Interview conducted by Chris Bowman
Matthew Crosby is an all-around lovely guy. He’s one-third of the award-winning sketch group Pappy's. Their Edinburgh Fringe shows have achieved critical success over the years in the UK. They’ve got two podcasts: Pappy’s Bangers & Mash, which is based on conversation and riffing; and Pappy’s Flat Share Slamdown, which is a panel show. The group is currently wrapping up production on a new BBC 3 show called Badults coming out sometime in July. Crosby also performs as a solo stand-up act.
International Waters: Pappy's is a well-established comedy act here in the UK, but you also work as a solo comedian. Which came first: the desire to perform as part of a group or as a stand-up?
Matthew Crosby: I think the desire to be a comedian came first and performing alongside other people seemed like a good step towards making that happen. Most of my biggest comedic influences when I was growing up weren't straight stand up or straight sketch: Vic & Bob, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Monty Python, Spike Milligan. So, when I started performing comedy, it was always as part of a gang show with other people. Partly because that was the sort of comedy I enjoyed the most; partly because I was too scared to do it on my own.
IW: Two things I'm glad you mentioned, fear and Vic & Bob. I guess that's three. Let's talk about fear for a minute. It's a great motivator as they say, but it also prevents people from taking the first step or the next step.
MC: And I certainly experienced that when I first started. Although, if you'd asked me at the time, I wouldn't have put it down to fear. I'd probably have said that the open mic circuit just wasn't ready for my type of comedy. Which wouldn't have been true: the open mic circuit is always ready for people who aren't that good at comedy but think they're spearheading a comedy revolution.
IW: I’m not naive enough to think that I am going to revolutionize anything, and certainly not comedy. I'm just generally afraid. Vic & Bob, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, and Monty Python. What was it about that off-kilter comedy that drew you in?
MC: I think when I was younger I was quite into "stuff my friends don't know about". Now I'm a lot more evangelical when I find things I like. But old TV shows, stuff that was on late-night channel 4, obscure indie bands; that was exactly the sort of stuff that fueled my feeling of superiority over my peers.
IW: It's nice to get past the "it's mine" feeling to the "have you seen this?" phase of your life, isn't it? I want to go back to fear for a minute. Pappy's has become an Edinburgh Fringe favourite and well received around the UK in general. There has to be a certain confidence that comes with critical acclaim. How much attention do you pay to that sort of thing?
MC: Well, we did our own PR this year (which is becoming increasingly and depressingly rare in Edinburgh) so we had to read our reviews. But as for how much attention we pay to them? They're undoubtedly useful for selling a show; but they are no indicator of how good a show is. If an audience is laughing and clearly enjoying themselves, you don't have to wait for tomorrow's papers to see if the show was good or not.
IW: What was the last thing that frightened you professionally?
MC: I suppose the scary thing with success is that you feel compelled to better yourself next time around. That's scary. But what we've been lucky enough to be able to do is constantly change medium. In 2010, we felt like we'd done all we could with Pappy's live shows, so we took a break and started podcasting. That introduced us to a whole new audience, gave us a new enthusiasm for working together, and helped us clearly define our dynamic. It also gave us a chance to miss doing live stuff so when we came to write the 2012 show, we were really excited about getting back to it. Then we had our television show commissioned, which was a whole new challenge; but at least it didn't feel like, "well, we've done a good live show; we have to immediately do another one..."
IW: The new BBC TV show is tentatively called Secret Dude Society. What are some of the challenges you faced in making the show?
MC: The first challenge was coming up with a new name for it. The pilot script has been around for a few years but when we came to write the next five episodes, we decided that the title didn't quite fit. So now it's called Badults.
I guess the biggest challenge comes from handing over responsibility to other people. In our live shows we write and perform everything ourselves; we make all our own props and costumes. In TV, you have to trust other people to help you realize your vision. Luckily, we had a superb team who all seemed to understand what we were aiming for.
