Our Kind of Guy

He has the most Cleveland-centric name since, well, Moses Cleaveland. But if you’ve never watched Fox’s wildly popular Family Guy, you haven’t met Cleveland Brown.

You’ll get another chance this fall as the side character gets his own spin-off, The Cleveland Show (Fox, Sundays at 8:30 p.m.). And, of course, there’s a story behind the name.

“I spent 25 Christmases in Shaker Heights and University Heights — my mother’s family is from there,” says 43-year-old Mike Henry, who worked seven seasons as a writer and supervising producer for Family Guy. “We went to Gesu Church. I played football in the snow.”

Henry, a Richmond, Va., native, dreamed up the character of Cleveland Brown — a slow-talking deli owner — early in his Family Guy stint, and the character stuck.

The twist is The Cleveland Show’s Cleveland Brown doesn’t live in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in the fictional town of Stoolbend, Va. And before you ask, Henry isn’t some hard-core football fan, either. In fact, he’s been to just one Browns game in his entire life.

Turns out the choice of the name had as much to do with how it rolls off the tongue as it did Henry’s holiday memories. “I love the sound of the word,” he says. Still, Henry adds that the characters he met in our city’s “melting pot of people” were undoubtedly an influence on his own. “Cleveland,” he declares, “is everyman.”
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