By now, you’ve probably seen Too Many Cooks, the brilliant and more than a little insane Adult Swim short film that’s become a viral video sensation. (If you haven’t, stop what you’re doing now and check it out. Seriously, we’ll wait.)
The surreal short, which begins as a straightforward parody of clichéd title sequences from 1970s and 1980s family sitcoms before becoming something much darker, first aired on Adult Swim late last month during the network’s 4:00AM block of programming. Traditionally, Adult Swim fills this slot with fake infomercials, but writer/director Casper Kelly had a different idea. Little did he know he’d end up creating the latest viral hit.
Screen Rant had the opportunity to connect with Kelly to talk about the film and its unexpected rise to Internet fame. Check out our interview below.
SR: After I first watched Too Many Cooks, I pretty much told everyone I knew to check it out. The only problem was, I couldn’t describe it. How do you put something like this into words? If you could summarize it for a first-time viewer, what would you say? Or is it better to go in knowing nothing, as was originally intended when it was broadcast on Adult Swim?
I think it is better to see it not knowing what you’re getting into. But a friend described it as an 80s sitcom fever dream. I like that.
SR: I don’t think anyone could have predicted that this video would have blown up like it did. Yet the praise for it has been near universal. Why do you think this is connecting with people so much?
I really don’t know. I really don’t! I hate to even hazard a guess. I know I liked it (sometimes) but sometimes I thought I was doing something very self indulgent. When I realized viewers didn’t immediately notice places where we hid the killer, I felt bad because I thought no way is anyone going to watch it more than once.
SR: The comedy community in particular has been very complimentary, with some people all but proclaiming that Too Many Cooks has set a new bar for avant-garde humor. Do you put any kind of stock in that? What does that kind of feedback mean to you?
It means a tremendous amount to me. I’m a fan of so much of that work and this was one of my first attempts to do something in that style. To get praise from these people that are artistic giants – giants! – is incredibly gratifying.
SR: Obviously the video has made a splash in the comedy world, but what’s been the reaction from friends and family outside of the industry? Are people giving you sideways glances and whispering about you underneath their breath?
Weirdly, no. Perhaps that style is possibly becoming more mainstream? My mom was a little disappointed I used the f-word in Rolling Stone. But I was quoting my boss so that mitigated it.
SR: The effort that went into getting the look and tone of each show right was remarkable – from the family sitcom to the procedural to the G.I. Joe-style cartoon. What kind of research went into the parody elements of the video?
A lot of looking at clips on Youtube. One of my favorite tidbits is how the animators at Awesome Inc. used computer graphics to simulate spaceship models hanging on strings.
SR: One of things I admire most about Too Many Cooks is how it shifts gears just as you’re getting bored with one piece of it. How did you determine where these different breaks would occur? Is it just a gut feeling? Were you making it up as you went?
It was a LOT of trial and error and showing it to people and then letting it sit for a week and then watching it with fresh eyes. And I had close friends I wouldn’t let see it until late in the game because I would tell them I needed to save their virgin eyes for when I really needed their opinion.
SR: Similar to the last question, I liked was how you established narrative rules, but then repeatedly broke them. Just as you’re trying to wrap your head around the overarching reality of the video, everything changes. I’d like to think there’s a deeper theme there – the contrast between the safe, predictable nature of television plots and the dangerous, unpredictable nature of real life? Am I overreaching?
We would have conversations about what it would mean constantly and it truly delights me to hear theories. It’s almost like a Rorscach test. I do prefer to not say too much what I think because it’s just fun, as a viewer, to analyze these clues that don’t quite line up. Just like the Serial Podcast which I obsess over.
SR: There’s no place on TV that offers this kind of content besides Adult Swim. For those of us who aren’t blessed to work there, tell us what it’s like as an artist to work in a place as insane as that.
I feel bad giving people tours because really it’s not insane, it’s a bunch of people working hard at desks (albeit with very cool murals in the style of Chris Ware or Harry Darger). And sometimes sitting around tables and writing scripts and laughing. Also it is wonderfully small. I think Development is 2 or maybe 3 people. That’s for both new shows and continuing shows. Mike Lazzo (head of Adult Swim) at any time has 15 scripts neatly laid out on the floor of his office to remind himself to read them.
SR: The vast majority of people watching this video online had no idea it already aired once before on Cartoon Network. In fact, most of them probably didn’t know that Adult Swim even showed original content that early in the morning. What does it mean for you as a creator to have a medium like YouTube to give this content a second life?
Everything. I’m grateful to that first Youtuber who posted it, first Redditor, to the AV Club. And I’m very conflicted about this. I want TV to be easily accessible everywhere. Yet I also understand that there are nice quailtiies to Cable Television. It gives the cable channels a regular income from subscriber fees that gives them a little safety, a little breathing room, to experiment a little. But that’s all changing. Hopefully it will all work out.
SR: I’m sure you’ve already got a full plate with your own show, Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, but has the success of this video opened up any immediate opportunities for you in terms of your career?
I think so. We’ll see! Some people I really admire have seen this and liked it. And I am burning with a bunch of ideas I’d love to do. I’m trying to breathe deeply. I tell myself even when the buzz evaporates I think I still have enough capability and people’s trust to make a lot of the things I want to.
What did you think of Too Many Cooks? Let us know in the comments!