About five minutes into watching “Too Many Cooks,” you begin to think, What lunatic made this? That lunatic was Casper Kelly, longtime Adult Swim writer and producer, and co-creator of Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell. Vulture spoke with Kelly about the short’s surprisingly long production schedule. Find out why it took a year and a half to make, what got cut for being “too wacky,” and whether or not Kelly was high.
Where did the idea come from?
It was a shower idea. I like that style of comedy like David Letterman when he’ll repeat something and then it’ll become annoying, and then it becomes funny again. Or Andy Kaufman would do that. I love that kind of humor, but I’ve never really tried anything like that. So I got that idea, but I didn’t think I could make it work for 11 minutes, but I told one of my co-workers and he told my boss Mike Lazzo at Adult Swim. He thought it was funny, but he said, “That’ll be good for four minutes and then you need to start zigging and zagging.”
What was the first thing that you built upon after you had the original idea of just the repetition?
First it was shifting the genres and then having the theme song shift genres. We thought that would be funny, but even that was like, “Okay, we get that,” and then you’ve got to do another shift.
How did the murderer get involved?
It was just working on an intuitive level. There is all this cheerful stuff and you just want something unhappy to start emerging. We put him in throughout. We hid him in various places and no one would notice it the first time they watched. I worried that people would only watch it once, so I was wondering if I should put arrows to show where he’s hiding.
How long was the development process?
It happened very quickly because I was shooting a TV show I do, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, and we had a little bit of time before that started. I had to get it together really fast and I wrote down every idea I could think of, of what to try. Even the idea of her hiding in the closet and the credits shining through came day of. I had to beg to get that in there. It was a lot about editing and figuring out the right structure and order.
How long ago did you start working on it?
My friend told my boss at upfronts in New York, where all of Adult Swim goes and we drink and we try to wine and dine advertisers. I think it was at the one year before last. We shot it last October.
So you’ve been sitting on this for basically a full year?
Well, yeah, because we’re doing a TV show, too, but it helped to shape it in edit. And it took a long time to do the music. We were really able to keep showing it to new people so we knew when things needed to change — when things started to drag and we needed to mix it up. We could really focus that.
Did you get one note in the process that really opened it up in terms of the editing?
I don’t think so. It was really just a matter of showing it and showing it. Mike Lazzo, my boss, did not look at it until it was pretty much done. He gave me a lot of rope, and when he saw it — and I still wasn’t sure if it was good or not — he emailed me and said, “This is fucking great.” And I printed that out and I framed it, because he does not email me very often.
I imagine you shot more than you could use. What didn’t make it in?
We used most of it because we shot this in pretty much two days. I’m going to give you little aside: We shot in two days and we used extras because we didn’t have a lot of money. They were very excited they were going to get a screen credit. But, yeah, there were two things I’ll tell you. At the very end, when they’re all on the couch we had a flaming juggler, but we decided that was too wacky — although obviously the whole thing is wacky. And, during the ending credits, I had a stay tuned for “Two in the Bush” and I had a little soundbite of a different type of show, but we decided it was funnier just to get out very quickly.
How did casting the extras work?
There is extras casting that helps us get a look and I worked with them harder than they were probably used to to get the right look because you want to get that feeling of “that’s a dad.” Sometimes we even auditioned people just smiling and looking to make sure.
Was the killer also an extra?
He was an extra in our show Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell as a demon and he’s become a character overtime. We’ve always loved his look.
How many fake names did you end up coming up with?
Well, interestingly, they’re their real names. For the most part — like on the cartoon part, I used the name of my editor and one of the guys who did the music. But the rest are actors’ real names. I did experiment with putting in joke names, or I even had an idea I was going to try and tell a story in the text — like, Once there was — but we decided you ended up reading the credits too much, and I wanted it to wash over you as a feeling.
Who wrote and performed the song?
Michael Kohler started it and then Shawn Coleman finished it and did all the shifting genres. They both said it was the hardest project they’ve ever done, and they’ve done sound for us for many years on shows like Squidbillies and Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Were you or anyone involved high during the process?
No, we were not, because I can’t work that way. But I do think that this was designed that if you’re under the influence of something that has time dilation, this will really mess with you. [Laughs.]
Did you think of that ahead of time?
No, I thought it’s airing at 4 a.m. so truly that’s a component, yes.
Do you have a specific title sequence that was your muse for this?
Well, I always loved Facts of Life, but really we started honing in on some of the not-as-good shows, like Family Matters and Small Wonder, because they had a stiffness to them and they looked very artificial — especially Small Wonder. If you go back and look at that one, it has a kid lifting weights and so forth and we used a lot of that.
Has Adam Scott or the Greatest Event in Television History responded yet? Like, you just kicked the game up a notch.
[Laughs.] Good question. I had this idea, but I sat on it, and then that came out and I did worry, Wow, they crushed it. But hopefully there’s enough space for both of us. I’m honored to be in the same sentence as them.
How many is too many cooks?
We’ll find out when we do the sequel. I don’t know if we’re doing a sequel. I’m just kidding.
But seriously, would you do a sequel? Could you do a sequel?
The response has been great. I never say never.