The oral history of Robot Chicken, Adult Swim’s unruly answer to SNL
As the stop-motion series reaches its 10th season, the creators, cast, and crew reflect on 15 years of playing with action figures on-camera.
Unless you’re a stoned college student or a nerdy high schooler, you probably don’t watch Robot Chicken on a weekly basis — at least, not anymore.
But even if you’ve never sat through a full episode of the 11-minute action figure variety show, you’ll definitely recognize some of its best-known clips, which take iconic pop culture and infuse it with crude animation and even cruder jokes. Optimus Prime’s prostate problems, Emperor Palpatine’s phone call, The Real World with superheroes, the list goes on, but the winning formula of “pop culture + stop motion + gross-out humor” still works, even 15 years after the series first launched in February 2005.
Here are a few things you might not know about Robot Chicken:
1. With its Season 10 premiere (Sunday, September 29 at midnight), Robot Chicken is the second-longest running show on Adult Swim (just behind Venture Bros. and slightly ahead of Squidbillies).
2. Over the years, it’s featured more than 150 famous guests, including … Seth MacFarlane (he’s been there since the beginning), Macaulay Culkin, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Topher Grace, Dom DeLuise, Mark Hamill, two NSYNC members (Joey Fatone and Lance Bass), James Van Der Beek, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Alan Cumming, David Hasselhoff, Gene Simmons, Paul Rudd, Scarlett Johansson, Charlize Theron, Snoop Dogg, Malcolm McDowell, Billy Dee Williams, Nathan Fillion, Chris Evans, Ludacris, Zac Efron, Rashida Jones, Ron Perlman, Sandra Oh, Alyson Hannigan, and Olivia Munn.
3. Adult Swim boss Mike Lazzo calls Robot Chicken the network’s version of Saturday Night Live.
But before Robot Chicken was a successful series, it was a few short stop-motion sketches commissioned by Sony for a website that no one would ever see. And before that, it was just an idea shared between two friends — though it probably helped that one of them was Seth Green.
Here’s the untold history of Robot Chicken in the words of its creators, crew, cast, and more. It all began, as many great geeky things do, with an unlikely friendship.
An unlikely origin
Seth Green (co-creator): Matt and I became friends when he was the editorial director for Wizard Entertainment, which was the premier authority on all things genre before any of that became vogue, back when loving toys and comics was relegated to conventions and basement conversations.
Matt Senreich (co-creator): I had read in Entertainment Weekly that Seth, who was working on Buffy and Austin Powers at the time, was a big toy collector, and he made toys of his cast for Christmas, which I thought was really cool. So I ended up calling his publicist and she was like, “I don’t think this is going to be the thing that he’s interested in, but let me check.” Within five minutes, Seth calls me back and he’s like, “Oh my God, I love your magazine.” And it kind of started this little awkward romance between the two of us.
Seth Green: Matt and I recognized a kindred spirit and became friends because of our shared love of all that pop culture.
Matt Senreich: It was before the internet. So if I could find things in New York, I would get it for him. And if he could find things in LA, he would send them to me, and we just became friends. We were the guys who went to Toys “R” Us on a Tuesday to see what new toys and Star Wars figures would be coming out. It kept going for a while, until 1999, when he was about to be going on Conan O’Brien as a guest, and, as he put it, he had nothing to really talk about.
Seth Green: I had some press coming up connected to Austin Powers, and I thought instead of doing another phalanx of interviews, it would be cool to make a short. I’d seen some other comedians and filmmakers, instead of just talking about themselves, show a piece of content, and I just thought it would be more interesting.
I thought stop motion was a good format because it was something I was always interested in, and I thought toys would be a good subject. I knew that Conan O’Brien had just had a special toy made by Hasbro of himself, and I had an action figure from Austin Powers. And I thought, “Well maybe there’s a situation where the two of us are on some adventure and save the world.”
Matt Senreich: He didn’t know what to do, so he called me up and said, “Hey, it’d be awesome if maybe we took a toy of me and Conan O’Brien; maybe we can have them go on an adventure together.” And I said, “That would be great.”
Tom Root (one of the original writers): At Wizard, we were really doing more comedy writing than journalism on a lot of days. So when Seth Green reached out about doing an animated short, it just seemed like a very natural transition. When I tell people now that I went from writing at a magazine to writing a TV show, it sounds like a big, weird jump. It really wasn’t.
