Rick & Morty, Adult Swim’s hilarious sci-fi animated comedy from Justin Roiland & Dan Harmon (“Community”) released its first season on Blu-ray and DVD last month. To celebrate this release, the creators joined actors Chris Parnell (“Saturday Night Live”) and Sarah Chalke (“Scrubs”) at New York Comic Con where they sat down with the press just prior to taking the stage for their panel.
Rick & Morty follows Rick (Roiland), a belching, misanthropic mad scientist who’s moved into his daughter Beth’s (Chalke) family home, much to the dismay of her husband Jerry (Parnell). Rick drags his poor grandson Morty (also Roiland) off on outrageous science adventures that include other planets, other dimensions and on occasion inside a human body.
What about the show do you think speaks to the audience?
Justin Roiland: I think it’s a bunch of things. It’s the sum of all these parts, like Harmon’s ability to tap into a sort of the more emotional core component. Making characters really relatable and real. And then me, my sort of crazy, insane retro scripting and I don’t know. It’s very strange. It’s a weird sort of perfect storm of creative, I don’t know—
Dan Harmon: The carefree vibe. Like you…it’s nice to feel like you’re watching something that kind of doesn’t care if you’re watching.
Roiland: Yeah, yeah.
Harmon: So it’s kind of that energy that a new project has an opportunity to have that’s just like ‘alright let’s just—’
Roiland: And maintaining that is tricky. You know we’re trying to continue to maintain that. I mean I love stuff where at the end of the episode, Rick’s like [dropping into the scientist’s voice] ‘Member back in the first act of the episode when you did this?!’ It’s like you know, fuck it. It’s a TV show. We all know what we’re watching. We’re watching a TV show. I just love that kind of stuff. Just not giving a shit. The end of MeeSeeks is a great example you know where he’s just like…’Hey!’—he’s waving at the camera— ‘Alright! See you guys next week! Fuck!’ You know, whatever, like ‘I don’t give a fuck is my new catchphrase!’ All that shit. I don’t know I think that just lends a very loose kind of…it just let’s everyone who’s watching go like—Well then there’s the people who go ‘Does Rick know he’s on a TV show? Is this like some sort of master plan?’ But no, it’s just us having fun and being loose and allowing ourselves to do that kind of stuff. And who knows, I don’t know if that’s the secret ingredient. I think there’s a lot of things that added together make the show really connect with people.
One standout character of the first season was Mr. Meeseeks, a loud blue guy that exists solely to complete one task set by the human who summons him into creation. He spends most of the episode trying to teach Jerry a better golf game. The cast even brought a lifesize Meeseeks along with them to NYCC!
What was the origin of Mr. Meeseeks?
Roiland: Uh, we were breaking a story, Harmon was on tour for Harmontown, he was out of the room and I remember like we had some story…I don’t remember what the fuck the story was, but I was just like this fuckin’ sucks and I was like ‘We gotta have fun with this! And [dropping a Mr MeeSeeks-like squawk] I’M MR. MEESEEKS! I’M MR. MEESEEKS!’ and I just started doing that. [Series writer Ryan] Ridley got all mad at me and I was like ‘I’M MR MEESEEKS LOOK AT ME!’ And then I don’t know if it was until [Harmon] came back—I think we came up with like the conceit of the Meeseeks but then Harmon came back and really helped us fine tune the story with Jerry and the golfing and all that stuff kind of was after [Dan] got back because I remember [him] being in the room and the whole like wiggle at the end. When [Jerry] finally lands the putt and they all disappear. But it was really just like out of my frustration of us really banging our heads against the wall of the other story that was just lame and we couldn’t get it…And Ridley was all pissed. But then he kind of came around. But then there’s a lot of stuff in that episode…that’s verbatim, like ‘I’m Mr Boobybuyer—I’ll buy your boobies!’ that’s all Ridley kind of angrily pitching ‘OH WHY DON’T WE JUST, I’M MR BOOBYBUYER!?…I’M THIRSTY SLIPPERY STAIR, BLAHBLAH’ And I’m just like ‘That’s perfect! Type it up!’…Now I’ve found that when Ridley gets upset and angrily pitches things spitefully, I’m like ‘Pay attention, guys…this could be good to put in the show.”
What would you make your own personal Meeseeks do for you?
Sarah Chalke: Your own wish granting Meeseeks…
Chris Parnell: Wow. I guess to make me a lot of money, maybe you know?
Parnell: Just a lot of money.
Chalke: Then you don’t work and the Meeseeks goes out to work for you
Parnell: Well I still probably want to work because it comes with a certain sense of self-worth…you know…but yeah to have a lot of money. I’d buy a nicer house and put my kid through college. What would your Meeseeks do?
Chalke: Probably a lot of neck massages. They’d take over the barista duties of the household. Which are about 13 to 14 a day, so it’s a heavy job. So, barista Meeseeks.
My personal favorite episode, Rixty Minutes, had Rick showing the family a remote control that not only flipped channels, but show programming from entirely alternate universes, many of which were ab-libbed voice work by Roiland.
Lauren Damon: Were there any additional alternate universe scenes in Rixty Minutes that were cut?
Roiland: The production plan for that episode is so different from the normal production pipeline because we’ll write and the break the—I guess you could call it the B-Story, the A-Story, whatever the narrative is—and then we try to keep that relatively tight and small. A third of the overall episode run length and then all the sketches are just experimental. It’s just like, I’ll go in the booth and just riff and improv shit. Harmon will be on the other side…But yeah, it’s weird, it’s a huge strain on the team, you know.
