Interview: Michael Kupperman Pt. 1 [of 3]

Categories:  Interviews

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Last Sunday night, Michael Kupperman followed in the hallowed footsteps of Tony Millionaire with the premier of Snake ‘n Bacon, a 12-minute-long adaptation of the cartoonist’s perennial favorite onomatopoeiac duo for Cartoon Network’s late-night Adult Swim comedy block.

The show is a mix of animation written and directed by Kupperman and live action bits penned by two Daily Show vets and starring James Urbaniak, Andy Blitz, Kristen Schaal, and Bill Hader. Despite the impressive comedic pedigrees, however, it seems we’re unlikely to see any more of the show in its current incarnation—at least not on Cartoon Network.

Kupperman, however, has plenty more to be excited about, including the recently released fifth issue of the absurdly comic series Tales Designed to Thrizzle for Fantagraphics, a peculiar and perpetually hilarious mélange of cartoon sketch comedy and pulpy aesthetic sensibilities. The previous four issues are also set for release as a collected hardcover edition in late-July.

We caught up with Kupperman during his daily hour of freedom.

Is now a good time?

I’m getting my hour or so freedom for the day, because I work at night and get what sleep I can during the day. Taking care of a baby is an involved thing—so I don’t get out too much these days.

You work at night—are you one of those 2 AM sort of artists?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, that’s part of my philosophy. I think you should turn your weaknesses into strengths, and I’ve always had terrible insomnia. When I had real jobs, they were always late. So I’m working at nights, though it is tough to get away with. It’s still when I prefer to work, though.

Do your hours affect your output at all? Do you find that you have a different sensibility at 2 AM than you do at, say two PM?

Yeah, probably, that extra little added bit of craziness can at 2 AM.

Which probably serves your work a bit better than others.

Yeah, I guess so. My work is what it is, definitely. It’s not like everyone’s.

Where you surprised to hear that someone was interesting in optioning it for a TV show?

Well, the way it went  was that there were these two guys, Scott Jacobson and Rich Blomquist had the idea to make Snake n Bacon into a TV show. They first came to me and when ahead with the process and got a deal to make it.

It seems like you’ve got a fairly strong involvement with it. You’re listed as the lead writer for the show.

Well, yeah. The way it breaks down is this: the animated material is all taken from Snake n Bacon, the book—just slightly rearranged. For that I had complete control, because if you want something done right, do it yourself. And the live action parts, those are written by Scott and Rich. So those are really theirs.

Are you interested in writing more original work for the show?

Oh, sure. I’m open for anything. I’ve been trying really hard since we finished the pilot to get something else off the ground. It’s a challenge, but I really enjoyed working on it. And I do every inch of that animation. I didn’t know if I could, but I did—even the mouths.

Is that all done on Flash?

I believe its After Effects. Basically it’s me doing the drawing and then John Kuramoto did the animation. He’s the same person who animates Chris Ware for This American Life and he worked on American Splendor. He’s just really really great. He’s an amazing guy to work with.

How long do the layouts take for a single episode?

That was kind of a stop-start process, but actually, not that long. I think I did most of the work for that in about two, two-and-a-half months.

For just that episode?

Yeah. I don’t think there are going to be anymore, unless Adult Swim changes their mind.

They didn’t pick up the pilot?

Yeah. They don’t seem as excited as they might have been.

There’s a pretty solid cast and lineup of writers.

Yeah, I was surprised myself. I thought at least if they didn’t like the show, they want to do something else. But I don’t know. Dealing with them has been a little…crazy. I don’t want to slam them—at least not publicly [laughs]. It’s a little strange. Dealing with these big companies is just a bit weird. They can be very reasonable, and then suddenly you don’t know where you are.

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from a lot of networks, but it seems like, for the most part, Adult Swim is—I don’t know if “kinder” is the word—at least a little easier to work with than some of the major networks.

Yeah, yeah. But that’s the way it goes. I am talking to another major network. It’s just the lawyers negotiating the contracts stage. It should be happening, but you never know. I’m waiting on that right now.

Now you have this great, very professional-looking demo reel.

Exactly. That was my attitude, and I think that’s got to be your attitude all the time—just do the best you can, and if this doesn’t work, then it’ll show someone else what you can do.

The pilot had its big premier last Sunday. We’re you satisfied with the final product?

You know—huh. The live action was a little rough. That wasn’t under my control. Scott and Richard are great, and I don’t want to slam them or anything, but I thought that it was a little rough and could have been improved—especially the live action. But on the whole, I’m very happy with it, yeah. I’m very proud of it.

Did it not keep with the vibe of the comic?

Well, if the animation didn’t, that’s really my fault. But no, I think it did. It’s just in terms of its presentation and what the network would really be interested in. again, it’s hard to tell. You just never know.

[Continued in Part Two]

–Brian Heater

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4 Comments to “Interview: Michael Kupperman Pt. 1 [of 3]”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » May 20, 2009: Skin is suddenly in
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  3. The Daily Cross Hatch » Interview: Michael Kupperman Pt. 2 [of 3]
  4. The Daily Cross Hatch » Interview: Michael Kupperman Pt. 3 [of 3]