Seth Green: We set about trying to understand how to produce stop motion, and I was thinking about self-financing a one to two-minute short piece.
“The internet was relatively unregulated in 1999, there weren’t a lot of rules.” — Seth Green, co-creator
Matt Senreich: Sony Digital somehow got word that we were looking to do this. They had this branch of their company called Screenblast at the time, where they were doing Fred Armisen shorts and other stuff, and they came to us and offered to pay for six shorts, which turned into 12 total that we made in the span of about six to eight months.
Seth Green: The platform was dial-up, so no one could actually download content, and because the internet was relatively unregulated in 1999, there weren’t a lot of rules. So we made a deal with Sony Digital to produce about 45 minutes of content that ultimately no one was able to see. The whole platform failed spectacularly, but it was a first step in what would become YouTube and what would become Robot Chicken.
Tom Root: We had an endless supply of ideas. So when Sony wanted more, it was no problem at all. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. We did all the storyboarding ourselves, which we had no business doing, but we kind of drew them like comic books and lived with the results. We didn’t know how inexperienced we were or what we were doing wrong, and it ended up working out.
Matt Senreich: I hired a bunch of the writers that I was working with at Wizard at the time, and we all partnered up and made this thing. We did the writing. We did the pre-production. We built all the sets and stuff in New York, and then we would ship it stupidly to Los Angeles where Seth was overseeing production and animation. I had my regular job and then from like 6:00 p.m. to 3 a.m., I’d be doing this. Friday nights I would take the red eye to LA and Sunday nights I would take the red eye back to NY. It was exhausting and wonderful.
Tom Root: The first project was really a trial by fire. We didn’t know anything about stop motion. We thought it would be about finding one animator who would move the toys that we were already playing with around one frame at a time and it’d be a really simple process. Stop motion isn’t anything like that.
Matt Senreich: When we were doing it back in New York, we were sitting there trying to make grass and, like, taking grass from outside and gluing it to the ground. We were dumb, like, we had no idea what we were doing in any capacity. Our set department now, they’ll take, like, a white towel and paint it green and all of a sudden they have grass. It’s simple.
Seth Green: The first episode was Seth and Conan O’Brien going to a celebrity convention together and meeting Britney Spears. The second episode was Real World: Metropolis, a bunch of superheroes who all live in the house together and have their lives taped. We did, like, an E! True Hollywood Story on who killed Santa Claus. I think the last two episodes were a two-parter about Joey Fatone learning martial arts. It was great.
Seth Green: I brought the first one onto Conan and showed it as part of my interview, but it was to promote the entire platform, which, as I said, no one could watch. I didn’t approach Conan to do a voice or anything. In fact, Seth MacFarlane played Conan in the original piece, but the response was good and he joked about the reality of us going to a convention together.
Matt Senreich: The other videos ended up airing on Screenblast, so no one could ever see them. We had about 45 minutes of content online. Then, when Screenblast folded, we maintained the rights.
Tom Root: I thought we had done these 12 short animated pieces, and it was going to end up being a really great calling card for us to get writing jobs on a sitcom or a talk show or something. We had written something that had been on Conan, and that was a great credit to have, but I never thought that this show would actually end up on TV on a weekly basis.
Finding Adult Swim
Robot Chicken did eventually find its place in the TV landscape, but it wasn’t an easy process. It took years of pitching as Seth and Matt realized the full potential of stop-motion sketches.
Seth Green: We really thought we had something, even though we weren’t sure what it was or what the outlet could be. So Matt and I spent the next four years shopping it around.
Matt Senreich: We pitched it to MTV, SNL, and MADtv as interstitials because we had seen Mr. Bill and things like that, but it wasn’t quite what they were looking for. In 2001, we pitched it to Comedy Central and they were very interested.
Seth Green: It looked like we were gonna make a deal with Comedy Central. Then, 9/11 happened and killed comedy across all of these platforms for over a year. So that deal fell apart.
"Seth was doing movies, and I was like, I’m gonna still fight for this. — Matt Senreich, co-creator
Matt Senreich: Nothing was funny after 9/11. Everything just went dark for a good six to eight months. I was living in New York during that time and nothing was funny in any way. In that downtime, there was transition at Comedy Central and it ended up fading there.