Harmon: Was there ones that we cut?
Roiland: We cut a Seinfeld one. It was just like Seinfeld—Unrelated Seinfeld and he’s like [twisted Jerry Seinfeld whine] ‘What’s the deaaaaaaaal with Chinese BONES….Whhhhhhy do they taste so goooooood?’
Harmon: Yeah, it was a universe where all of Seinfeld observations were just totally unrelatable.
Roiland: Like ‘What’s the deal with HUGE cocks? WHY do they taste so good in my mouth?!’ And then Rick’s like ‘Jeez, uhhh, Seinfeld’s really—’
Harmon: ‘This universe’s Seinfeld, his observations aren’t really resonant…’
Roiland: But then the audience is just exploding in laughter [Morty’s voice] ‘Oh, boy they really like it though!’ But that got cut…we might have put that on the DVD as a cut, deleted scene. That pitch was probably better than what—if it’s on the DVD you’ll be like okay, I see why they cut this. A lot more got cut for this new one, I really cast a wide net. And our poor storyboard guys boarded way more than they needed to board. But anyways…
If you could travel to any of the Rick & Morty worlds, where would you go?
Chalke: Uhhh, planet Squanch
Parnell: That’s a good answer. Pluto. I wouldn’t mind going to Pluto. That’s one that comes up this season. Jerry goes to Pluto.
Do you ever have to ask the writers what the hell is going on when the shows really offbeat?
Chalke: I mean every time you read the script, it’s one of the funnest jobs for that reason. Like you get the script and you’re so psyched to see where it goes and I laugh out loud when I’m reading it so the jokes are crazy. That’s the fun part of it, you get to see all these different ways a character can go. Like we go to a different dimension in the second season. They have us go to other planets as well, so that was cool and different and I got to be…like our characters but in a different dimension. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say what so for that you got to try totally different voices. I was like a Warrior who talked like this [Deep roaring] ‘JERRY!’
How much is ad-libbed for you guys?
Chalke: Most is the scripts. I mean the scripts are genius, mostly it’s the script. But if something happens or comes up and I ad libbed that Beth was a burper like her father, so we throw some burps in there. One of my few talents is burping on cue.
Are you ever surprised by how much vitriol Justin can get in just saying “Jerry”?
Parnell: [laughs] Uh, no. But it’s fun, it’s fun to hear it. I mean—I don’t know if he does Rick and Morty at the same time, I kind of think he does, I mean I’ve seen him do it. In person. But it’s just, you know, it’s amazing to watch. And then also they get so many great guest voices, you know? Sometimes you can kind of pick out who it is…
Season one set up so many crazy things, are we going to follow up with them in season 2? Like the League of Ricks? And that evil morty? Does the continuity exist?
Roiland: It’s sprinkled throughout the season.
Harmon: A little goes a long way. I mean it’s like I have a lot—I come to the table with a lot of gun-shyness from Community because I feel like Community’s fanbase became so rewardable and was so thankful for continuity in the show and I never like to do inside stuff. Meaning that you would have to have seen something previous in order to get it, I always try to painstakingly avoid doing that but I felt like over five years, Community—because of the intense relationship the fans had with the show—it actually got branded as being more ‘inside’ than I ever strove for it to be. And so now I’m in the writer’s room in this new show and we got Mr. Meeseeks, we got the Council of Ricks, we got a billion things that we just shot out you know and so the question ultimately becomes do we revisit that stuff? I tend to be the guy that says no, not yet. Just let’s show some restraint and then we’ll be rewarded for it later. And not that Justin’s like ‘NO let’s do everything again’ but he’s a little less convinced that it would destroy the show than I am. Somewhere in between there what happens is little sprinkles here and there.
Roiland: Yeah, we don’t want to jump the shark, so to speak, too quickly in the show in terms of giving away too much of Rick’s backstory and going back to all the things we’ve kind of established in season one—
Harmon: I will say we spent a great deal of time in the writer’s room this year revisiting a major thing from season one and ultimately it was all wasted time. I mean it might be spoilers for season three for me to talk about what we were doing…but I will say it was like four or five weeks of us talking about ‘Okay, the finale’s gonna be when we do this…’ and we ended up going this isn’t working. It’s sort of like the second Dungeons of Dragons episode of Community was cursed from the beginning because it’s like to decide that you’re just going to do something again, you better really have your shit together…Ultimately stories tell themselves. It’s already hard to do that. But if they’re fighting you because you decided that you know what a story is better than the story knows, than you’re really screwing yourself.
Did any of you have an older relative like Rick making a bad influence on your lives?
Roiland: Not a huge bad influence. Maybe a little bit. I think I’m a lot like him and I’m gonna die at a young age like he did…
Harmon: I had a great grandpa who died a hermit. He lost all his money in the stock market and then he made it all back but he never trusted banks after that. So he lived in a corrugated tin hut out in some land in Wisconsin. He was rich again but it was all cash under his mattress! And he was a theology major and like he was the only other Harmon who went to college I think.
Roiland: [Rick voice] ‘DAN! DAN! C’mere I got cash under my mattress!!’
Harmon: But I never got to meet him, he was my great grandpa. The first time I saw him was in a coffin. I think Rick is just a symbol of all our mental illnesses.
Roiland: Rick’s a weird combination of me and Dan. Depending on what episode you’re watching, it’s more Dan or more me.
Rick & Morty is out on Blu-ray & DVD and you can check out their full NYCC panel at Adult Swim’s YouTube page.