Multi-verse: Adult Swim Regular Chris Casper Kelly Exclusive Interview

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With a phone book full of Cartoon Network alumni, and otherwise perfectly content on spending most of his days in the depths of Hell, Casper Kelly has had an awfully odd career – going viral with Too Many Cooks, a spoof take on old sitcom intros, Kelly has made a career out of subverting what you assume you know and wringing it for all the comedy juice its got. Via messenger falcon, we talked about his career thus far.  

Jon Holmes, FinalBoss: First question goes; you originally worked with Cartoon Network. How was it working with someone like Scooby Doo?

Casper Kelly: Hah! Oh man, it was fantastic. When I applied for that job, you had to give a resume, but also a writer’s test. Right out the gate, you were being judged not by your background but by what you could do. My first job in Cartoon Network was doing promos. Stuff like “Watch Powerpuff Girls every Wednesday at 8!” That department was very talented and fun.

At that time, Cartoon Network was mostly known for playing old Hanna Barbera reruns so the On-Air Department was tasked with making promos and bumps that had original takes on this older material to make it fresh. We had budgets and the encouragement to do 60 second skits that were originally animated, with Scooby Doo or Dee Dee from Dexter’s Lab or what have you. It was Heaven! Michael Ouweleen hired me and we just had so much freedom, and it was a group of like 12 great writers, and we supported each other but also wanted to top the last thing that was done. One of the first promos I did was Fred Flintstone trying to find a parking space outside of Cartoon Network, and Speed Racer steals his spot.

So many talented people from that era. Dave Berg did one with Aquaman communicating with a goldfish. It was fantastic. Or Stuart Hill did these series of shorts called Captain Linger. It was great training for making longer form stuff.

Chris Casper Kelly profile picture

FB: Do you think that informed Your Pretty Face (Goes to Hell) then? It’s that same sort of setup.

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CK: It never occured to me. Maybe. But I think also working in an office inspired me to write a workplace comedy. You’re naturally going to want to write about it.

FB: How did you get that Cartoon Network gig? You said you applied, was it literally that simple?

CK: Yes, a friend of mine was doing freelance advertising for them said “You should apply here.”. 

It was so great because it wasn’t just where you went to college, it was a writer’s test. I really worked hard on that, and they didn’t give you a lot of time. They fedexed it to you and you had to do it in, like, three days. You’d have to do stuff like a Smurfs promo. It was exciting. It came with a video tape with a bunch of promos; here’s a bunch of assignments, and here’s how a script should be formatted, now write a ton of promos. I worked my ass off on that, three days, sent it to them and then had to wait like three months to hear… but then they hired me!

FB: Was that your first gig? Or had you written before that?

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CK: I had done a lot of writing but not much that had been made. I did a weekly cartoon strip for various newspapers around the country – and I think I was one of the early web comics. I had just written on this Nick show CatDog.

FB: CatDog was perverse.

CK: And it had Tom Kenny who’s so great, from Mr. Show, who would later be the Mayor in Powerpuff Girls and of course Spongebob.

FB: Bit of a jump here but what made you go eventually to live action?

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CK: I think I had done a decent amount of live action all along. At Cartoon Network the promos would have animated characters interacting with live action people, and in college I had done short films that were live action. I just like it. I like both. They both have their advantages.

FB: Do you have a preference?

CK: It just depends what’s best for that idea, I’d say.

Mike Lazzo wanted to have a cannon that fired a cannonball and theatrical smoke over the freeway once a day.

FB: Adult Swim is a subsidiary of Cartoon Network, is that right? Did that just come naturally? Was it a suggestion that you would start working for Adult Swim instead of Cartoon Network?

CK: No, what happened was I had started doing some promos for Adult Swim as well because that was part of our job. And I loved all that stuff. I loved Space Ghost, Aqua Teen, Sealab. My boss Michael Ouweleen had a show called Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law which he tapped me to write and consult on. Heaven!  Then I pitched a called Stroker and Hoop and that’s what got me over there.

FB: I think my question is: What’s it like working in the Adult Swim office? Because I picture rocking up and people being like “we’re wearing flippers today and pink shirts and Jeff’s on fire”. Just give me a little info.