Actually, the thing we had on our side, that perhaps a conventional stand-up might not have, was that, because there's three of us, we are already used to collaboration and compromise. If you're used to the total autonomy of stand-up, I imagine the step towards authoring your own TV show could be much harder.
IW: On the subject of compromise, how do you decide on when to fight for (or insist on) an idea and when to give in?
MC: If you completely believe in something, there's usually a rational way of explaining why you think it's a good idea. We're all pointing in the same direction- we want to make a brilliant show. Obviously, if it's for a live show, there's the "let's put it onstage and see who's right" test. If it's for the television show, we just have to go on instinct. If any of us really dislike an idea, then what we try and do is present an alternative. It's easier to deal with someone saying, "Instead of that, how about this?" rather than "I hate your idea but I have nothing of my own to bring to the table."
IW: Of course. That makes perfect sense. Basically just be a rational, decent person when dealing with people you respect. If you had to give a "best of” Pappy's sketches or bits to the uninitiated what would they be?
MC: And people you don't respect. Why not just be a rational, decent person? That's my revolutionary philosophy and the central tenet of my newly formed cult. Donations welcome via my PayPal page.
As for "best of" sketches for Pappy's, there's something a bit "bleurgh" about hearing sketches described; but, here goes: we do a version of the Wizard of Oz where we... No I can't do it. It'll sound embarrassing. Come and see us live. Or watch Badults when it comes on TV (probably July on BBC 3 in the UK).
IW: Say something funny.
MC: I thought of this joke today so I've got no idea of whether or not it's funny but here goes: my family are so middle class that when I was sick they gave me tiramiSudafed.
Matthew Crosby can be found on twitter at @matthewcrosby
This interview was conducted and written by Chris Bowman.
The U.K. team for this month’s episode of International Waters is composed of Helen Zaltzman and Michael Smiley. Helen Zaltzman hosts an award-winning podcast with Olly Mann called Answer Me This! It’s a funny and insightful show that is definitely worth your time. She is also a writer and maker of things which are available for your perusal at helenzatlzman.com. Michael Smiley is a stand up comedian and award-winning actor. Some may recognize him as Tyres O’Flaherty from the geek-friendly sitcom Spaced. His role as Gal in the Ben Wheatley film Kill List garnered him the award for Best Supporting Actor from the 2011 British Independent Film Awards and should not be missed. It’s twisted and graphic, but man, is it good. The common thread here is that they are both lovely people. Not to mention funny.
International Waters: Helen, you’re a writer and podcaster, what comes more naturally to you: writing or talking?
Helen Zaltzman: Well, talking takes much less time, so I’d say that.
IW: How often do you hear back about the advice you give to listeners who write in?
HZ: Oh, they’re quite vocal. Some of them are quite grateful, I think others are a little bit hurt. But we’ve probably saved many lives in our podcasting career.
IW: Do you have a particularly memorable bit of feedback?
HZ: We had this 17-year-old guy who wrote to us a few years ago and said, “I’m thinking of having an affair with my 43 year old neighbor who’s my mum’s friend. She sent me some sexy texts so I know she’s up for it”. We said, “She’s your neighbor and she’s married as well. Don’t shit where you eat, basically. And she’s your mum’s friend so they might talk about your sexual performance. Very traumatizing.” He wrote back and said, “Actually I did decide not to do it because she sent me some photos of herself undressed and I decided I didn’t fancy her and also her husband is really frightening.”
IW: Oh God.
Corey Stoll is one of those actors that you’ve seen but might not recognize. He’s been in a handful of cop shows, most recently he played Detective Thomas "TJ" Jaruszalski on Law and Order: Los Angeles until that show was cancelled. He was in an episode of The Unusuals, which was a great show in my opinion, but it too was eventually pulled. Lately, he’s gained accolades for his turn as Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen’s fantasy Midnight in Paris starring Owen Wilson. It’s a truly fantastic tale where larger-than-life characters from the Lost Generation of Paris in the 1920s (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Gertrude Stein) are visited by Wilson’s character who gets lost one night while walking through Paris…you guessed it, at midnight.
