A Joke Is More Than You Think It Is, According to 'Adventure Time'

The creator of 'OK K.O.!' explains what he learned from 'Adventure Time' creator Pendleton Ward.

Cartoon Network

Over the past several years, Cartoon Network has been producing some of the most delightful, engaging, and bold cartoons out there. Shows like The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and Steven Universe, push the boundaries of what an all-ages animation can be, while never forgetting the most crucial key to making an iconic cartoon: They’re funny.

The latest show on the network, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, is no exception. It follows a young kid working at a mall in a world where everyone is a hero (or a supervillain), and in between moments of action, there are tons of jokes, both subtle and over the top. OK K.O.!’s creator, Ian Jones-Quartey spoke to Inverse about the new series, and in the process explained how he gleaned a key insight about humor from Adventure Time’s creator Pendleton Ward while working as a storyboard artist on the beloved series.

“When I worked on Adventure Time, one of the most important things Pendleton Ward ever told me was that everybody thinks that a joke is just a setup and a punchline,” Jones-Quartey explained. “Two characters talking to each other or one person doing a one-liner or pun, that’s what people think jokes are.”

“But, Pen was very adamant in the fact that a joke isn’t just that,” he continued. “A joke is sometimes the funny facial expression that your friend makes when you’re saying something. A joke could be the funny way that you sit down in a chair or the funny way that you eat a burrito.”

Jones-Quartey said the lesson on humor “opened up my mind in terms of what’s funny and what’s a joke and what gets a laugh from the audience.”

Cartoon Network

You can see this in action in OK K.O.! The a is dynamic, as the characters have very elastic designs aren’t aren’t afraid to go off-model for the sake of a little visual gag.

“My philosophy is just about animation is that you can do almost anything, so the characters should be elastic,” Jones-Quartey said. “They should be silly and funny. If a character feels anguish, and a character feels happy, they should not look the same both times.”