One of the first things I ask Matthew Senreich at the top of our phone call is if he’s seen his Robot Chicken co-creator Seth Green’s junk.
“I’ve not seen Seth’s goods in real life,” he laughs. Hey, it wasn’t a completely out of left field question: nude, toy versions of Green and Senreich are featured in the seventh season premiere of Robot Chicken, “G.I. Jogurt,” pitting the duo against an Eyes Wide Shut-style Illuminati in order to save the show from cancellation.
“I don’t feel like asking to compare. But I’d actually like to think the real size is bigger than the toy version,” Senreich says.
That’s the kind of thing new writers joining the show have to look forward to – the series adds and subtracts from its creative team between seasons, this year picking up a handful of new creatives to dream up jokes involving pop culture figures in toy form, usually at their embarrassing worst.
The series is, in its own way, becoming a home for new sketch comedy talent, as some of its long-time writers develop their craft creating tight, super-short bits in the by now very familiar format on Adult Swim. Senreich says that it’s a selective process to determine who’ll be joining their close-knit creative team.
“Rachel Bloom wasn’t a veteran when she started a season or two ago, and now she knows how it all goes,” Senreich says. “Whereas Mikey Day we brought in and he just crushed it, and now he’s at SNL. We brought him in from the Groundlings but he just knew how to make it work.”
When I ask how writing for animation compares to traditional sketch writing, Senreich says that it offers both more freedom and more limitations.
“Because anything that you’re coming up with still needs to get built.” He says that given that they only have a week, maybe six days to complete production, “It doesn’t really give you time to do the crazy, crazy thing you have in mind.”
Could we ever see Robot Chicken on the big screen? The LEGO movie has shown that audiences have an appetite for toys on the big screen. Why not give it the R-rated, Robot Chicken treatment?
“You know, I never say never,” Senreich says, “But our show’s 11 minutes, with the premise being that it’s ‘A.D.D. TV.'” Saying that a feature in that format would kind of go against what makes the show work, he suggests that if they were able to find a story for one of the recurring characters – say the glasses-wearing nerd – then they might consider it.
That doesn’t mean Green and Senreich are shy about trying new things. Back in late 2011, the duo formed their own animation studio, Stoopid Monkey and announced that they would be creating content for YouTube. I asked what it was like making the leap from comedy guys to comedy guys with a business. He says that they were inspired by the people at Pixar, and for Stoopid Monkey, the goal is to likewise be “a bunch of creative people making stuff.”
It was George Lucas who offered them a piece of advice (Lucas collaborated with the duo on the trio of Robot Chicken Star Wars specials: “Why try to fit into the box that other people are trying to make? Why not create the box that you’re trying to make?”
“Once you start working with creative people, you want to work with them over and over and make it grow. Finding creative people who are great at what they do with the ability to help them do their dream project.” On potential collaborators, Senreich hopes for an opportunity for Stoopid Monkey to work with Pixar’s John Lasseter or maybe even Brad Bird. “Hell, Justin Roiland of Rick and Morty, I would love to find a way to play with him.”
You can catch new episodes of Robot Chicken Sundays at 11:30 on Adult Swim.