Has there ever been an idea that was too crazy, even for your absurd show?
No. We kill a lot of episodes, sometimes even weeks away from shooting, but mostly because the story isn’t working, we can’t figure it out.
I honestly don’t believe people when they say that they’re scared of clowns. I think it’s an easier way to say, 'I’m cute. I want attention.'
There was one time that we killed a behind-the-scenes sort of episode where we went and we saw the actors that play these characters on this mythological TV show Childrens Hospital that had been on for 18 years. We’ve done behind-the-scenes a couple of times, but in the context of a fake news show called News Readers, which is actually a spinoff that we just finished shooting. It was getting confusing and we realized we were doing it just to do it, just to be cool, and there was nothing funny about it.
There’s no reason to tell a story that way. You can’t start with the structure first. The good thing about our show is that you write something and then you figure out the best way to tell the story and then it gets crazy.
Confusion for confusion's sake is bad, but you don't necessarily need continuity on Childrens Hospital.
No. God no. That day and age is gone! [Laughs]. You can never count on anyone watching anything in any sort of order, so you write for that.
Having experienced the freedom of doing absurd, short-form comedy on Adult Swim, while working with your close friends, how difficult would it be for you to do a network show now?
I’m sure I’m gonna have a nasty wake-up call at some point. [Laughs.] I’ve had so much freedom and fun. I listen to my friends who work on network shows and just, like, bang their heads against their computers. [Laughs.]
I’d never do a network show that I wouldn’t mind doing for seven years. And also I’d never do something on network television that I don’t have as much passion for as I do Childrens Hospital. Like, never give ’em your babies. Give the networks the shows that you don’t mind them making their own, that you’re not precious about. I guess I’m setting myself up to not be totally frustrated because that’s not why I’m doing this stuff.
Paul Scheer, star of Adult Swim's NTSF:SD:SUV::, recently told me how much easier it is to be creative there than at a big network. What has been your experience doing Childrens Hospital for Adult Swim?
We do get notes, but very rarely, and mostly they’re story notes, creative notes on how to make the story better. Very rarely do we get those types of typical cliché network notes, if ever. And we don’t really have to take them, either. They’re pretty cool about it. I mean, its not on paper; that [policy] could turn at any minute if they hire the wrong person. [Laughs.] It also helps that we were a web-series first and we sort of got grandfathered in.
Did you have any horribly, fucked up experiences with clowns and doctors as a child?
I didn’t think so, but I remember back when I was a kid my doctor was this 65-year-old man who talked slowly in a deep voice and he had scary-ass clowns everywhere in his office. I remember staring at them as a kid and not being scared, but definitely realizing that’s not soothing to a child, having that perspective. [Laughs.] I honestly don’t believe people when they say that they’re scared of clowns. I really don’t. I think it’s an easier way to say, “I’m cute. I want attention.”
It's obvious that I don’t like clowns. Of all the so-called comedians out there they take themselves so seriously and I just hate it.
What is the best reaction that you’ve gotten to the show from medical professionals?
In the actual Children’s Hospital in LA, they thought we were writing episodes based on things that a spy in their workplace had told us. [Laughs.] Like, what kind of hospital is this? We do some crazy shit! We went there once because my daughter needed stitches in her chin and they were like, "It's gonna be a 10-hour wait," and we actually only had to wait like seven and a half hours because they like the show. [Laughs.] Those are the benefits, man. You get through the emergency room in seven and a half hours.
How have the clowns received it?
A friend I grew up with and was in boy scouts with is a clown. He was actually the Ronald McDonald in the northeast for a while and with the Ringling Brothers, and now he goes to hospitals and performs for kids and cheers them up. It's a wonderful thing he does. I got this feeling from his Facebook messages that he did not care for the show. [Laughs.] It's obvious that I don’t like clowns, you know? Of all the so-called comedians out there they take themselves so seriously and I just hate it.
Are they worse than mimes, though?
The fine line, I guess, is that mimes are at least more physically skilled, which I appreciate. And I like sleight of hand. But I’d say I have no patience for mimes, either.
Interview by Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash)