Seth MacFarlane, pictured in Las Vegas at “Sinatra 100-An All-Star Grammy Concert,” sings with the San Francisco Symphony on New Year’s Eve for the second year in a row. (Eric Jamison/Invision/AP)

Funny guy Seth MacFarlane takes his pop music seriously

For Seth MacFarlane, singing traditional pop songs with the San Francisco Symphony is an ideal way to spend New Year’s Eve.

Last year, he was asked to appear with the symphony. He says he “jumped at the opportunity” to work up a program of arrangements that specifically showcase the orchestra. It went quite well, so he’s doing it again.

It was among the first of a unique series of concerts he’s done featuring tunes of the big band era – but not the most familiar hits.

“Being able to assemble the show is part of the reason I do it, just to hear these charts played by the great band,” says MacFarlane, who counts himself among fans of The City’s orchestra.

MacFarlane, perhaps better known as the creator TV’s “Family Guy” and “Ted” movies, is not sure of the extent to which fans of his satirical, bawdy comedy and music cross over.

“I’ve wondered about that,” he says, noting that his concerts, though primarily focused on the music, do have appeal for those who enjoy his cartoons.

“Tonally, there’s a little something for fans of ‘Family Guy,’ says MacFarlane. “It’s something we’ve honed over the past year; we’ve reached a ‘Goldilocks’ kind of sweet spot.”

But MacFarlane, a multiple Grammy Award nominee (including a 2016 nod for best traditional pop vocal album, joining Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Josh Groban and Barry Manilow in the category), indeed is serious about music, a big part of his life since he was a child.

“My parents exposed me to all different kinds of music,” he says. At 9, the Connecticut native appeared in a local production of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.

It wasn’t until college that he discovered Frank Sinatra, “the single greatest vocalist in the history of popular music,” MacFarlane says, calling Sinatra’s uniquely orchestrated sound a bridge between classical of the 19th century and hard jazz of the 20th century.

While his style echoes Sinatra, MacFarlane says he has little interest in re-recording something like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

“There are thousands of really great songs that haven’t been done to death,” says MacFarlane, who collects sheet music and songbooks, scours record stores and estate sales and goes online to find them. He points to “Music Is Better Than Words,” the title tune of his first album, which came from the 1955 Gene Kelly musical “It’s Always Fair Weather.”

He promises that Thursday’s concert will be a lighter affair than the moody tunes on his aforementioned 2015 recording “No One Ever Tells You,” which was fashioned after Sinatra’s “In the Wee Hours.”

“It’s hard to communicate” the thrill and honor he feels about performing with the symphony, he says, adding, “it’s a blast to do it on New Year’s Eve.”

Not a huge lover of the holiday, he says the show provides him a welcome alternative to clubbing and incessant drinking, which, he adds, “is usually something I dread.”

IF YOU GO
Seth MacFarlane with the San Francisco Symphony
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 31
Tickets: $85 to $210
Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org

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