Chris Bowman: What were your thoughts on Ernest Hemingway as a person before playing him in the film?
“Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadvanture” is a documentary about audio verite: the art of capturing and reproducing audio from day-to-day life without commentary. It centers around two young men, Mitch Deprey and Eddie Lee Sausage, who live in a cheap, run-down apartment in San Francisco in the late 1980s. Their neighbors, Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman, are two old drunken men who belt out profane yet oddly comical arguments nightly. Mitch and Eddie record these arguments and begin sharing the resulting audio with friends. Although the circumstances around the arguments are disturbing and even mildly frightening, the material is also weirdly compelling and sometimes amusing as Raymond and Peter exhibit a unique and intricate style of verbal abuse. Over several years, the tapes are circulated via underground networks throughout the country and become a viral phenomenon that inspires songs, plays, comic books and essays by artists and writers as varied as Kevin Peaty, Daniel Clowes and Devo.
The film explores how the tapes spread so widely and the impact of the material’s popularity on the lives of both the recorders and the recorded. It also examines the thorny legal, artistic and moral issues around developing commercially successful projects from material that the artist found and recorded, but did not create.
It was directed by Australian filmmaker Matthew Bate who kindly answered a few of my questions about the film.
Follow this link to read our discussion.
Nathan Rabin has been the head writer of The Onion's AV Club for over ten years, his first book The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture delves into the unusual upbringing that helped create the pop-culture savant that we know and love today: in a way that's both hilarious and heartbreaking.
Jesse Armstrong is one of the co-creators and writers of the BAFTA-winning BBC sitcom Peep Show. (A BAFTA is like a British Emmy.) Now entering its sixth series, with a US version in development at Spike TV, Peep Show is a funny, but cringe-inducing, depiction of the lives of two twenty-something flat mates, played by past TSOYA guest David Mitchell and comedy partner Robert Webb (above). Its first season recently became available in the US on Hulu. No less an authority on UK comedy than Ricky Gervais called it "The only British thing that I was really blown away by in the last few years."
Armstrong has also written for other acclaimed television series, including the sketch series That Mitchell & Web Look and the political satire The Thick of It.
MaxFun Contributor Matthew Phelan spoke with Armstrong from the UK.
Matthew Phelan: You've said that you and co-creator, Sam Bain, and the show's stars [David] Mitchell and [Robert] Webb, met in something called a "writing team experiment" within the BBC …
Jesse Armstrong: Yeah. [laughs] It was fascinating because there is a definite mystique around American writing techniques in the UK--the long runs, the more successful audience figures. We have a problem getting mainstream comedies to work and people often think that it may be something to do with [not using] the team system. I think there are interesting things about having teams of people on a show, but I definitely don't think it's a magic bullet.
So, this was a really ill-thought-through plan to create a British, team-writing situation. The people behind it thought that, to do a team show, you got six people (in this case who didn't know each other) in the room with a producer and a one-line idea--which was, "What if there was house that was squatted and these people all lived together." We wrote the script between the six of us. Each taking, one sixth of the script and we came up with this horrible, kind-of "Frankenstein's monster" as anyone would imagine. Anyone with any knowledge of the US system knows that you still have a show creator who writes the pilot, sets the tone.
So, that was disastrous, but we went into it not knowing David [Mitchell] and Robert [Webb] and came out knowing them quite well, as we sniggered behind our hands and went, "Oh, god. This is terrible what we're doing, isn't it?"
Click "Read More" for more with Peep Show Co-Creator Jesse Armstrong, including audio of the full interview.
Charles Spearin is a member of Do Make Say Think and Broken Social Scene, whose first solo project was released in February under the moniker The Happiness Project. To construct the album, Spearin interviewed his Toronto neighbors on the subject of happiness, then built melodies around fragments of their speech. Spearin recently spoke with Chris Bowman about community, life, and the likelihood that your neighbors are as amazing as his.