CK: Adult Swim is a building that is seperate from the rest of Turner Broadcasting, seperated by – –

FB: By moat.

CK: – – yes, by moat! And a freeway. And seperated from all the oversight. And that’s on purpose. It has a parking lot on the roof and then there’s a giant owl peering over the freeway. Mike Lazzo wanted to have a cannon that fired a cannonball and theatrical smoke and stuff over the freeway at the other Turner buildings once a day, make it a tourist attraction. Atlanta PD didn’t really love that idea at all. Haha.

FB: I have so little info on Adult Swim that I just feel like “Oh yeah, the second floor is vortexes. Oh yeah, cool.

CK: Mostly it’s hardworking people. And vortexes. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. There’s a lot of great stories. Once, some executives from another channel wanted to meet with Mike [Lazzo] to talk about creativity. Mike is someone who does not like meetings. So he moved his desk in the middle of the hallway and there’s no chairs around. There’s nothing on the desk, except one phone that’s not hooked up to anything and he’s sitting at the desk and they’re just standing awkwardly in the hallway around the desk and he’s like “What do you want to know about creativity? I’m happy to tell you.” It was a very short meeting.

FB: (Sobbing) Where do we go from there…? Good lord… You made Too Many Cooks through AdultSwim… Too Many Cooks comes up in every single interview. Every piece of information about you online is about Too Many Cooks. Obviously being the mastermind behind that, are you proud of that that comes up every single time or resentful?

I could easily never make anything as successful, but there’s still room to make stuff that has enough fans that I can make a living doing it.

CK: I definitely don’t resent it. I love it. I could easily never make anything as successful as that, but there’s still a lot of room to make stuff that has enough fans that I can make a living doing it which is what I want to do. I love it, it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m very proud of it.

FB: Did you grow up with religion? Are you at all religious?

CK: I did, I was very much a believer. I probably took it too seriously. Which is probably why I’m not as religious now.

FB: Is that after you got out of that cult?

CK: I wouldn’t call it a cult. And I’m not anti religious at all. I was a methodist, which is your very liberal protestant moderate religion. But still it has ideas that if you take to their logical extreme can cause you concern. Just the notion of Hell is very disturbing: The thought of if someone believes the wrong religion, they’re going to be tortured for eternity… I’m an agnostic, I’m not prepared to commit to being an atheist.

We have a giant, Masturbating Spider as a recurring character, that is the head of HR! Still no complaints. Maybe it’s just too silly to be offensive, I don’t know.

FB: Counter point then, your whole show [Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell] is about Hell – mocking it, religion… as an agnostic do you not fear being tortured forever?

CK: I always fear things going worse than I can possibly imagine – haha. But I think ours is a fairly gentle parody, weirdly. Our show is basically a correct interpratation of the beliefs we grew up with so I’m not sure my old minister could be too offended. My co-creator Dave Willis also grew up religious. I think it follows the rules that those religions have, so it’s not really blasphemous.

Image result for your pretty face is going to hell

FB: Was there any backlash when it first came out?

CK: Uh. No. Shockingly no. Every once in a while there’s this big fat document of all the complaints about any show that is on Adult Swim or Cartoon Network from the FCC and one of our producers, Matt Foster, went through it looking to see if anybody complained about our show – and there was nothing. No-one is offended by our show.

FB: That’s crazy.

CK: We do have a character who is a horrible sex offender/cannibal, but people like that character! I don’t know how we sneaked through people being offended but we have. I guess the fact is that character is in Hell so what’s to be offended about?

We have a giant, Masturbating Spider as a recurring character, that is the head of HR! Still no complaints. Maybe it’s just too silly to be offensive, I don’t know.

FB: There’s lots of puppets in your work. Where did that come from, what’s the appeal?

CK: I’ll give some of the credit to my co creator Dave Willis, who is really in to puppets. Chris Brown and Shane Morton, who love making puppets. Puppets are just funny, we grew up with The Muppets. Puppets are fun to do. None of these are satisfactory reasons. The Centre for Puppetry Arts is here in Atlanta. It’s fun to do something that’s not CGI that’s fantastical.

