In addition to interviewing the creators and a couple cast members from Rick and Morty while at San Deigo Comic-Con, I also had the opportunity to sit down with Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer of The Venture Bros. The always dapper pair were there promoting the upcoming season of their Adult Swim show, which can be succinctly described as Johnny Quest all grown up, but in reality is so, so much more.
The Venture Bros. follows former boy-adventurer Dr. Thadeus “Rusty” Venture (James Urbaniak), his two sons, Hank (Chris McCulloch) and Dean (Michael Sinterniklaas), themselves adventurers and former clones, and their bodyguard, Brock (Patrick Warburton). However, over the course of its five seasons things have changed so much it’s almost impossible to get you up to speed. The best I can offer is this eight minute recap video Adult Swim produced summarizing seasons one through four:
For such an offbeat yet carefully constructed narrative, it’s pretty amazing the series has been allowed to develop as it has. Unlike your typical cartoon where characters are forever stuck at one point in their lives, the characters on The Venture Bros. have been allowed to grow and evolve throughout its five season run.
With that in mind, I started off our roundtable interview by asking if Publick and Hammer had an endpoint for The Venture Bros. or a set number of seasons in mind:
Doc Hammer: However many it takes to make this show.
Jackson Publick: As long as we’re still having fun.
DH: To have an endpoint doesn’t mean we plan on ending the show anytime soon, it means we know where everybody’s going and we can take them there at any speed we want. So it’s not like we’re planning on ending it, but we do have a place that they are going. Season six, if it does anything, will explain where we’re going.
JP: Right. Yeah, I think a few seasons ago we didn’t think we’d go past four, so, sort of had an old endpoint in mind and that’s well past, so it’s no longer applicable.
Considering the amount of the change that happens in each season, it’s almost impossible to guess how The Venture Bros. will end. All we can really hope for is that Adult Swim will continue to do right by the series, and whenever it does end, it’s given a proper and fitting conclusion. Or everyone gets blown up and dies. Really, whatever Publick and Hammer find works best.
But with that continuous evolution of the show in mind, Publick and Hammer were next asked if they’ll be playing with the format (family adventures, mystery solving, etc.) of the episodes going forward:
DH: We always fail at that. It’s this thing that we pretend is going to happen, “Like, oh, it’s an adventuring family, that’s what we do.” But I don’t think we’ve done it, like, three times.
JP: Yeah, and then we’ll do a season where we don’t do that at all, and it’s like, “Oh shit! They didn’t do anything, they didn’t go anywhere, they never left the kitchen.” And so then the next season has like a bunch of those in it, so yeah, it’ll probably keep going back and forth. It’s part of the makeup, but not every episode.
DH: It’s like being in a band. We have bass, drums, and guitar and every once and a while we’ll put in a horn section and shit, but when it gets down to it you want to make a rock ‘n’ roll song. But we’re not going to back out as like a weird klezmer act, where its like, “Oh they’ve got a recorder and, y’know.” We’re always going to have bass, drums and guitar and still play wacky songs.
JP: Yeah, we won’t do a Kid A season.
DH: No, we won’t do a Kid A season. Although season six might be like that, a little bit. Y’know, it’s possible we got a guy to spin on it and it’s like, “They’re a rock band but they’ve got DJ now,” but like half the album doesn’t have the DJ so it’s pretty good. Then years later you go, “Oh, the DJ was really good.” That’s the longest metaphor we’ve got.
Is it obvious Doc’s in a band?
From there the duo was asked about whether or not they have plans for introducing any new characters? “We have a huge cast,” Hammer replied,”Like, it’s massive and season six was really dealing with what we had and lamenting that we couldn’t deal with more.” Though, in the end Hammer revealed they still added more characters, so it really is the cast that just keeps on growing. I swear, The Venture Bros. has more characters than Game of Thrones.
With an ever-growing cast, Publick and Hammer are constantly seeking voice talent, but it isn’t always that easy:
JP: We’re trying to get somebody big now, like we’re trying to cast this one role. It’s this one-off villain, and we’re having no luck. So many people have said no to us. So get famous, somebody.
DH: With a good voice.
JP: Yeah, some famous, British shit-eater. Like a good, middle-aged… yeah, we couldn’t get Picard, we couldn’t get Patrick Stewart. Who else said no? Kelsey Grammer said no.
DH: That’s hard to believe.
JP: He was real close.
DH: Was he doing something else? Tell me he was doing something else?
Apparently Grammer was “busy,” but Publick shared a whole list of actors they’ll have guest voicing on the series; the most notable being John Hodgeman, Nathan Fillion, Paul F. Tompkins, James Adomian, and Kate McKinnon. But what are they looking for when casting a guest voice? “Uh, the ability to say yes,” joked Hammer, but Publick elaborated:
Depends on the role, really. I mean, the best ones are the guys we don’t think we’ll bring back, ’cause you never want to stunt cast something and then they’re more expensive to bring back or you’ll never be able to get them back again, and you’re like, “Oh I really want to use that characters again.” It’s rare that a role pops up and we’re like, “Yeah, this is really a one-off.“
Case in point, Stephen Colbert voiced Professor Impossible in seasons one and two, but in subsequent appearances the character was voiced by Peter McCulloch, Chris McCulloch, and most recently Bill Hader.
When it comes to creating these wacky characters, Hammer shared that they do write the characters with a voice in mind, but “the person we get never sounds like that.” Does this then factor in for when Publick and Hammer choose to voice characters (which they do quite often)?
DH: We choose to do voices when everybody else says no.
JP: Or if it’s a character, like August St. Cloud was a character born out of constant riffing with each other, so it had to be one of us.
DH: Yeah, with like the comedy team guys we do that voice for a year at each other, so when it happens, when we start to record we just use the ones that we’ve been doing. Unless we’ve been doing an impression of someone famous and then we definitely use our own voice, because it’s good.
At this point we were given that dreaded signal that it was time to wrap up our interview. Allowed only one more question, Publick and Hammer were asked what they’re favorite part of
DH: Favorite part of Comic-Con? Man, my snarky answer is leaving Comic-Con.
JP: The weather.
And at this moment I feared that was it, here’s where we leave off with the creators of The Venture Bros. Then thankfully, Hammer responded with such a beautifully worded, heartfelt response that I was floored:
I like that I have to grapple with truths that I want to avoid. Like, I find it to be a real emotional thing. Like walking here and I saw this ‘Celebration of Popular Culture’ [banner] and then I’m like, “Do I make something popular?” For like 20 minutes I’m stuck going, “When the fuck did that happen?” Why would anyone pay attention? I’m Captain Alt, don’t look at me – I mean look at me – but don’t pay attention to that.
So it’s those kinds of things or having people come up and go, “This is how you’ve affected my life,” and just going, Christ, I’m sorry. That is what I like about Comic-Con, that it makes you know what you have done to the world and have to meet these people and Venture fans are the best fucking people in the world. Like, you don’t have to deal with this. To watch our show you’ve got to find it, you’ve got to stay up until 3:00 in the morning, you’ve got to believe your friend who’s like, “I’m telling you it’s really good.” There’s so many things that are stopping you from becoming a Venture fan that once you’re in, you’re so fucking dedicated. So I get to meet these people that are like, “I don’t just watch The Venture Bros. because it’s on after Simpsons, I invest in The Venture Bros.” And that’s, like, the coolest kind of fanbase to have, so you also get to walk around and be like, “Our fans rock,” which is nice.
There you go, Venturoos. Right from the mouth of god. You guys rock.
Thanks again to Adult Swim, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer for the opportunity to chat about The Venture Bros. Season 6 is expected to air in January 2015.