You could say this project was inspired by silence. Can you explain how The Happiness Project began?
Well there are a few different origins to the project that kind of came together nicely into one neat package. My father’s a Buddhist, and I was raised with Buddhism in my house and in my early twenties I started doing meditation retreats. In the practice of meditation there’s a lot of emphasis on reflection and awareness of your breath and that kind of thing. And in coming back home you really start to notice a lot of things you wouldn’t normally notice. And one of the things, in this case, would be the melody of speech. When people talk they’re so concerned with getting the meaning across that they don’t pay attention to the sound of their voice, unless they’re a radio announcer or something.
The main theme of the record is happiness, but you’re also making a statement about community. What made you turn to your neighbors?
Well, my neighbors are right there. That was one of the convenient things about the neighborhood. You know, I have two little kids now, and when you have kids the neighborhood becomes very significant. You live in it, it’s your home, it’s their world and I started to appreciate just how fortunate we are to have this community. It’s very mixed, it’s very healthy, and everybody looks out for each other. It’s downtown but it’s still safe. In a way I wanted to do a musical sketch of the community. So combining the thoughts of doing music on speech with the idea of doing a musical sketch of the neighborhood was putting two and two together and bringing my neighbors over to talk about happiness and life and listen to their voice for musical cadence.
Were you aware of how inspiring they were ahead of time?
Well, no. They’re just ordinary people. I think when you bring people into your home and give them a comfortable place and give them a chance to open up and be even a little bit philosophical a lot of people have a lot of wise things to say. It’s amazing, you never know what your neighbors are going to say, you never know who they are unless you encourage this kind of communication. Which really kind of amazed me. At first I was just using them to some degree as guinea pigs to just get the melody of their voice. But they kept saying the most wonderful things. So I shifted the focus a little bit.
It’s a shame you had to use such small snippets. I’m sure the rest of the interviews were peppered with other wise words.
Yeah, there were some great moments. Mrs. Morris had a great talk about her grandmother living to be 126 years old in Jamaica. She’s got lots of great stories.
At a recent live performance you mentioned (jokingly) that you had decided to become an expert on happiness and that you were reading Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. Do you think at some base level there is a universal formula for happiness?
Certainly in Buddhism there’s a universal formula for suffering. That’s, basically, thinking about yourself. Become self absorbed and you’ll become miserable. So the natural opposite of that is to think about others and you’ll be happy. Or let go of your idea of self then you’re more likely to find happiness. That’s part of The Happiness Project as well. If you’re listening to the world, you’re less likely to be self-absorbed.
You admitted to being unfair to one of your subjects, Marissa, by asking this question. So I’m going to play the role of you and ask, what quality do you think is the most important quality in life?
That’s a hard question. That’s a bastard question actually. I can’t believe she got through it. (After a long deliberating pause) I can’t believe she answered it so quickly! It doesn’t take much to feel lucky, you know? Maybe that’s the important quality I’m looking for. Appreciation. Being able to appreciate the life that you have without struggling to find something else.
The Happiness Project is available now on Arts & Crafts. You can hear the beautiful music Spearin created here.
If you haven't already heard of the funnyordie series Drunk History, now you have. Now please go tell your friends. Series creator Derek Waters (he's the Derek in Bob Odenkirk's Derek and Simon web series) spoke with Chris Bowman and explains how alcohol + academics = comedy.
One of the great things about the Drunk History series are the lessons that can be learned. What are some important lessons as an actor/writer you have learned while filming this series?
The most I've learned making Drunk History is working on timing. The whole way it works is all in the timing. In the narration and the re-enactment. Also I've learned in the bigger picture that telling people about this idea was very hard. It has taught me that if you find something funny, you should DO it and not worry what others think. Just make it.
