June 28, 1999 12:00 PM

Seth MacFarlane found his comic muse in his young cousin Tyler. Two years ago, while MacFarlane was developing Family Guy, now a hit animated comedy on FOX, he visited with Tyler and his mom at his aunt’s Massachusetts home. “As they left, my aunt yells, ‘Goodbye Tyler, I’ll see you later!’ ” recalls MacFarlane. “This 4-year-old says, I’ll see you in hell!’ ”

The tot inspired MacFarlane to create Stewie Griffin, Family Guy‘s diabolical infant, who is bent on matricide. Tasteful? Not hardly. But in a post-South Park world that doesn’t seem to matter. While much of Family Guy’s humor is harmless enough, there’s also a bit in which the head is shot off a JFK PEZ dispenser, and another where little Stewie pleads, “Shake me like a British nanny!” “That’ll get us some mail,” notes MacFarlane, who is a writer and executive producer on the show—and, at 25, one of the youngest people ever to create a series for prime time.

The son of a school tutor and school administrator, the Kent, Conn., native began cartooning in 1995 for Hanna-Barbera, where he worked until FOX approached him last year. After execs saw a sample of Family Guy, the network signed him to a deal worth up to $2.5 million. To relieve stress the single MacFarlane, who lives in a two-bedroom Glendale, Calif., apartment, plays golf in his free time. But he won’t reveal his handicap just yet. “My handicap,” says MacFarlane, taking a cue from Stewie, “is my own [expletive] swing.”

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