Once things start to kick back in, I didn’t want to give up. Seth was doing movies, and I was like, I’m gonna still fight for this. We ended up pitching it to Cartoon Network in like 2003 or 2004 and Sam Register who was there said, “Hey, this isn’t the kind of content we’re doing. It’s too adult for us, but there’s another division of our company that you guys should look at.”
Keith Crofford (senior vice president of Adult Swim): We had 5,000 cartoons with no original programming, and one thing led to another. So what if we did a cheap talk show and produced it in-house? At first they tried to produce it in LA with an ad agency production company and that was a disaster. So then they called me looking for a producer and I recommended myself and got it on its feet. Over the years, we started making more adult-oriented humor, and with time the corporate entity didn’t think it was such a bad idea to target adults when kids are in bed instead of just running reruns.
Seth Green: Adult Swim hadn’t quite formed. They were not doing any original programming and had just started recutting the assets they owned, like Sealab and Space Ghost. Meanwhile, Family Guy was off the air and Mike Lazzo at Adult Swim made a deal to purchase the produced seasons for a second run.
Matt Senreich: Seth MacFarlane was talking to Seth [Green] and saying, “Hey, Family Guy got canceled, but there’s this other place that’s re-airing our stuff that I think is going to do original content called Adult Swim.” So we got introduced to Mike Lazzo to take a meeting there.
Keith Crofford: At that time, we had an office in Santa Monica. It was the last years of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and we were trying to produce some episodes in California, hoping that we would get a higher level of guests. That was during the early AOL takeover days, and there was a floor in Santa Monica that was empty and they let us use it. So when Matt and Seth wanted to come pitch Mike Lazzo and me, we had them come to that office.
In the entire history of Robot Chicken, there’s only one moment that’s disputed: The first meeting between the show’s creators and Adult Swim. Maybe Matt and Seth are trolling. Maybe Adult Swim’s executives just refuse to admit how “spartan” their first office really was. Here’s both sides of that meeting so you can decide for yourself.
Matt Senreich: I flew out from New York, and we went into the Space Ghost office. It was run-down. It looked like there was nothing there. There was one desk and three seats and Mike Lazzo was sitting behind the desk.
Seth Green: This was clearly a temporary office in Santa Monica, but we also felt like we were walking into a mob hit. The building seemed entirely unoccupied. It looked like there was no furniture and, if anything, it was just sort of remnant furniture. It could have well been a squatters’ palace.
Keith Crofford: Well, it was abandoned. We had an editor, a producer, Mike, and myself. That was about it. And Mike and I were only there sporadically because we were based in Atlanta. So yeah, it was, it was a big empty office with two or three people in it on a daily basis and not much furniture. Matt and Seth are great about spinning this whole narrative about how spartan it was. It was spartan, but they’ve been embellishing to the whole world for the last 10 seasons.
Seth Green: I maintain that Mike was behind a small desk, sitting in a chair with his feet up on the desk, and Keith Crofford did not have a chair and simply stood ominously behind him with his arms crossed, never saying a word.
Matt Senreich: Mike Lazzo was wearing sandals and had his bare feet basically up on the desk talking to us. So we started talking about how it’s a sketch comedy show using action figures.
Seth Green: Matt and I sat in what I guess were mismatched folding chairs and had a conversation about what our idea was and how we would extrapolate it into a series. The quote I remember the most was Lazzo saying, “Now, I don’t like stop motion, but I think this is funny. So do you guys think you could make more of this?” Matt and I said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure.”
Keith Crofford: They’d been making the show for Sony, so they actually had produced sketches. It was one of the few times we ever bought something in the room pretty much right there, because instead of just having an idea and a piece of paper, it was actual video that we watched and laughed at and thought was entertaining.
Seth Green: When we were walking down the stairs, Matt and I were like, “Did we just sell that? Did we just make it a deal?”
Matt Senreich: Six months ended up going by because, I guess, lawyers. Then, in March 2004, I was at the Long Beach comic convention and I got this call, and they were like, “Hey, you got 20 episodes of 11-minute shows that we want to start as soon as you can.”
Seth Green: I suddenly realized that we were going to be responsible for making a series, figuring out how the hell to do that.