Not everyone who drinks to excess throws up, and yet it seems you have a knack for finding the ones that do. Eric Falconer in episode 2 is an absolute champ. How do you select the storytellers for Drunk History?
Everyone we have filmed does puke. This isn't anything I do to him or her. It just happens. Eric Falconer is the winner though. We only show it once. I don't find puking funny...but Eric's puke was beautiful. All the people that are storytellers, I've known for a while. I know they are smart... and drink. Then I ask certain people, what their most passionate time of history is, and what they feel more people should know about. All the stories they tell, they really love and are excited to tell. Works better that way, rather than some idiot making stuff up.
There are some very funny people involved in this series. I can't imagine it feels much like work when you all get together. What is a typical shoot day like?
Man...I don't know. I'm working with people I look up to, in front of the camera and behind. Everyone is there for fun, and wants to be there. With no money, it means you are doing it just ‘cause you love it. Very few things you get to work on are ones that everyone around you wants to be there. I only want to work on stuff like that. That's my dream.
It's not everyday an actor is asked to mime along or lip sync to a drunk retelling of history. How do they initially respond to the challenge?
It's hard. Jack Black said he had never done anything like this. We have the narrator voice on a computer playing as we shoot. It takes awhile, but it's very fun. The actor has to talk like the narrator, and act like the character they are playing. It's a lot to do.
I think this series needs to be shown in classrooms (although, I see the problem with that). It's a great example of the fun you can have with history after actually learning it. I guess it could apply to most subjects. Why did you go with history?
Thanks! I was going to do a different subject, which I'm going to do soon. But I think you have to start at history. Most people don't take drunk people seriously unless they too, are drunk. And most of the time drunk people don't talk about anything important. So I thought it would be great for them to talk about stuff that actually does matter, and on a subject we all know. And if we don't know it, we might remember some of it from school.
Given that DH is a labor of love, do you only work on it when you have time, or do you have some sort of schedule?
I wish I could make them every day. It’s hard because I want to do it all the time, but I also don't want it to ever get old to me. When Jeremy Konner and I go to the narrators houses it takes a lot out of us too. Watching someone drink a lot and get sick isn't always fun.
When can we expect the next episode? Who do you have lined up to appear?
I would love to tell you but that is a surprise! Please don't hate me for that answer.
It's the most amazing thing to me how many people want to be in these little videos. That's been the biggest surprise to me.
Anything you'd like to add for The Sound Of Young America listeners/readers?
Please watch Drunk History and send it to your friends if you like it. You will see it on TV hopefully in July. I wish I could say more but people make me keep my mouth shut.
Over the past few years, CollegeHumor.com has gone from a repository of "Cat Gets it in the Jewels" videos to one of the internet's top sources for original comedy. Now, the College Humor team have created a television series for MTV, which premiers Sunday night at 9:30. MaxFun scribe Casey O'Brien talked with Jeff Rubin and Streeter Seidell, two of the minds behind the show, about making a career in comedy, and making the transition from the desk to the family room.
What do you think sets College Humor apart from the millions of other sites posting funny videos and articles?
Jeff: The biggest difference is our original content, which very few people are doing at the professional level we are and even fewer are doing well. So there's that.
Streeter: When I started at CH we did not do any original video. A year or so later we started to introduce it slowly so it was kind of like, "if you came to watch wacky cat videos, you can still do that. And, hey, if you have an extra few minutes, maybe you'll like this sketch we made, too." We built a following for our original stuff within the audience we already had for our submitted video and I think the two worlds - the viral video world and the original video world - found a nice balance on the site.
Jeff: But even for the less glitzy parts of the site, like the links and the random Internet videos, we try to give it a personality. Instead of just saying, "Here's a video of a Japanese Goblin Shark," we'll say, "Japanese Goblin Shark - the three scariest words known to man." We're not just an automated "best of the Internet" thing. Our collection is manually curated by the same people that write and star in the videos and I think that comes through. We're not just faceless administrators, so hopefully it's a lot more personal.
