A mastermind behind the ‘Chicken’ madness

Robot Chicken is known for its random humor and parodies of childhood characters. The Oracle talked to one of the masterminds behind the show, co-creator Matthew Senreich. He spoke about what goes into making an episode of the show and how they choose the content.

The Oracle: What do you think makes Robot Chicken so successful?
Matthew Senreich: It’s successful? Gosh, that’s hard … It’s one of those shows, I think, where everyone is in on the joke.

We’re just writing it and having a good time doing so. We’re playing off of nostalgia. People just have that feeling of what they grew up with and loving seeing it turned on its side.

O: How many people work on one episode of Robot Chicken?
MS: We have a staff of about 80 to 100 people — that’s not counting any of the people we bring in for voice records.

O: The show has parodied everything from Jesus to throwing babies off the roof. Do you guys feel like you have ever gone too far?
MS: Yes, we do. We have an interesting voting system, where there are four of us that vote on all the sketches writers submit. It’s myself and Seth (Green) and then our two head writers Tom (Root) and Doug (Goldstein) — we started the show together.

Everybody submits anywhere from four and eight sketches a day plus a bunch of channel flips (quick clips between sketches) and the four of us vote on it, and the writers hate it. It needs a 3-to-1 vote to go in.

There was a stillborn baby joke which was probably a little too far for us that we never put into our show. We for the most part try to censor ourselves.

O: The show seems random. Is there a method to the madness?
MS: We just like the idea. It’s very much ADD-TV. We are in a day and age where the younger generation is so into multitasking as much as possible that we don’t want to give anybody an opportunity to get bored with our show.

If there is a one-minute sketch on that you don’t like, a minute later there will be something else on that you hopefully will like.

O: Is that why the episodes are about 11 minutes long?
MS: Adult Swim just formats their shows in 11-minute blocks of programming, like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and others. Our show — because it is so fast-paced — as a half-hour show may not work as well.

For special occasions, like the Star Wars special that we did, we can go a little bit longer because it is centrally themed — then we can do more of a linear story. But you look at sketch comedy shows and you always have that feeling that they go on for too long, and we just don’t want that to be the case with our show. We would rather leave you wanting more than making you say “my God, that went on forever.”

O: I’ve read that there were many other titles originally for the show. Is that true?
MS: That is very true. We submitted 60 or more titles. All were rejected to the point where Cartoon Network was calling us the Bad Title Factory.

And as a goof in one of our e-mails with 10 other titles, we put in “Robot Chicken” — it was a Chinese dish that we ate while writing the first season of the show. We thought it was going to just be a “hahaha” funny goof, and they loved it. Then we had a panic attack of realizing that we needed to tie that name into what our show was — and thus the opening sequence was born.

O: What is the future of Robot Chicken?
MS: We are currently finishing up our second Star Wars special, coming out, I think, Nov. 16. And then we are currently in production of our fourth season of the show. I am not sure when they will be airing it. We are doing 20 episodes of that.