Tom Root: We did have a 20-episode guarantee because that was the only way that the budget of the show made sense, but I thought there were still a million ways this could fall apart. They could take the show away from us; they could hate the scripts and have somebody else write them.
It never felt like a victory. It felt like somebody opened this door and now we had to prove ourselves.
Creating Robot Chicken
Getting a contract was the easy part. Now, Matt, Seth, and the rest of the team had to turn 45 minutes of stop motion into a full season (and, eventually, 10 seasons). As you’ll see, the first season of Robot Chicken was a learning process, to say the least.
Matt Senreich: All of a sudden we were writing. There was no pause. It was myself and Seth and Tom Root and Doug Goldstein, two guys I’d worked with at Wizard magazine who’d also worked on shows out of New York.
We drove cross country and left our jobs, thinking to ourselves, “What are we doing?” We were writing it in Seth’s apartment before there was an office and eating Chinese food. We had no money and this is what we were doing with ourselves.
Keith Crofford: We tried to stay as hands-off as possible. We helped them set up a studio in Santa Monica near the airport. That was quite a grueling season because everybody lived hours away. We didn’t have a lot of money and the nature of stop motion is so labor- and cost-intensive that we needed to cut corners where we could. So we found a raw space for cheaper.
“We drove cross country and left our jobs, thinking to ourselves: What are we doing” — Matt Senreich, co-creator
Convincing other actors to lend their voices to the show was a challenge, too. Especially in the early days, both for Robot Chicken and the network it was on.
Seth Green: I was trading on favors or getting friends of mine to be a part of the show — to come and play. That was really how I billed it: “There’s no money. It’s a late night cable broadcast on Sunday at midnight, so it isn’t going to get any attention.” But it was a fun opportunity for actors that traditionally only get to play a certain type of character to do whatever they wanted.
Katee Sackhoff (voice of Bitch Pudding): I had heard of the show and I came in very early. They were asking some of the Battlestar Galactica actors to play their actual characters. We banged that one out quite quickly, and then Seth was like, “Can you do any other voices?” I said, “Sure, let’s figure it out.”
Seth Green: Someone may be nominated for an Oscar for their live action work, but they can come and do something incredibly liberating in this animated format. That was really how I sold it. Then, as the show gained popularity, we were able to point to all the different actors that had already done it and the fact that their careers hadn’t imploded as a result.
Matt Senreich: We just called in people that Seth knew, and that’s what the first season ended up being. That’s how we got Freddy Prince Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, because they did Scooby Doo with Seth. We got Charlize Theron because of The Italian Job.
Seth Green: I was friends with Scarlett Johansson and pitched her a silly sketch where one of our characters wins a date with her. In the same episode, we had her play a drug-addled prostitute in another sketch, and we had her play a GPS system that falls in love with her driver. It’s almost the same plot as Her, which came out 10 years later. I’m not trying to say we inspired that movie, but it was prescient.
Matt Senreich: The early voice actors that really blew my mind were Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise.
Seth Green: I made Without a Paddle with Burt Reynolds. Then I asked him to come do a Cannonball Run sketch, and he got Dom DeLuise to join. The two of them came into the booth and played around and had a great time doing it. That just seemed insane.
Matt Senreich: We started the day with a tequila shot, and they just hung out all day. Every time Dom would mess up his line, as a joke, Burt would slap him.
Seth Green: It also was a ton of patiently explaining to people what the hell this was. One time, I called Harrison Ford’s agent and I not only had to explain how stop motion worked and what the format of the show was; I had to explain that Adult Swim was a late night broadcast of Cartoon Network, and I had to explain what Cartoon Network was in relation to the Turner Studios operation. He passed, obviously.
Another early casting highlight was Danny Goldman, the original voice of Brainy Smurf, who voiced the same character in a Smurfs/Seven mashup sketch written for Robot Chicken Season 1.
Tom Root: We were all sitting there, and we got to watch the Brainy Smurf voice come out of this man’s mouth in front of us after having watched The Smurfs as children. This wasn’t some big Hollywood moment, but to us it was really important. It kind of drove home how much creative freedom we had that we could make stuff like this happen..
Stop motion 101
The biggest struggle was mastering stop motion and figuring out how to turn regular old toys into usable puppets. At first, the guys just went through a lot of action figures.
Seth Green: At the early onset we just animated toys, and the difficulty is that toys are not meant to withstand the rigors of animation.