FB: Follow up; how’s Smarf? I know he wasn’t doing too well when we last saw him.

CK: He’s in a Twin Peaks pocket universe along with Agent Cooper, so he could be doing very well – or he might be dead. It’s unclear. Right now he’s doing both simultaneously. Or maybe he’s in a suitcase in my office.

Smarf is in Twin Peaks

Image result for too many cooks

FB: I understand. Thank you for that answer. I did read an article, but I wanted to hear it first-hand from you. How did Cheddar Goblin happen? And is it true that you made [director of Mandy, Panos] Cosmatos promise to do an advert for your eventual movie?

CK: That is true. Panos and I became friends over Twitter, and then we started calling each other. I’m shooting Your Pretty Face, and I got this random email asking if I could shoot this commercial for Cheddar Goblin and I think they needed it in like 2 weeks. We were shooting 12 hour days, five days a week on Your Pretty Face, so I didn’t really have time to do it, but course I said yes.

FB: Your Pretty Face is shot in Georgia, right?

CK: Yes.

FB: Obviously there was huge backlash against Georgia last year through anti abortion. Are you still shooting in Georgia?

CK: Yes. But we live here so I’m not sure it’s much of a political choice. I’m not sure I’d move out of Georgia because of the abortion bill. This state is turning purple (i.e. more democratic) – if liberal folks move out of Georgia I don’t see how that helps at all.

FB: Did you feel like there was a changing of the tide there?

CK: I think so but I’m always wrong about everything. If you had to bet who’s going to win an election simply bet against whatever I’m guessing. My prognostication abilities suck! Honestly I would love to go back to a time where a Georgia abortion bill possibly causing a film shooting boycott was a top story. I would love to go back to those times. Because shit is hitting the fan all around us, right?

I got this random email asking if I could shoot this commercial for Cheddar Goblin

FB: CollegeHumor recently basically let go everyone on staff. I kind of assume Adult Swim has the same sort of set up that CollegeHumor had, do you ever fear something like that happening?

CK: I’m not staff there any more. I went freelance, so it’s opened me up to do other things, but I’m still doing stuff for Adult Swim. There is always that worry that peak TV is going to start contracting. The future is always uncertain in this business.

FB: Has you going freelance helped? Are you more confident now?

CK: I’m never confident! It’s my personality. Never. 

It’s been interesting to develop work with other companies. I’m sort of vague because some of it hasn’t come out yet… but I love Adult Swim and will hopefully do stuff with them for as long as possible.

FB: Your work is all very loose, and it feels like you can do a lot of what you want to do. Do you purposely go out of your way to do that? It feels like you’re writing without any kind of parameters. I guess my follow up to that; would you ever work on a big trademark picture, or do you think there would be too much red tape?

CK: You’re right that most of the work that I’ve made has gotten very few notes that I’ve disagreed with that I had to follow.

FB: A lot of your work feels like it has a lot of freedom.

CK: And I like notes. But ideally if I don’t agree with them I’d like to not be forced to do them. But I definitely want to make things better, so I’m always trying to hear people’s opinion.

I would definitely consider a big franchise movie – I like trying different things. It seems like the trend is to bring weirdos to make those big tentpole projects a little more offbeat.

FB: I’d say so much of what you’ve made is ideal munchie food for stoners. Are you proud of that demographic, do you like that that’s your fanbase?

CK: I think almost anything is funny stoned so I hope the level of quality I’m doing is a little higher than that. I hope it works for sober people too. But yeah, stoned people are less likely to think something is too weird for them. I like that!

FB: What else are you working on?

CK: I have a movie and a couple of TV shows in development. I’m interested in writing comics. I’m purposefully a little vague here because I don’t want to give away anything. It’s going to be weird. Or maybe I’m working for a company that got the rights to do a movie based on the game checkers and I’m writing that. It’s called “King Me!

The wonderful Casper Kelly can be followed on Twitter, where he recently alluded to getting a new series of Your Pretty Face… otherwise, check out his latest topsy turvy mind fuck in way of Final Deployment 4: Queen Battle Walkthrough.

If you are looking for more insights on how to get into the film industry – or the media industry in general – be sure to check out our other success story interviews!

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