going deep

This Week’s Obscure Archer References Decoded: Jon Hamm, Riptide, and Cheese Puffs

Continuing our ongoing Archer seriesexecutive producer Matt Thompson gives Vulture the lowdown on each episode’s inside jokes and obscure references. In last night’s installment, “Sea Tunt: Part 1,” Cheryl’s brother Cecil turns up to escort the gang to the Bermuda Triangle (and assess his sister’s mental state). Here, Thompson tells us about the fan-made Tumblr that helped them recruit Mad Men star Jon Hamm, and why he thought it was cool to have Cheryl disparage John Williams.

Jon Hamm
Because our show is so reality-based, (besides the thousands of bullets and no one getting killed), the cast is always asked who would play their characters in a live-action version. Almost all of them say themselves. But H. Jon Benjamin is always like, “Well, I’d obviously be wrong for it, but if I had to pick someone else, I’d pick Jon Hamm. Because he’s funny, he gets it, he’s handsome, and he’s got a big voice.” So we’d been looking for something to put Jon Hamm in. Captain Murphy was the best possible thing I could have. At least a small portion of people on the Internet loved him at one time years ago, and we love Captain Murphy so much that when the voice actor died, we sent the character off to space because we didn’t want anyone else to do it.

The other cool thing is I showed Jon Hamm’s team this Tumblr account, Sterling Draper Archer Pryce, which is just amazingly, phenomenally funny, and it helped me convince them that he should do it. It’s done by this really cool girl from New Orleans, and what she does is put lines from Archer over Mad Men characters. It’s fantastic. We basically said that if this Tumblr doesn’t convince you that the Internet wants to see you in an episode of Archer, I don’t know what will. Jon was super down with it. The amount of money we paid him is probably equal to half a second’s work on Mad Men, and he did it on a weekend while he was filming the new season. It was pretty cool of him.

Riptide was the great, old, stupid P.I. show from the eighties with that giant helicopter. That’s why Pam refers to Cecil’s as “that giant Riptide-looking bastard.”

“Shut Up, John Williams”
This is my favorite thing in the episode. On one hand, we’re setting up the fact that Cheryl is crazy and maybe her brother does need to take control of her. So she hears this music that no one else can. But the payoff of the joke is when Cecil introduces Captain Murphy: The music plays, we go to a close-up, and then Cheryl goes, “Oh my God! Please tell me you guys heard that!” So yes, she’s crazy, but also, guys, CAPTAIN MURPHY!!!

“In the immortal words of Jeremy Bentham … ”
So Cecil is a philanthropist humanitarian and as such he would have been familiar with Jeremy Bentham who was a philosopher from the 1800s. I didn’t know a lot about him, so when it was referenced, it was like, Thanks, Adam, now I have something to look up. He’s responsible for all these things we take for granted today, like separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, etc. So the line Cecil was going to quote was, “The sad truth is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” Cecil’s trying to talk about the greater good, and Mallory is cutting him off saying, Fuck it, I’m just going to kill him. That’s just Adam going deep into his character. Character development in a silly cartoon show. He cuts off the line because he doesn’t want to bore you, but just by throwing in Jeremy Bentham you know Cecil’s heart is in the right place. There’s some question in the episode if he’s a bad or good guy. Citing Jeremy Bentham speaks to his character, like maybe he is really a humanitarian and he’s not just trying to rip his sister off.

The Sound of Crab Sticks
We wanted Amber Nash [who provides Pam’s voice] to sound like she was eating those crab sticks the whole time, but we didn’t bring anything for her to eat that day. Instead, we went to the kitchen of the recording studio and they had this huge container of cheese puffs. She had to do a lot of takes because she’d stuff her cheeks full of them, which would make her choke, which gave her the giggle. She looked like a chipmunk, and she kept putting her hands up against the glass of the studio so they were stained with all of this cheese. I was afraid she was going to die.

Obscure Archer References: ‘Sea Tunt: Part 1’