How do you guys write so many episodes in such a short period of time?
Dave: No supervision! (Laughs) We’re just in a groove. We’ve worked together for a number of years, and we can complete each other’s sentences in a lot of ways. Plus we don’t edit ourselves. We use everything. We think everything is golden that comes out of our mouths. We don’t evaluate anything to see if it could possibly be any better.
No focus groups or anything?
Matt: Ah, hell no! (laughs) No focus groups. No concern. Dave:Complete disregard. (laughs)
So you guys pretend to write everything, but I heard that you couldn’t take this call yesterday because you were in a “writer’s meeting.” Ghostwriters?
Dave: No, we write everything on Aqua Teen. But we’re doing Squidbillies with… Squidbillies is kind of a supergroup, like Asia. We’ve got guys from Aqua Teen, the Brak Show, Space Ghost… we’re all working on it together.
Can you tell me anything about Squidbillies, or is it all hush?
Dave:It’s pretty much all hush now. Except that it’s hillbilly squids living in the north Georgia mountains, and, uhh, dealing with evolution in modern times.
You guys are going to get so much hate mail.
Matt:You think? Dave:Why?
Because you could try to bait any group and probably get away, but the one group you don’t want to ever offend is Southerners.
Matt: We are southern though.
I know this from experience, from making fun of Dale Earnhardt when he died.
Matt: Ohhh. Yeah, don’t screw with our NASCAR, but other than that… Dave: You know, Futurama did an episode about Atlanta.
Yeah, Atlanta as Atlantis.
Dave: And I didn’t like it. I thought it was one note and didn’t have any understanding of the South. But everybody working on this show, on Squidbillies, is Southern or has a Southern connection and understands the South a bit more. I don’t think we’ll offend Southerners.
When will Squidbillies air?
Dave: We’re trying to get one out by November. We’ll try to do a bunch of them this year.
What exactly is your writing process for Aqua Teen like? Do you just brew a pot of coffee and stare at the computer screen?
Matt: Yeah, sometimes it starts out that way. We usually spend the first draft writing and Dave will come over to my house. I’ll brew him some coffee. And make him some muffins. And we’ll bullshit around for awhile and be like, “What if Shake does this?” and eventually something will stick, and it doesn’t take much longer after that to write a whole script.
Do you guys put in a 9-5?
Matt: More like a 10:30 to 3:30. (Laughs) Dave: Well, we do a bunch of other stuff to do. We’re a small staff, so there’s always stuff to do as far as producing, and other things.
Is there any rivalry between you and the other Adult Swim guys?
Dave: Not at all, we get along really well. We need to support each other, because we’re such a small staff trying to do so many shows here. Matt: It gets kind of incestuous here. We’ll have them read our scripts, or we’ll read their scripts. And, you know, we’ll disregard their notes and move on. (laughs)
You two started out working on Space Ghost. What was up with that long hiatus?
Dave: We were spending that hiatus trying to put together the pilot for Aqua Teen. Matt, before Cartoon Network, I read that you worked on a lot of horror movies. Matt: Yep, I did. My first movie was Darkman, not really a horror movie, but I worked on Hellraiser 3, Children of the Corn 2, Basketcase 3…I sort of sought out the pictures and got myself a job on them. I was a big horror fan growing up.
What did you do on the films?
Matt: On Darkman, I was a PA [production assistant], and after that I got into assistant directing, so I was an AD on those movies.
You can definitely feel a horror backdrop in Aqua Teen.
Matt: [Giggling] That’s because we find blood to be really funny. And shocking. Dave: Whatever is shocking and horrifying and makes people put their hand to their mouth… that’s generally funny. Matt: Yeah, we both like that. Dave: But Matt takes it seriously. He thinks it’s real life. And I’m scared to be around him.
Is it difficult working in a 15-minute structure?
Dave: Not for us, we’ve been doing it for ten years now. Matt: It would probably be more difficult working in a 30-minute structure at this point. We’re pretty used to wrapping things up by page 11.
In a lot of episodes, suddenly the climax is the last ten seconds. Is it that the episode is running long and you suddenly have to cut it short as soon as possible?
Dave: I don’t think so. I think we do that on purpose, because we’re enjoying what we’re doing up until that time, and then we’re like, “We gotta rap it up” and we finish it off in a goofy way.
You guys are both Southerners. But the show takes place in New Jersey. Have you received any negative feedback from angry Jerseyites?
