic prohibition of contraception.
“It’s so beautifully written, it’s musically and lyrically legit, the orchestrations are fantastic, the choreography and the presentation are very, very complex – it’s treated seriously.
“It was clearly made by people who had a genuine love for show music. If there’s one cultural reference that I can point to that has been a total influence on what I do,” he declares, “it’s that piece in that movie.”
Of course, it’s easy to be controversial and anti-establishment if you’re making punk music. But if you can make those points within older, more traditional genres, that’s truly subversive.
“Absolutely. And in many ways it buys you a lot more leeway to be edgy. Family Guy is full of examples of content that would be very questionable to a lot of people, but is made palatable by the fact that it’s pleasant to the ear. The infamous Aids song is sung so well by this barbershop quartet… these four guys just sounded so tight that you can’t help but acknowledge that it’s pleasing to the ear despite the lyrics.”
MacFarlane’s Teflon-coated confidence also applies to Ted, his new buddy-movie about a walking, talking, swearing, cocaine-snorting teddy bear who blights the life of his “owner”, played by Mark Wahlberg. A huge box-office hit already in America, it is, it must be said, hilarious.
You won’t see many funnier scenes this year than the one in which a teddy bear - brilliantly realised by CGI - has a full-on, room-wrecking fight with beefy Mark Wahlberg.
But the 15-rated comedy has been criticised in some quarters for being vacuous. Does MacFarlane care? Does he hell.
“We never set out to make Schindler’s List,” is his party-line defence of his first feature. “The goal of this movie is to make people laugh as hard and as often as we can.”
Was Wahlberg right when he described the character of Ted - a foul-mouthed, sex-mad telly addict and camp-sci-fi-film fan - as “Seth on steroids”? MacFarlane chuckles about the bear he voices with a chewy Boston twang. “Ted is very different from me. It is a true characterisation.”
So, just to be clear: for all his serial bachelor status (he’s usually described as having dated a “string of starlets”), his riches, his encyclopedic passion and reverence for the world of Frank, Dean and Sammy, Seth MacFarlane is not a coke-taking Flash Gordon obsessive?
“I’m not. I barely even smoke pot more than once every six months.”
For Seth's performance, watch BBC Proms 2012 - tonight at 8:00pm on Radio 3