Interview: Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick on the return of the Venture Bros


VentureBros

Would you believe it if I told you that Venture Bros premiered in 2003? Crazy, right? Since its inception back in the first half of the Bush presidency, Adult Swim’s animated series focused around a family of super scientists and adventurers has done it all. It started as a Scooby Doo/Johnny Venture parody that quickly turned into an expansive superhero universe years before the words “Marvel Cinematic” meant anything. It covered classic 80’s nostalgia like GI Joe, Indiana Jones and David Bowie while bringing up Watchmen, Doctor Strange, even Red Hulk far before anyone was talking about them besides die hard fans. If you aren’t on board yet, in their seasons bridging special Gargantua 2 (which is amazing), they brought up Totally Spies. Totally. Spies.

The show is poised to enter its sixth season in the end of the month. The gang is flushed with cash and headed to New York City. I got a chance to sit down with the show’s writer/actor team, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer to talk about what to expect from our favorite boy adventurers and their trusty bodyguard in the year to come.

Hank and Dean aren’t attached at the hip anymore. What is their relationship like going into the new season? 

DH: It’s more of the same. I think what happened with Dean in season 5 has changed him and what’s been  happening with Hank since Season 1 has changed him. Hank is a juggernaut. He moves, not even forward. He just moves. He could be going downhill, Up. It doesn’t matter. Hank is always moving. And Dean is changing and very uncomfortable with these changes. So it’s exactly the same. We really are starting minutes after the last episode, after Gargantua. It just picks right up after that moment. So everything is still in play. It’s like the seasons never ended.

How did you come upon the decision to kill Jonas Jr. and how dead is he? 

DH: Very dead. He’s very dead unless…

JP: Unless I have an amazing idea for why he’s not but I’m not interested in looking for one.

DH: And if one of us has an amazing idea for it, it will be that “Oh, he records something for posterity.” To actually bring him back  and like “Here I come! More seasons! The cumbersome brother.” He’s pretty dead. He’s as dead as anyone in the show. Probably more dead that 24. And he is so dead, but alive in a heart.

JP: I think Triester would come back before Jonas. “You can’t kill me.”

DH: He’s a hulk so who knows? After the sun radiation hits him and he comes back as a sun god and he comes back in the past and is worshiped by Mayans…”

JP: “It’s called an Eeeevenet Hooorizon and it’s a hell of a thing. Can’t survive unless you’re a hulk jacked up on gamma.”

DH: It could happen. It could happen. Jonas just went up in a terrible fiery blaze.

JP: And he was sick anyway and we needed him money and we needed to not have to deal with him.

DH: To not have to write for a character like that. To be a guy that sacrificed everything for his brother.

What is the story behind the change in Hank’s look? 

JP: Bieber Hank. I’ll give you a spoiler. Episode 1, the door opens and it’s like “What the fuck.” Matter of fact, it’s so misleading to see that and go “This show sucks.”

DH: You can’t really see it but Dean’s got a really nice English tailored suit on there.

Photo Credit: Adult Swim
Photo Credit: Adult Swim

JP: As much as a cartoon can have any kind of tailoring. That’s supposed to make you feel slightly uncomfortable.

DH: That’s the first shopping spree as billionaires kind of moment.

Will we get more of The Order of the Triad?

DH: Spoiler, the season coming up is very Order of the Triad shy.

JP: Unfortunately, they don’t get into this next set of eight episodes, but we know where they are and when you’re gonna come back into the story. They’re not dead.

DH: And we have some notes for at least Jefferson.

JP: That he’s friends with Blackquaman? Is that what you meant?

DH: Look at the big board. We make notes on the big board and don’t tell the other we did it.

When you guys bounce idea’s off of each other, do you use the character’s voices?

JP: And each other’s voices. It’s a nightmare. You can’t stop doing it.

DH: We’re just being the characters in the moment.

JP: When you have a sentiment, you want to taste it. When I say something that a character would say in my own voice, not funny. But if we do the voice, it has context and it’s funnier. I can’t not do it.

DH: Certain things are only funny because they’re coming out of one of those idiot’s mouths.

JP: So we have to do impressions of our entire cast.

DH: Not just any character could have done “S.C.U.B.A.” You need Hank to do it.