Dave: I don’t think so… Matt: I haven’t at all. I went to college with folks from Jersey, so I’m used to bustin’ on them. We traded awkward insults that are based on complete stereotypical blanket statements… and that’s basically what Carl is.
That brings me to my next question: how much of YOU do you put into your characters?
Dave: I think there’s something from real life that finds its way to each of the episodes and characters. I mean, my wife’s pregnant and we just wrote an episode where Meatwad gets pregnant…
Dave: Thanks! …And besides that, we’ve dealt with different things that piss us off in different ways in various episodes.
Gotcha. Is there any improv at all with any of the voice actors?
Matt: Oh yeah. Dana [Snyder] goes nuts. He was a real good find.
He’s Shake, right?
Matt: Yeah, he plays Master Shake. You know, we write the lines because we think they’re funny, and he’ll do the lines and give us funny stuff, but then he’ll just go off on tangents on things we never thought of… We call them “Dana-isms.” And Dave does the same thing in the booth. He’ll work the line and ad-lib all over until it’s really, really funny.
I notice that the Aqua Teens don’t do a lot of crime fighting. What happened with that?
Dave: They couldn’t make money doing it. So they’re currently on welfare. And they have problems with the current Administration’s views toward it, so they get jobs this year, that don’t involve solving mysteries or fighting crimes.
Because one of my readers was wondering how they could afford that big ass house.
Dave: They rent it. They get a really good deal because it doesn’t have a bathroom. 2BR, no bath.
Man, you guys have closed all the loopholes. You have really created a foolproof universe here.
Matt: We sure have. Dave: Oh yeah, it’s completely airtight. Completely logical. [laughs]
How long have you two been working together?
Matt: Since ’98? Dave: Yeah, six years.
And what do you hate most about each other?
[Silence.] Dave: Matt, you go first. Matt: I don’t know… Dave: I hate his girlfriend. Matt: I hate his wife. I hate their baby, and they haven’t even had it yet. Dave: [laughs] Matt: We get along pretty well. It’s unusual.
Are you two bonded by anything?
Matt: A murder that happened several years ago… Dave: We’re not supposed to talk about that!! Matt: We have the teeth… Dave: …the rest is buried in the desert.
Matt: We might be bonded by our ridiculous sense of humor and by what we think is funny. But probably not. We’re probably bonded by our hatred of everyone else. We’re bonded in bile.
If the Aqua Teens were a Happy Meal, what would be the toy?
Matt: A human arm.
Aqua Teen has a rabid fanbase. Do you fear your fans?
Matt: No… I don’t know… Because we never run into them. Dave: We usually become their friends. But most people don’t know who we are anyway.
Are either of you Rush fans?
Dave: Rush fans? Yes! Yeah, in a big way!
I’m talking about the Canadian power rock trio.
Matt: Yeah, we love them!
Wow, I’m really impressed with you guys right now.
Dave: We tried getting Geddy on the show. But he had “other obligations.”
Did he say that, or did one of his people say that?
Matt: I wish that he had said that, but it was one of his people.
It would seem that he would be a big fan.
Matt: Yeah, we thought so too.
I saw that episode where Geddy swoops down in his giant flying bass.
Dave: Matt does a good Geddy Lee.
Matt: [sings something high-pitched that my human ears couldn’t pick up]
That’s pretty awesome.
Matt: Did you notice when Meatwad was singing the solo to “Tom Sawyer”?
Of course. That was when I realized that I had to own you two. And keep you in my basement.
Matt: Oh… good.
This issue of READ has a “worst” theme. Which is your least favorite episode of Aqua Teen?
Matt: Hmm… Dave: Toughie…
Is it easier if I ask which is your least favorite Space Ghost that you’ve done?
Matt: That’s even harder because I’ve forgotten some of them. I’d have to watch them all back to back. Dave: I think I stand by all of them. I think they’re all great in some way, shape or form… The Cubing might’ve been a little light. Matt: They’re all very good. We give them A’s. But that frat one [Frat Aliens] isn’t my favorite. I wouldn’t say it’s the worst one. I don’t think there is a worst one, but that one’s pretty one-dimensional. Dave: We hate the Moononites. We hate everything they’re in.
No you don’t.
Dave: No we don’t.
How do you animate Aqua Teen? Is it done on computers or in a sweatshop somewhere?
