The premise behind Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim standout Rick and Morty is not exactly groundbreaking. A cantankerous, beyond genius scientist takes his much younger, wide-eye companion on a series of otherworldly adventures. The unlikely duo often times find themselves in a barrage of mishaps whether its through time traveling, investigating other dimensions or facing off against hostile space aliens. It’s the kind of go-to science fiction trope that has been gloriously perfected by such iconic vehicles as TV’s long-running Doctor Who and the classic Back to the Future film franchise.
However, the animated series Rick and Morty goes off the rails. That elder genius level scientist is a mean-spirited, insult-dropping, belligerent drunk who at times purposely puts his family in harms way all in the name of science (and his boundless ego). And Morty, Rick’s clueless grandson, is an awkward teenager who can never gather up the courage to ask the pretty girl in high school out on a date. Instead, he opts to use a disastrous love potion that turns on both males and females, gets caught watching porn by his dad and impregnates an alien sex robot given to him by his grand pops. This ain’t The Simpsons.
Indeed, things turn pretty absurdly hilarious, dark and wrong in every perceivable way on Rick and Morty. With today’s bells-and-whistles video release of the complete 1st season of the cult cable favorite, VIBE sat down with the sardonic brains behind the acclaimed series: NBC’s Community mastermind Dan Harmon and House of Cosby’s architect Justin Roiland. From their obsessions over all things hip-hop to why Rick is the ultimate asshole, this is their wild and wacky story.
VIBE: The genesis of Rick and Morty began during your very public and nasty split from the NBC comedy Community. This is a much darker, brazenly offensive show and at times goes to places that most cartoons would dare to go. Were you taking out all your frustrations and anger with the dirty politics of network TV into Rick and Morty?
Dan Harmon: [Laughs] I do think there was a huge element of that going on. Rick and Morty was always my exit strategy. Things were never ideal at Community and yet it was the most important thing in my life. And as the seasons went on and the show became more important to me and more tenuous at NBC, I realized I was in a very precarious position emotionally. I was the only person that was going to be heartbroken if this thing just dropped off the face of the earth. So there is a very natural human dose of, “Screw this! I’m tired of feeling about things!” After a nasty breakup, your next relationship tends to have you waving red flags over your head. Now you are able to say, “I’m an alcoholic, I don’t give a shit…you have to know that right away.” That’s not how Justin and I set out to make Rick and Morty. It was very organic.
Justin, you met Dan through the short film competition Channel 101. Was it love at first sight between you two given your own controversial, dark work on the online cartoon series The House of Cosby?
Justin Roiland: Yeah…Harmon and I have been friends for over 10 years. We gravitated towards each other and love working with each other. And it says a lot when you love working with someone on stuff just for the fuck of it. It’s as if you are not even being paid, you are doing it because it’s fun. We both admire each other’s sensibilities. To find ourselves in a position where we are actually making something that is for a really cool network and that people are getting to see it’s kind of a dream come true. And we are getting paid for it!
There are some pretty hilarious moments from the first season of Rick and Morty. The “Rick Potion #9” episode; “Lawnmower Dog;” “Close Rick-Counters.” Was there one episode that made you look at each other and say, “I can’t believe we are getting away with this crazy shit?”
Harmon: [Laughs] If I had to pick one it would be the episode where they watch cable TV during the entire show.
That’s the episode that featured every conceivable show from various dimensions including Morty’s father being a movie star and sniffing cocaine with Johnny Depp. There was also an entire program about a guy eating his own shit. I couldn’t believe Cartoon Network let you guys slide with that one.
Harmon: Well, I could believe we were getting away with it because Adult Swim is very supportive. They will let you do anything you want [laughs]. The only thing I can’t believe is that it worked.
Roiland: I can tell you what it is for me. It’s the “Meeseeks and Destroy” episode. And it’s not the Meeseeks side of the story. It’s the Rick and Morty side. I was really surprised that we got away with how that story comes to an end…Morty’s arc. It was heavy when he was in the bathroom with that Mr. Jellybean guy (Ed: In the scene, Rick is nearly sexually assaulted by the magical fairytale like character). I sincerely went through a period of time in production leading up to the delivery of that episode where I was preparing for the worst. I was preparing for a situation where we were going to have to completely rework that third act because of how completely fucked up that scene is.