Robot Chicken, the Emmy Award-winning sketch comedy series, is back for its 10th season and is celebrating its 200th episode of animated sketch comedy.
Robot Chicken uses stop-motion animation to bring pop-culture parodies to life in a modern take on the variety/sketch show format.
The series debuted in February 2005 and remains among the top-rated original series on Adult Swim with its parodies of everything from Harry Potter to The Simpsons to Care Bears.
Global News spoke with creator and executive producer Seth Green about Season 10, his favourite character and much more.
Global News: When you first started Robot Chicken in 2005, did you ever think it would make it to Season 10?
Seth Green: Yes, I consider myself an excellent predictor of the future. I’ve made all kinds of estimations about the safety of our planet and for different stock options and some intelligent investments … No, of course not! (laughing)
So I should call you Miss Cleo, then? (laughing)
I wish you would. I actually set up a 900 number. I’m bringing those back (laughing). But no, honestly, there was no version of this that I thought was an ongoing job. It was all born out of just wanting to make something. I didn’t have any thought that it would be something until we were into our second or third season.
Are you doing anything special for the 10th season?
We just did a live show at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles and we put together a series of conversations that Wil Wheaton moderated. We showed a lot of clips and talked to some of the writers, producers and performers. We also gathered a bunch of actors that had worked on the show like “Weird Al” Yankovic and Felicia Day and we acted out some rejected sketches in front of a live audience. Then we had a big party that was like a combination 10-season, 200th-episode party and invited everybody that had worked on the show over the last 14 years.
That sounds like a lot of people at that party.
It was a lot of people. It was like a high school reunion crossed with a double wedding.
I probably feel the most affection for our nerd character. He’s like the secret id of every fan. He’s so many things at once. He’s [an] unabashed, unapologetic, loving fanboy and also the harshest critic of anything that comes out in pop culture. But he really embodies the basic joy of the audience while still being able to represent the disgruntled point of view of the audience sometimes.
Have any celebrities or companies — like Starbucks — ever reached out to you because they were upset with how they were portrayed on the show?
If they’re upset about it, we haven’t heard (laughing). I feel like at this point … no, not really. The jokes that we make art aren’t really mean-spirited. We go out of our way to point out the inherent silliness of stuff without really being critical. So, so far, so good.
How would you say the show has evolved over the years?
I think we’ve just found our footing a little bit. In the very first season, we were still unsure of what the channel-flip concept would be and we experimented a lot with things that weren’t necessarily a joke as much as they were just something strange or an interesting visual or comment. Now, it’s a little more focused, and the channel flips are more like an actual punch line or a portion of a joke. That’s the biggest structural evolution, and then just in the actual production of the show, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve been able to incorporate techniques that make the process easier.
What is the writing process like for Robot Chicken?
We write the show in blocks so we’ll have our core group of writers that are throughout the season. Then we’ll bring in two to four satellite writers that work on four episodes at a time or five episodes at a time, depending. We’ll do either four cycles of five or five cycles of four. That way, each cycle of the show and each block has a little bit of a different voice on it. We’ll spend three weeks on the writing process. The first two weeks are just pitching and deciding which sketches are going to go forward. The last week or so is the writing of those scripts, where we put it to the entire room to go line by line and try and get everything as sharp and as funny as we can.
How does it feel to win three Emmy awards for this show?
It’s surreal. I’ve spent my entire career as a performer and to make something that is this silly and then have it resonate with people has been a crazy experience. And because it’s such a personal thing, it’s a weird sensation to have any of your peers acknowledge it or give you awards for it. It doesn’t feel real. I don’t spend a lot of time focused on what that accolade means. I really just try to stay committed to making it good and still make it come from the same place that it’s always come from.
Let’s talk about your directorial and writing debut, Changeland. Where did the inspiration for the story come from?
That developed over a good period of time. I had gone on a trip to Thailand with my friend Dan, and everything that we were doing on the trip, from the resort where we stayed to kayaking around tiny islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything that we experienced felt like we were living in a movie. All the people that we met, all of the things that we did felt movie-like, and I was certain that it would make an excellent backdrop for some kind of independent film about friendship, about relationships and about growing up. I spent the better part of eight years from the time I took the trip to the time we got financing for the movie reworking the script and finding a story that I thought was worth telling.
The cast for Changeland is so stacked! Every time I see you and Breckin Meyer together I think of Rat Race so seeing you guys in this movie brings me back to that. How was it on set with everyone?
It was great. I knew we weren’t going to have a lot of money, which meant that we didn’t have a lot of time. It was critical to cast people that I knew would bring a lot to it and also be able to get what we needed in just one or two takes. In every one of those instances, with the exception of Rose Williams, Kedar Williams-Stirling and Randy Orton, I wrote the parts for the actors that played them. It was awesome, and we’re all friends. Everybody knows each other and everybody loves making movies and acting. It was a great vibe on set.
What’s next for you in 2019?
Working on a bunch of stuff at our studio. We have a few animated and live-action things in production and in various forms of development. I’m focused on that. I’m actually on my way right now to the last mix of Season 10 of Robot Chicken so aside from publicity at this point, I’ll be finished with the show until we start back up next year. I’m also trying to focus on developing things for me to act in and then push forward some ideas that I wanted to see to fruition.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Robot Chicken is executive produced by Green and Matthew Senreich and their Stoopid Buddy Stoodios partners, John Harvatine IV and Eric Towner. Green and Senreich also write, voice and, along with Tom Sheppard, direct the multiple Annie Award-winning series.
Robot Chicken’s 10th season premiered with back-to-back episodes on Sept. 29 at 12:01 a.m. on Adult Swim.