Dave: It’s done on Photoshop…
Well, that’s good…
Dave: …in South Korea.
Dave: No, it’s right here in Atlanta. We have some G5’s down the hall and it’s all done in Photoshop and AfterFX.
How long does it take to put an episode together?
Matt: From recording to finished product? About ten weeks. But we do a lot of shows at once, so there’s a lot of episodes in different states of production. If we focused on just one show, it would probably take less than that.
Do you see yourselves doing this five years from now?
Matt: We could probably still do Aqua Teen five years from now. Dave: I see myself at the Phoenix Sci-Fi Con, charging $3 an autograph.
What were you guys like in high school?
Dave: I was the dick, jock, bully.
I can see that.
Dave: [laughs] Matt: I was in a band. So I wasn’t really a preppie or a druggie, I was just sorta in a band. Not too cool, not too popular, just there.
Have you guys been to any reunions? And you have to describe what you do and you just get back cold, blank stares?
Matt: I haven’t yet, but Dave did that recently. Dave: It was my 15th reunion, and yeah, totally. It didn’t connect. I should’ve just said I was a physical therapist. I mean, you had to explain the title, and then you had to explain what it’s about, and they all respond with “Oh, that sounds cute. Is that with the Comedy Network?” and you’re like “…Yeah. Sure, it is.”
So when will you guys clean yourselves up and get real jobs?
[Silence] Dave: Tomorrow. Matt: This is a great job. We have a lot of fun over here; it’s really fun to do this stuff.
Yeah, I could imagine.
Matt: All the people here are really great. It’s just a great atmosphere.
I want to kill you guys. You have the best jobs on the planet. You guys probably drink booze all day and giggle.
Matt: I wish we could drink booze all day.
I went to the Adult Swim message board and asked your fans for questions they’d like answered. Naraku_99 wants to know why there’s a picture of Fryloc and Dr. Weird in Fryloc’s room, even though it seems that the Aqua Teens have never met him. Is there so
Matt: There is? Dave: There’s not a picture of Dr. Weird in there.*
Hmm. Will Dr. Weird and the Aqua Teens ever meet?
Dave: Who knows? Matt: Yeah, we don’t even know. We take it on a Monday to Monday basis.
Tubleweed wants to know what your favorite beer is?
Dave: Pilsner Urquell. Matt: I like the weenie Miller Lite.
Finally, I’m missing my friend Megan’s birthday party tonight and she said she would forgive me if I ask you this question: She noticed in one scene, there was graffiti that said “Dirt Bike Annie”, which is one of her favorite bands. She wants to know if
Dave: That was something planted by Chris, probably. Unless.. no, Bob wouldn’t have put it there. Where was the graffiti, do you remember?
She didn’t say.
Dave: Hmm, maybe it was Sealab. Are you sure it was in Aqua Teen?
Are you sure it wasn’t? Jeez, you guys don’t really keep a tight ship, do you?
Dave: We must not! We’re gonna have to bust some chops down the hall. Matt: Yeah, someone’s going to get their leg broken.** Dave, you do the voice of Meatwad and Carl, right? Dave: Mm-hmm.
Let’s do a James Lipton thing where I call in your character. I would like to speak to Meatwad now. Meatwad, when you arrive at the pearly gates in heaven, what would you like God to say to you?
Dave (as Meatwad): To your left, there is a free hot dog buffet. And to your right, you can get yourself some smokes and some brown liquor.
I would now like to speak to Carl.
Dave (as Carl): You got it, jackass.
Carl, what is your favorite curse word?
Dave (as Carl): Eh, it’s a tie between, eh, frig and… I tell you, the C-word sometimes lights women up. But you know, I kinda like it. I keep it in my back pocket if I need it.
Thanks guys. It’s been fun.
Matt: Thanks Adam! Dave: Thank you, we enjoyed it! —————————————————————————————-
Aqua Teen Hunger Force airs Sunday night at midnight on Cartoon Network.
Many thanks to Jim Babcock at Time Warner for his help in setting up the Adult Swim interviews. *The pic is in there, I think they were just being cagey. **It turns out the graffiti was in Sealab. Sorry guys! AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE and all related char
Many thanks to Jim Babcock at Time Warner for his help in setting up the Adult Swim interviews. *The pic is in there, I think they were just being cagey. **It turns out the graffiti was in Sealab. Sorry guys! AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE and all related characters and elements are trademarks and © Cartoon Network.