Streeter: At the end of the day, I think CollegeHumor is different because it evolved slowly and intelligently from a much simpler humor site. It built an original humor brand on a solid viral video foundation and I don't think we'd be successful today without either one of those things.
What inspired you guys to get into comedy?
Jeff: I'm tempted to say it's because people made fun of me in middle school, but the truth is I was into comedy before that. I think when you're five-years-old you find a movie you love and you just watch it three times a weekend, and for me that movie was Spaceballs. In about fifth grade, I used to write a silly newspaper called The Daily Smell that I gave away to my classmates. I listened to Weird Al albums like they were actual music until approximately high school. Hard to believe I wasn't more popular!
Streeter: I think I knew I wanted to do comedy after the first time I did standup. I was terrified the night before. I actually had a panic attack and forced my friend to take me to a hospital in the Bronx (not a place you want to go to the hospital with anything less than a gunshot). But the next night I was sitting in Standup NY and heard the MC call my name. I went up and did the garbage five minutes I had written a week before. And I did great. I think the MC had said something like "this is this guy's first time" before I went up so the audience was a little more forgiving but by the end of my set I was getting genuine laughs. After the show I was sitting in the bar and all these older people were coming up to me and saying how much they enjoyed my set. It was a great feeling and I knew then and there I wanted to do some form of comedy for a career. If I had bombed I don't think I would have continued with comedy.
What is this College Humor TV show thing that people keep jabbering on about? What is it exactly and how is it going to be different from the website content?
Jeff: "The CollegeHumor Show" is going to be a natural extension of the stuff you see on the website. Imagine a half-hour long Hardly Working with a three-act plot, guest stars, cut-aways to other skits, and higher production values.
Streeter: We wrote the show, play fictionalized versions of ourselves and shot it in our office, much to the annoyance of all the other people who work at CH but aren't on the show. With the show we had 20-something minutes so we got to play with the story aspect and got to explore the characters a bit more. Hopefully we were able to preserve the tone of the stuff on the site and, if we did that, people who like Hardly Working will probably enjoy the show.
What's the hardest part about writing comedy and being consistently funny?
Jeff: I'm well aware how spoiled I am, but working with 10 of the funniest people I've ever met has in many ways made me jaded. Sometimes it takes something really over the top and bizarre to get a hearty LOL out of me, and it can be tricky to sort out what's funny to us and what's going to be funny to the rest of the country.
Streeter: I think the hardest part about being consistently funny is dealing with the fact that you will never be consistently funny. We're lucky to work at a place that doesn't put an unreasonable pressure on us to produce at all costs, so if you just don't have any amazing ideas for a month or two you're not going to get fired. However, because Ricky understands that creative people cannot be creative at gunpoint, the pressure to be funny comes from within. If he were breathing down my neck to write something funny and I couldn't do it, I could blame his pressure for stifling my creativity. But when I can't think of something funny I only have myself to blame, which is a much worse feeling. Dealing with that failure to produce, or to produce quality material, is the hardest part of writing comedy.
You guys have actually made money from being funny. What advice do you have for people that are trying to get into the world of comedy writing?
Jeff: Going into comedy to make money is crazy. If that thought doesn't discourage you, you will be fine.
Streeter: The way that almost everyone at College Humor wound up there was by writing tirelessly and being generous with their talents. A lot of people I meet will say things like "You're so lucky you got a job there." And to a degree they're right. Certain things just happened to get me there, but I also worked ceaselessly, and for free, for almost two years to get myself into a position to be hired. "You're so lucky," yes. But I also spent most of my senior year in college sitting at my desk writing articles instead of going out and partying. Most people there have similar stories, though most started as very talented, dedicated interns. And the common thread we all share was a willingness to put ourselves and our writing out into the world. It's great to be the funniest guy in the frat but nobody in a position to pay you is going to come knocking on your door if you never put your talents out into the ether. There's certainly no recipe for success and, yes, there is certainly an element of luck involved, but if you're talented you cannot harm your chances of doing this professionally by putting yourself and your work out there as much as you can.
