As fictional producer Pete Hornberger on the massively hilarious 30 Rock, Scott Adsit plays one of the few regularly-sane characters. But for his new comedy Mary Shelley's Frankenhole, the performer, director, and co-executive producer is delving into territory that's slightly more bizarre: the world of of Dr. Frankenstein. Check out Frankenhole's premiere on Sunday, June 27 at 12:30 a.m. on Adult Swim.
For Mary Shelley's Frankenhole, you're reuniting with many of the people who worked on Moral Orel, which was also a stop motion series on Adult Swim. What is it like writing for and directing stop motion?
It's interesting for me since a lot of the time I'm in New York while they're filming in LA. Generally, the writer and director are on hand to guide and give direction to the animators as they animate so, when I'm not there to direct, I have to put myself on tape acting out the whole episode in my apartment or wherever. And there are several directors on hand ready to help, including Dino, if I'm unreachable for some clarification. The animators are so talented and our rapport with them is so easy after all this time that there's a shorthand between us. The nerve-wracking part is when we haven't communicated well enough and the shot, which might have taken a few days to complete, needs to be started again from the beginning. And it's not like, "Okay, Take Two Action!". One little shot is hours upon hours of work.
Mary Shelley's Frankenhole centers on the time travel of Dr. Frankenstein and his run-ins with monsters and various historical figures. How was a concept like this pitched?
Well, it was the brainchild of my partner, Dino Stamatopoulos. We thought since Moral Orel was such a success on Adult Swim, we should prepare another idea to capitalize on our growing cult status. That status never grew past "I think I've heard of that," as it turned out. Adult Swim canceled Moral Orel, despite respectable ratings, for the reason that it became too "depressing" and "dramatic" and "well written." But, funnily enough, at the same meeting that they canceled us, they greenlit whatever Dino wanted to do next. His idea was to explore the classical movie monsters in stop motion and make a really silly and, design-wise, beautiful little show. He's always been a big fan of the Universal monsters and he knew I had a slightly smaller obsession with them, so he asked me to assist him in creating it. It started as an homage to those monster films in the form of a bizarre, character-driven, filthy, twisty plot, stop-motion comedy about Frankenstein's castle.
One of the things viewers will probably notice about Frankenhole is that it packs a lot of story into each episode. Do you find it difficult to be mindful of development when writing comedy?
We wish we had more time to tell the stories at Adult Swim. Some shows there get a half hour, others, like ours, get about 12 minutes. It can be very beneficial to comedy in that it streamlines it, or makes you work to fit it all in, but some jokes or situations could be made better with some breathing room. Timing suffers.
A lot of people were sad to see Moral Orel end as soon as it did. Did you take any lessons from it or was Frankenhole as detached of a project as it could be?
Adult Swim wanted us to avoid the drama of Orel and just be funny. So we learned that, to stay on the air, we have to please the bosses a little more this time. In their minds, nothing is funnier than a really good Michael Jackson joke and to us there's nothing more scarce. That said, we love this show and its characters. We've found our own little personal pop culture perspective.
Frankenhole is a very different show from 30 Rock, which is a bit more traditional in its approach to its characters and their problems, though those are still far from ordinary in themselves. Has working on one affected how you approach the other?
They're pretty separate in my mind. Apart from the fact that [Jack] McBrayer is also made out of wire and foam.
How is Pete's role on 30 Rock is similar to being an actual producer?
The fact that it's hard to tell what Pete does is a good start. I think of Pete's job as paperwork peppered with personality balancing. He's got to try to keep the ship on course while keeping the stars from quitting and the writers from failing. All while trying to just find some quiet, happy harbor where he can sit and forget that he only wants what he doesn't have: Freedom. Which he's terrified of. As a producer on Frankenhole, I just have to be creative and help guide a ship that has a great captain already. So my real producer job is much better than Pete's.
How do you think Pete would fare if he met Dr. Frankenstein or if he was somehow teleported to that world?
Pete would want Frankenstein to put his brain in Tracy Jordan's body for a weekend just so he could experience what it's like to share a hot tub with 7-foot strippers, Billie Dee Williams, and the wheelchair kid from Glee.
Be honest, now: Frankenhole's got undead monsters
is this the next Twilight? Can we expect a steady stream of tween fanfiction to come from it?
All fan fiction is just about seeing characters you love fucking each other. It's a mark of success. So, yes, I would be disappointed if there wasn't some fanfic about the Mummy giving The Fly a reach around.
It seems like you've given nearly everything a go when it comes to comedy, from writing to acting to improv to some standup. Is there anything that you'd still want to try?
I'd love to create a radio program like The Goon Show. Is there still radio?