Seth Green and Matt Senreich started producing their Emmy-nominated stop-motion sketch series in 2005. Additionally, many thanks to the lovely Miss Sarah Schneider for conducting this interview with me.
Robot Chicken is famous for its pop culture parodies. Do you feel that being on Adult Swim or working with action figures lets you get away with more risque material?
Seth: Absolutely, both of those things. Adult Swim gives you a lot of creative leeway because of the time slot and the targeted demo. And [the toys] are so relatable, it's something you physically held in your hand as a kid and that makes what it's doing inherently funny. There is no sexualization of a toy unless you apply it.
The show also taps into some pretty dark territory. Having a guy get jerked off through a video game stands out.
Matt: I would like to point out that that is a puppet of our co-head writer Doug Goldstein. Maybe it's a true story, maybe it's not.
The production process is so intense, too. You have to be pretty specific about what you want the animators to do.
Seth: It's really long and you don't have the opportunity for retakes. You start making concrete decisions very early on and then you have to live with them for the next 11 months.
What criteria determine whether or not a sketch gets green-lit?
Seth: A lot of the time our sketches are things that can't be done live. It can't be something that would be on MadTV or SNL. It has to be something that isn't a physical possibility.
Matt: This is such an elitist way to look at it, but between the two of us and our head writers, Tom [Root] and Doug [Goldstein], three out of four of us have to like it. There are so many sketches on the show that we individually hate. But three out of the four of us liked it.
So it's not just a rule of thumb, it's a firm democratic process.
Seth: The writers hate it.
Matt: Hate it!
Seth: But the four of us came up with this show back in the day and we feel like it's the best way to preserve it.
What do you look for in your writers?
Seth: You get to know who can do what. Who can come in, who has the right tone for this sketch or that sketch. When we put the Star Wars special together we were really specific about who we brought on because we needed people who had both a wide basic knowledge of Star Wars and also a real skill in the type of storytelling we were going for.
Robot Chicken is also famous for booking an insane variety of guest stars has anybody ever said "no"?
Seth: Oh, we get "no's" all the time. [When we booked Don Knotts], it was in the first season when I still had to explain what Adult Swim was and what this program was and how it was going to work. He liked the idea and we made it a super-comfortable environment for him.
Matt: But for the most part we go out to people's agents and see who wants to do the show. We're at that place now where if people say no we just go and find other people to do it.
Would a Robot Chicken movie be something you would want to do in the future?
Seth: It's a maybe. We don't want to jump the shark too soon. If we can't do something that's spectacular enough to make into a feature, it should just be a long-form episode.
Matt: We don't want it to be Jackass: The Movie.
Seth: Which is very funny, but is still just sketches and interstitials.
Seth, we were looking at your IMDB and realized you've literally have been working and famous as long as we've been alive.
Seth: [Laughs] Got you beat, fuckers!
What keeps you going? How do you decide where to focus next?
Seth: I love acting and I like to make stuff and I've had the great luxury over my life always to work and so I've earned enough money and enough credibility to be able to not desperately chase after things that just pay me. I really try to find things that I want to do or that I think are important or fun. Every time I read a script, I think, is there something in this for me? Is this a project I want to be a part of, a story I want to tell, or a character I want to play?
Matt, you went from writing for Wizard to playing with action figures on TV. Is this the dream life?
Matt: I'm enjoying myself so far. It's nice to know I had this idea when I was still a teenager and it's grown from there. To everyone who says you can't make your dreams come true, you just have to laugh at them. I was 16 when I was working at Marvel Comics, so it's a matter of talking your way into jobs and then proving to people you can actually pull those jobs off.
You guys reference so much obscure stuff. Did you just spend every waking moment of your childhood watching TV?
Matt: What do you mean, "did you just", we still do. [Laughs] I watch everything from Real World/Road Rules to Tila Tequila. Awesome.
Seth: I love pop culture and I'm aware of it whether or not I'm deeply invested in it.
What were your comedy influences growing up?
Matt: I think we both point to Monty Python a little bit.
Seth: Yeah, British humor. Black Adder, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python. I also watched tons and tons of stand-up. When Comedy Central first formed as a network, they had every comedian that was up and coming and old footage of guys that were really established. So when Dennis Leary was starting to do those rants, I was watching the 6-year old footage of him on Comedy Central with a mullet hair cut talking about smoking.
Did you ever do stand-up?
Seth: I did, but it's just not for me. It's a specific medium and it requires a very specific skill.
Matt: What he's trying to say is he's not funny.
Final question has the Internet changed the way you work at all?
Seth: It's insane! It's completely changed the way our culture interacts. It's put an emphasis on being creative, it's put an emphasis on a sense of humor, and it's helped to perpetuate this notion of immediate social status. If you have not seen the Piano Cat video by 3pm you are fucking retarded, you are not cool, know what I'm saying? It's given everybody the opportunity to be a star for two seconds.
It's opened up a lot of opportunities.
Seth: My buddies and I had to hard edit in camera when we wanted to make shorts. If any of us had the green screen technology available on a MacBook when we were 18 years old, we would have made a movie that is distributable. It's a fantastic time for people.