JP: Plus when  you’re writing, you’re playing make believe. We’re not the kind of people to sit at typewriters and say “Here’s something a little bit funnier than yours. Get over my shoulder. I think you mean this.” That’s not how we write. We sit in a room and we goof for a super long time and something is so funny that we can’t stop doing it. “Write down the work spanakopita” That’s how we write. We just keep saying the same thing over again and it goes through the test of “Do I want to keep repeating this joke” and then we split off and somebody will take all these notes of us playing make believe and write an episode. We don’t really write together. We create together and write separately.

One shift as the show progressed seems to be the movement away from characters having classic nerdy discussions. Have you tried to reach back to that and set up situations to similar moments in more recent seasons.

JP: We don’t notice that in our show. We don’t fetishize it. We don’t sometimes need to get back to that. That is a viewer thing. That is something that someone watching will go “That’s an aspect of the show that I like. Those petty back and forths.”

DH: I respectfully disagree. Once in a while I go “We haven’t had a good Smurfs argument in years.” It’s not like we would do it consciously. It is a part of those character’s personalities. If we don’t hit some of that flavor, I feel like we’re not writing the same character.

Photo Credit: Adult Swim
Photo Credit: Adult Swim

JP: I still do it just as the way I did it before which is “That is funny.” When Monarch pisses in the sink, which is coming up, all that is the same thing that we used to do. You might register that we used to do that.

What I’m proud of is never the thing that I ever hear about. I think my proudest moment is, I forget what season it was, when they’re all in front of the screen and the Monarch has to eat blood and go “Ooooh jelly.” That back and forth, I was like “This is fuckin brilliant.” I’ve never heard anyone quote it or compliment it. Something ridiculous like the Smurf argument, that was nothing. That was a way to get Brock through the scene. I didn’t even think about that.

Each character has a very specific voice. There are some things that one person can say that another person can’t. 21 can say very specific things. He’s a geek. Watch and Ward do nothing but watch TV all day. Some of the TV is their job but they’re clearly watching Growing Pains in one of those monitors. So they would have a lot of crazy references and they’re with eachother 24/7.

And Billy and White. You have the people that are always with each other can say very specific things and the people that just meet each other can’t have that kind of dynamic. We will always do it because we have so many groups of two, that usually Jackson and I do the voices for.

Do you have trouble distinguishing those voices? 

DH: They all sound like my head. For his, he’s actually good at it. I suck. The only one that I accept as a actual person is Dr. Girlfriend. Anytime I hear that voice, I’m like “She’s good.” First of all, it’s female. I never hear a man and it’s never me. Billy I register as one of my better voices but I know it’s me. 21 is just me. It’s just me talking on television. Elizabeth didn’t even know I was Dr. Girlfriend for the longest fucking time. It’s in the credits.

JP: Elizabeth is our editor.

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Do you have an idea in your head when you create a character that the character will last or be one of those cameos with a funny name? 

JP: A bit of both, right? Sometimes we think we’re making new cannon and other times we think we’re making a throwaway guy. He’ll write a guy and be throwaway and then I’m like “I love him. I’m gonna write a whole episode about him. And then OK canon.”

The entire show is that. The entire show is we just throw out a name and we pick it up.

DH: It’s hard to remember that most of the core cast started that way. I feel like Killinger is maybe that last one who should have been a one off.

JP: There is almost a bet quality about that. I’m like “We cannot write for him. It’s done.” And you were like “I can write for him.”

DH: Once I saw him come together, like his look and everything else and I saw that people responded well to that episode I was like “There’s a guy that I think people dig and we don’t want to overuse him but he’s got to be a little more that Evil Mary Poppins.” And then there’s plenty that we lose interest in after a while.

What about the new season do you think is going to surprise fans of everything up until now the most?

JP: That we can change everything and it still feels like the Venture Brothers.

DH: Well said.

JP: That’s really surprising. Nothing is the same and you’ll feel like nothing has changed.

The Ventures Bros. returns to Adult Swim on Sunday night.

Matthew Nando Kelly is a cool and tough Senior Staff Writer for Pop-Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Besides weekly Flash recaps, he has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he makes pop culture brackets with fellow writer DJ Chapman.