Matt Senreich: They lost their posability, so they would flop down, which made it really hard. It wasn’t until the second or third season that our puppet department put wire armature into them. So we would basically break the toys and rebuild them.
Seth Green: A lot of the first season was us challenging the animators and the other departments to do things they’d never done before. Early on, the animators said that we absolutely couldn’t animate water, but we had a Noah’s Ark sketch where things were drowning.
I said, “We can do it like a kid’s play, where you have two separate elements in the foreground in the shape of waves, you move them back and forth at the same time, and you put the characters in between those waves. It’s not gonna look like real water, but we’re also animating toys.”
Matt Senreich: Seth, Tom, and Doug all tried to animate some shots for the first season. The only one who got one into the show was Tom Root, and it was just a character turning around and raising their arms. I had to give up after four hours. Seth wanted to have a character pee himself and the material kept drying up before he finished the shot.
Tom Root: When you watch stop motion, it feels handmade, like one artist just got inspired and set up their camera and did it all in one day. Our show is kind of meant to feel like that, but the number of artists it takes is surprising.
How Robot Chicken became Robot Chicken
Even coming up with a name for the show proved to be difficult. And when they finally landed on one that the network actually liked, it was completely by chance.
Matt Senreich: When we started writing the first season, they wanted a name. We were like four or five episodes into the show and we didn’t have a name or a title sequence. We kept submitting things to Adult Swim. We tried, like, Junk in the Trunk, but we learned it was the name of a very popular porn series. We tried ADD TV and the studio hated it.
Tom Root: We would come up with titles for the show and the network would shoot them down. It was getting closer to air and we didn’t have a title.
“I hated the name. It didn’t really mean anything.” — Tom Root, writer
We used to sit around Seth’s living room eating Chinese food on his coffee table and we’d always order it from the same place: Kung Pao Bistro. They had a dish called “Robot Chicken.”
Matt Senreich: It’s like an orange chicken type of thing with vegetables in it. It’s wonderful and very sweet.
Tom Root: We were eating an awful lot of it and it was Doug who said, “Why don’t we call the show Robot Chicken?” We threw it on a list of names. I think I hated the name. It didn’t really mean anything, but on the other hand, all of Adult Swim’s programs were random and confusing. It’s no different than Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Matt Senreich: Then Mike Lazzo was like, “That’s the name of your show.” And we’re like,”What? That has nothing to do with our show.” But he liked it, so we had to figure out how it connected to the show. I think it was Doug Goldstein who had the idea of doing the Clockwork Orange intro where we force a chicken to watch this insane show.
Tom Root: I think we were just sort of relieved that we had a title the network was happy with.
Matt Senreich: I still order from Kung Pao Bistro with my family. I think there are like five or six of them out there. I highly recommend it.
The Star Wars episode
By Season 2, the Robot Chicken team was feeling a lot more comfortable, but something was about to happen that would change the course of the show forever.
Seth Green: We love Star Wars, and it’s obviously ripe for parody. By the second season we had done two different sketches. One was about some silly interpretations of spoilers. The other was where the Emperor receives a phone call from Darth Vader after the death star has been destroyed and he has a really mundane conversation with Vader. We liked juxtaposing a businessman doing very mundane office duties with something as fantastic as the Emperor.
Tom Root: It was weirdly frustrating because we were told if you mess with Lucasfilm they’re gonna sue. So I never wrote any Star Wars sketches, but Doug Goldstein wrote as many as he wanted, and he was getting Star Wars sketches into this show.
Matt Senreich: A couple days after it aired, I got a call on my phone and it said Lucasfilm on the Caller ID. I looked at Seth and he was like, “Oh my God.” So I pick up the phone and say, “Hi, you’ve reached Matthew Senreich and Seth Green’s office. How can I help you?” pretending to be an assistant. After some confusion, she was like, “I love the sketch that you guys did.”
Seth Green: George had seen the sketch. He’d showed it at a board meeting as an example of the type of thing he liked because it wasn’t cannibalizing the sincere value of the brand. Instead, it was expanding on their sense of humor and helping an audience find a different access point.
They invited us to come up to Lucasfilm and take a tour of all of their facilities and meet with some of their top executives and discuss if there was an opportunity for us to produce something with them.
