When Senreich came out to Los Angeles for Robot Chicken, he brought some of his Wizard Entertainment colleagues with him. Head writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root and longtime staff writer Mike Fasolo are all former Wizard guys who have been holed up in the Robot Chicken writer’s room since the show’s infancy. The number of writers in the room can vary, but usually, it’s around six. They show up at 9 a.m., open their laptops and spend long hours writing, often in silence. Maybe, they’ll hit their loose quota of five sketches and 10 channel flips by 4 p.m., which is when they turn in their work. After that, Senreich, Green, Goldstein and Root spend the next few hours voting on the pitches. If three say yes, it’s a go.
For a group of former magazine writers, TV is a completely different world. Goldstein notes that, in journalism, you can explain to your editors in detail why you think a subject is worthy of coverage. In TV, you have to get to the point. Fast. “In Hollywood, you’re either funny or you’re not,” he says.
There’s a tenuous balance that the writers have to maintain while they’re pitching, according to Fasolo. They can’t turn in outlines, because those won’t come across as funny. At the same time, they can’t include too much detail in the pitch. “If you try to make it too funny, then it’s too long and no one wants to read it,” he says. As is the case for so many writers, there’s always a chance that the pieces they really believe will make the cut, won’t. Conversely, the ideas that can prompt a writer like Fasolo to say, “This is the stupidest thing in the world,” hit big. Sometimes, a writer will repitch something that doesn’t get a first pass. Once in a while, it will take the writer actually acting out the scene to push it into the script.
After a pitch is accepted, everyone works on sharpening it to perfection. The writers have four weeks to piece together four episodes, carefully tying together a lot of odds and ends to form a script that can gel with the capabilities of the animation department. It’s a lot of work, a lot of time spent sharing the same tiny space with the same people everyday, but this crew has been together for a very long time.
“We keep it in the family and even if you step outside of the family, you always come home,” says Kevin Shinick. Primarily a writer and voice actor, Shinick was the Creative Director of Robot Chicken for a while, basically the person who sees each episode through from writing to post-production. He left to co-create the MAD animated series, where he writes a lot and voices many of the show’s characters. Since his departure, though, he’s returned to the show a number of times. Most recently, he channeled Ted Knight’s iconic narrator voice from Super Friends for Robot Chicken‘s DC Comics special and served as a writer on that episode.
Often, when you’re talking to people who work in intense, time-sensitive environments like TV and film, you’ll hear people refer to their co-workers as being “like family.” That’s definitely the case at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios as well, but they seem to take that tight bond a little further. At Stoopid Buddy, you’ll find people like Goldstein, who worked on Robot Chicken before it was even a show. You’ll meet someone like Animation Supervisor Alex Kamer, who has worked his way up on the show from intern to department head. You’ll also meet two guys who started out as animators on the series and went on to co-found the studio where it’s made.
What do Winnebagos and tiki bars have to do with Stoopid Buddy? Find out on the next page.