Casey Willis and Christian Danley are both writers for 70-30 Productions, an animation production house that has produced such classics as Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo. Their new spin-off series,"The Xtacles," premieres November 9th on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. Casey O'Brien got a chance to talk with the writers about their new show and their lack of qualifications for their jobs.
How did you both get started in the world of animation, and in particular, "Frisky Dingo?"
CW: Christian and I both attended the Atlanta College of Art. After I graduated, I was teaching English in Japan when Christian started working for 70-30. When I returned to the states, he greeted me at the airport with a Sealab t-shirt and a smile. I thought he had the coolest job on earth. A few months later I asked him if I could try out for an internship at 70-30. That internship eventually led to a full-time position.
CD: I was an improvisor at a local theatre here in Atlanta called Dad's Garage. Matt Thompson came and saw an improv show shortly after 70-30 Productions had finished the first couple episodes of Sealab 2021. He asked me to come in and help write on a script. That was about 7 years ago.
You have both worked on the show "Frisky Dingo" and are now moving onto the spin off, "The Xtacles." What is it about working and writing for an animated series, as opposed to a live action sitcom, that you find most appealing?
CW: Because of our style of animation, we can make changes to the show very late in the process. I think that is a freedom you might not have on a live action sitcom, especially one filmed in front of a live studio audience.
CD: Working on what we'd call a "real TV show," as opposed to our semi-fake one, would probably dictate a much larger crew. Our shop is small, there are only 8 of us who make this whole cartoon. That means we all have a hand in just about every aspect of the process. The illustrators and animators comment heavily on our scripts (they are always jerks), and we offer feedback on their drawings and animations (we are always supportive). I couldn't imagine we'd have that same luxury in a larger production company.
Why did you guys decide to do a spin off of "Frisky Dingo" and how is it going to be different?
CW: Cartoon Network was interested in doing a Frisky Dingo spin-off and the Xtacles seemed like a natural choice. One of the biggest differences between Frisky Dingo and The Xtacles is the Xtacles will be taking off their helmets and you'll finally be able to see what they look like. One Xtacle did take his helmet off in Frisky Dingo but we only saw the back off his head before he was dismembered by Awesome-X.
CD: Before Frisky Dingo we did Sealab. Almost every episode of Sealab ended with it blowing up, and the world re-setting. Frisky Dingo was heavily serialized where some jokes don't payoff for 3 or 4 episodes (if ever). Our goal is for The Xtacles to be something comfortably in-between.
This new breed of cartoons with adult content is still a relatively new phenomenon. What are some of your influences in writing for this program?
CW: I like to watch The Soup and Best Week Ever and if the same joke is made on both programs I know it must be funny. Then, I steal those jokes and write them a third time because I have been told that the third time is a charm.
CD: I love television, I have watched it my whole life. Also, technically we shouldn't be allowed to write for a living, as we have no training in it. So we write television for people who grew up watching television. The jaded, cynical, and smart assed jerks who think they know everything about television, not because they went to television school, but because they've studied it all their lives just by watching. This group of people is notoriously hard to please. (apparently... they're jerks)
The show is obviously not meant for children. Do you ever have trouble getting certain jokes on the show or is there an inherent understanding when it comes to programming on Adult Swim?
CW: In Frisky Dingo we really wanted Xander Crews to say "god dammit" without censoring it. We were told there had to be a full one second pause between the words "God" and "Dammit". On that day I learned a full second is the difference between righteousness and blasphemy.
CD: Because we're on Cartoon Network there is always the potential that a kid could tune in. So they really go over our scripts with a fine tooth comb. We like to use any "offensive precedents" set by other shows as leverage to get our own offensive jokes on the air. This has varying degrees of success.