Matt Senreich: We didn’t meet George, but we had lunch with the marketing and publicity departments. Then I said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did a whole episode just based on Star Wars?” I still remember Seth stepping on my foot when I did it, but I knew that was the one shot I was going to get.”
Seth Green: I didn’t think that they would go for it, but they did. Once we got the go ahead, we started writing sketches with their consent and approval.
Keith Crofford: George Lucas is the one we have to thank because he became a fan of Robot Chicken, and that sparked an interest in George, who’s a very reclusive and private guy. But he struck up a friendship with Matt and Seth and so he was on board from the get-go. It was one of the easier deals we ever did because back then when he owned the company, it was just, George wants to do it, so let’s make it happen.
Tom Root: It wasn’t a challenge for us to write nothing but Star Wars sketches. We had been waiting our whole lives to write nothing but Star Wars sketches. We had thousands of them waiting to get out after being fans for our entire existence.
Seth Green: In one sketch, our nerd character meets George Lucas at a convention. We thought it would be funny to show how fans react to George and how he would react to those kinds of fans. We wanted him to do his own voice. It seemed really unlikely, but he was game to do it.
Matt Senreich: I remember George coming in to record and he took the script and he threw it up in the air and was like, “I’m just going to be the actor.” Then Seth, who had met him before, was like, “Okay, I’m just going to be the director and tell you to do it one time, exactly how it’s on the page.”
And so they were just bantering with each other and I still hadn’t even said hello to him yet. I always feel like I’m always the dad to Seth and George, who are like 8-year-old kids together.
Seth Green: We got him to do his actual voice. Again, it seems entirely improbable, but that’s the great thing about George Lucas. In addition to being a brilliant innovator and a technological pioneer, he has an incredible sense of humor and an honest awareness of how people perceive him. He was willing to play around with that impression so he couldn’t be easily defined.
Matt Senreich: After Star Wars, we did a DC Comics special because Geoff Johns, who was at DC at the time, was a writing partner of mine from way back. Same thing with The Walking Dead special. I was at dinner with Robert Kirkman and he was like, “How come you haven’t done Walking Dead?” But Star Wars definitely set the pace for it, which was really nice.
How the Robot Chicken sausage gets made
Here’s how the Robot Chicken team creates each sketch, episode, and season.
Matt Senreich: It starts with the writing. Once the writing happens, it gets put to storyboards and voices at the same time. Then that goes to the editing room where we build what’s called the animatic, which is the voices laid down. So you basically see the whole episode before anything is animated.
Seth Green: What drives us is what’s funny, but we also avoid some topics. We don’t really like to venture into politics, and we stay away from anything current or disposable and leave that for Saturday Night Live. We focus on things we think are going to still be a topic of conversation 10 years from now.
Tom Root: We write four episodes worth of sketches. When we have a pile that’s big enough, we divide them up and treat them like puzzle pieces, putting together what we think will make episodes that feel full. Each episode needs an anchor sketch at the end and an opening sketch that hooks you in.
Tom Root: We do that five times in a row and we have 20 scripts. So there’s this assembly line where we go from idea generation to dividing up the ideas to scripting those ideas and then back to generating more ideas.
Matt Senreich: Then it goes to a couple of different people. It goes to our set and puppet department, which builds everything. After that, it gets lit and set up on stages. Then our animators do the shots frame by frame.
Tom Sheppard (current director of Robot Chicken): From beginning to end, it takes us about six months to shoot the whole season of 20 episodes. It breaks down to a week and a half per episode for animation, but there are certain sketches where it’s just two characters talking, and then we’ll have a musical sketch where there are 15 characters dancing through the streets of Paris. So it might take three months to shoot one sketch. This season we had 25 stages and usually about 12 to 15 animators depending on the week.
Matt Senreich: Once those shots are completed, it goes to edit. We sit in the editing room and build it all. Then, once the whole episode is collected, we’ll take it to sound and mix it.
A special writers’ room
What started as a handful of guys eating Chinese food and cracking Star Wars jokes has expanded into a full-staffed writers’ room with a rotating team. In addition to the original crew, Robot Chicken regularly brings in fresh faces, many of who go on to great things of their own.
