A Brief Glimpse at Making Robot Chicken

It was an impressive costume: Whoever the poor soul was, he must have been sweltering in his Mad Scientist getup, complete with animatronic chicken. He walked around and was a good sport about posing for pictures, and then took his place in the insanely long line for the Robot Chicken panel.

Moderated by Keith Crofford (executive vice president of Adult Swim), the panel consisted of Seth Green, Matt Senreich, Brecken Meyer, Kevin Shinick, and Geoff Johns, all of whom immediately noticed the Mad Scientist and took a few moments to compliment him and make him stand up for the entire audience to appreciate. After marveling over his animatronic chicken, the panelists thanked him for wearing the costume (and added a quick thank-you to another audience member dressed as Anakin Skywalker—“for killing all those kids”).

Despite their fame, they remain down-to-earth, as shown by the the manner in which the five interacted with one another and with the audience. These guys don’t let their evident friendship keep them from criticizing one another’s pitches—a point they addressed again when they discussed the writing process. Furthermore, there’s something to be said about their informal working style—there is much in the way of office shenanigans, as shown in a clip they aired once the panel got officially underway. In it, Kevin Shinick was challenged to eat a dozen doughnuts in thirty minutes, and succeeded.

Even with Crofford moderating and attempting to keep things formal—by comic convention standards, of course—it is clear that this team shrugs off formalities. Indeed, they remained informal and interrupted themselves a few times to goof around with the audience. When we heard loud cheering filtering in from another room, for example, Green stood and asked us to cheer loudly several times so we could beat them. The audience happily obliged and Green declared our room the winner.

The team writes five episodes and in five weeks, then breaks down the five episodes into smaller bits. All five panelists agreed that the channel flips pose a greater challenge to write, since they have ten seconds to convey a joke successfully. Green shared that they had a contest once to see who could write the most channel flips in eight minutes. Meyer chimed in to say they were “total shit”, though Green added that a few were actually really funny.

Meyer also shared that sometimes it’s frustrating to pitch an idea he feels is funny to Green only to have it axed. Despite their long friendship—“We’ve been friends forever. For like one day!”—Meyer made no bones about his desire to kill Green when he pitches an idea that Green seems to think is funny, only to have it rejected.

When asked how they come up with their material, they all agreed that the one source they keep turning to is a hardcover copy of Lee’s Guide to Action Figures from 1992. It’s been with them since they began working together—and keep in mind that it took four years for Adult Swim to pick up the show from its original Web format.

On working with George Lucas, Green shared that Lucas did say no to a few skits, including a scene that had Han and Luke in an alley. Han says, “Let’s blow this thing and get out of here”. According to Green, Lucas said, “Can we maybe get rid of the blow job joke?”

Anyone who watches the show knows that these guys certainly push the envelope. Green explained that sometimes it’s a matter of writing a few outrageous skits that they know will definitely be turned down so they can keep a few that may have gotten the ax otherwise. He also joked that because of Robot Chicken and all the things he knows he can get away with using, Green feels as if he can take pro bono work on all matters related to free speech and fair usage.

The lighthearted group wanted to stay an extra ten or fifteen minutes so all the audience members could ask their questions, but were not allowed to do so, given the time constraints of the convention. The panel, therefore, drew to a close with Green saying much to the audience’s delight: “Let’s blow this thing and get out of here”.

Look for ten new episodes of Robot Chicken to air on Adult Swim beginning April 26, 2009.

Viv Gomez
About Viv Gomez 32 Articles
Vivian Gomez is a freelance writer for Journatic and a contributing writer for several online publications, including eHow, Examiner.com, Answerbag, and PetPlace.com. She loves the marriage of good writing and beautiful, fantastic art, and that's mostly why she writes here.