Seth Green: We consistently bring in younger and newer writers. The best thing that Matt and I can do is provide a context or a framework so that it all still feels like the same voice, even though we’re talking about pop that may not be my personal forte. Oftentimes, the jokes that everybody in the room agrees are funny are ones I don’t even get, but my role as a producer is to get out of the way and not try to micromanage every detail.
“Rachel Bloom got the news about The CW picking up Crazy Ex-Girlfriend while she was in our writers’ room.” — Tom Root, writer
Keith Crofford: There’s always new features of pop culture that pop up, and they’ve been masterful at revitalizing their writing staff every year.
Matt Senreich: More of our writers ended up becoming showrunners or creators and then just joining another staff. We’ve had Rachel Bloom, Ben Schwartz, and Hugh Davidson, who’s now doing Mike Tyson Mysteries. There’s a Robot Chicken family.
Tom Root: We’re always really happy when we catch young writers who go on to do great things because it makes us look like we know what we’re doing. Rachel Bloom got the news about The CW picking up Crazy Ex-Girlfriend while she was in our writers’ room. And then more or less a year later, she won a Golden Globe. Jessica Gao just won an Emmy for Rick and Morty. She wrote the “Pickle Rick” episode, and then she had an ABC sitcom picked up for pilot.
Seth Green: We’ve been really lucky to get people at the very beginnings of their careers, and I hope we’ve given them valid experience and preparation or confidence for whatever it is they went on to create.
Looking back (and forward) from Season 10
Finally, as the Season 10 premiere looms, the creators, cast, and executives behind Robot Chicken reflect on how they got here, what comes next, and how it feels to play with action figures professionally for 15 years straight.
Seth Green: I never expected to get here. This was something that Matt and I were making for ourselves that we were considering self-financing. And it was in the early days before this kind of network even existed. All these pop musings were so private and things that we all suffered for loving when we were kids. I never imagined that the world at large would accept genre pop as its premier subject of entertainment.
Matt Senreich: I always say it’s all kind of by accident. We always thought of this as a second job. Even when I moved out here, I still felt like, “Okay, this is something that I’m going to do for this short little bit and then I’m going to have to find other stuff.” I never thought I would be able to say to people, “Hey, I get to play with toys for a living.”
“There’s a reason we do the joke at the end of every season where we get canceled.” — Matt Seinreich, co-creator
Tom Root: It’s been around for so long, it’s kind of an institution. We get a lot of people telling us that they grew up with the show or they watched at night when they were supposed to be asleep. There’s a lot of nostalgia about Robot Chicken, so it’s almost become the thing it was embracing in the first place.
Keith Crofford: You always hope something will last as long, but you never really expect it. As long as the show is doing well with audiences and it’s still funny, we’ll keep making it.
Katee Sackhoff: When it first started, I think it was sort of like me and Seth and Matt in a recording booth and now it’s gotten much bigger. There’s many more people involved.
I’m so proud of everybody involved. It’s such a feat to have something with such lasting power that it is sustained itself for 10 years and could go for 10 more. They’ve really endeared themselves in people’s lives and hearts in a strange way since it’s so inappropriate. I think that’s special.
Tom Root: It’s definitely not shocking anybody the way it used to. Nobody’s thrown by these cute looking toys saying terrible things anymore. It’s just another weird Adult Swim show, and there’s way weirder stuff on TV now.
Seth Green: I’m still really attentive to the quality of the show and how hard we try to make it unique or make it worth watching. Going into a 10th season, we put a lot of effort into doing things that we hadn’t done before and, especially with our 200th episode, making something really special that we thought was worthy of the benchmark.
Matt Senreich: There’s a reason we do the joke at the end of every season where we get canceled. We always thought there wasn’t going to be another season. It wasn’t until the fourth or fifth season when we realized we were going to be around for a little bit.
Keith Crofford: We picked it up in two-season increments in the early days. So it was just a joke. “It’s the last episode you’re going to see for a while, kids. We’re canceled.” They thought it was funny to poke fun at the executives who were trying to cancel their silly show. It’s totally fictional.
Matt Senreich: I always hold onto what Mike Lazzo told us. He said, “You’re our Saturday Night Live.”
Seth Green: It’s kind of crazy to reflect on something that’s been nearly 15 years of my life and have it still be viable. We’re really grateful for the fans. We love that people love it. That’s kind of the best that we could hope for, that people would take this and make it their own.