YouTube
YouTube

15 Facts About Your Favorite Adult Swim Shows

YouTube
YouTube

Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's primetime programming block, is celebrating a 15-year anniversary. But the original concept for it truly goes back 1993, when the channel's first programmer—Mike Lazzo—was told by his boss, Ted Turner, to use the limited resources he had at his disposal to whip up some original programming.

Lazzo noticed the new Hanna-Barbera library his boss had acquired and, with the then-current Letterman/Leno late night wars in mind, decided to recycle some animation from the 20-episode series Space Ghost and Dino Boy into a new series, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, which paved the way for the absurdist sensibilities that have informed Adult Swim's brand of television ever since. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, here are some facts about some of your all-time favorite Adult Swim shows.

1. SPACE GHOST COAST TO COAST'S ANIMATION DIRECTOR LANDED THE ROLE OF ZORAK WITH A SPOT-ON IMPERSONATION.

YouTube

Space Ghost Coast to Coast animation director C. Martin Croker was a fan of the original series, and ended up landing the role of Zorak via an impromptu audition, when he did a spot-on voice impersonation of the character. He would eventually get the voice gig for Moltar, too. Croker also came up with the idea of setting the show in space and suggested that Zorak and Moltar should be performing their bandleader and producing duties as unwilling prisoners.

2. THE BEE GEES WERE SPACE GHOST'S MOST MISBEHAVED GUESTS.

The singers cursed and laughed so much that only about 19 seconds of their interview was useable.

3. DANA SNYDER BECAME MASTER SHAKE THANKS TO TWO DRUNKEN VOICEMAILS.

After a night out enjoying some adult beverages with a friend, Dana Snyder followed Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2000-2015) co-creator Dave Willis’ directions and left his audition on his voicemail. Willis loved what he heard, but accidentally erased it and needed to play it for his boss. When Snyder tried it again sober, it didn’t have the same effect for Willis. So Snyder repeated his drunken night out, recorded it again at 3 a.m. the next morning, and won the part.

4. AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE HAD A THREE-SECOND BLOOD RULE. THEY RIDICULED IT.

YouTube

One network directive Willis and co-creator Matt Maiellaro remembered and would address in the episode “Gee Whiz” was to “limit the blood to a three-second spray.”

5. THE ORIGINAL SEALAB 2021 PILOT WAS 24 MINUTES LONG AND NOT LIKED BY ANYBODY.

Future Archer creator Adam Reed and co-creator Matt Thompson took the old Sealab 2020 (1972) series footage and turned it into a 24-minute show with new audio. Cartoon Network said no "on the spot," according to Reed. But then, yet again, alcohol came into play. "It was a little while later and Matt and I were absolutely broke and we just got drunk as hell and watched one episode of the old show over and over," Reed told TIME in 2010. "Probably watched it 10 times with the sound turned down to match the lip flap with whatever spewed out. And we re-cut it into this random seven-minute show, and it turned out they were trying to find shorter things for this new Adult Swim concept, and they bought it."

6. THERE'S A LITTLE MIKE BRADY IN HARVEY BIRDMAN.

YouTube

Gary Cole auditioned for Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law (2000-2007) over the phone. "There was an element of Mike Brady in [the voice], in that I thought Harvey was just as vacant in his head as Mike Brady," said Cole (who, coincidentally, played Mike Brady in 1995's The Brady Bunch Movie and its sequel). "I pictured a little more of a superhero/game-show-host voice, and that's how I read for it."

7. THE VENTURE BROS. IS ABOUT FAILURE.

“It’s about that failure happens to all of us," executive producer Doc Hammer theorized about The Venture Bros., which was created by Jackson Publick. "Every character is not only flawed, but sucks at what they do, and is beautiful at it and Jackson and I suck at what we do, and we try to be beautiful at it, and failure is how you get by ... It shows that failure’s funny, and it’s beautiful and it’s life, and it’s OK, and it’s all we can write because we are big failures.”

That was in season one. By the time Hammer and Publick went back to look at season five, the quote had made the rounds. "I don’t think our failure was ever, 'These people are incompetent,'" Hammer added. "I think our failure was they’re so terribly human in a world of comic book inhumanness, and that’s kind of our long joke. These people are stuck in a world that could only exist in an inhuman Saturday morning show, and they’re real. It’s a big mess."

8. TIM HEIDECKER AND ERIC WAREHEIM GOT ON ADULT SWIM BY SENDING AN INVOICE TO BOB ODENKIRK.

YouTube

“They sent me an envelope with a DVD, and usually I throw those things away, but this envelope also had an itemized bill in it,” Mr. Show co-creator and Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk told Variety. “There was a charge for postage, a charge for packaging, for shipping—everything. And it made me laugh." Odenkirk liked what he saw and got the two into a room with Adult Swim executives, leading to Tom Goes to the Mayor and then Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, and other shows they've produced. Wareheim got to quit his job at Urban Outfitters.

9. TWO EPISODES OF THE BOONDOCKS WERE BANNED BY ADULT SWIM.

Both "The Hunger Strike" and "The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show" painted BET in an unfavorable light, and drew the alleged ire of BET executives. They urged Adult Swim not to air them. Cartoon Network agreed after legal action was threatened.

10. ROBOT CHICKEN WAS NAMED AFTER A MENU ITEM.

Robot Chicken is on the menu at the Chinese restaurant Kung-Pao Bistro in West Hollywood, California. Writer/star Breckin Meyer said that neither he nor the creators of the series, Matt Senreich and Seth Green, "know what the hell it is.”

11. CHILDRENS HOSPITAL TOOK THEIR BRAZIL JOKE AS FAR AS ACTUALLY GOING TO BRAZIL.

Co-creator Rob Corddry recalled how the Brazil running gag came about:

"In the first season I have a scene with Megan Mullally and she’s feeling a little insecure and I’m saying, ‘Listen, you’re the best damn administrator in this hospital.’ And just as an afterthought, David Wain [the Childrens executive producer who ran the show with Corddry and Jonathan Stern] suggested we add, ‘You’re the best damn administrator in all of Brazil.’ And then we just decided to expound on that: ‘Which is where we are right now. We are in Brazil.’ And that became a running joke … It was one of those things that everybody on the crew laughed at. And then all of a sudden the next day, in the nurses’ station, little pictures of Pele would start popping up. And we’d be like, ‘Okay guys, let us choose where the Brazil jokes are.’"

For season three, they put $15,000 aside in the budget to travel to Rio for four days and shoot one scene for the episode "Nip/Tug." "It was not necessary, we did not need it, it was not pushing the story along whatsoever, and we didn’t care," Corddry said.

12. JON GLASER DEVELOPED HIS DELOCATED CHARACTER ON LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN.

On Conan, Glaser played a guy who tried to continue his work as an impressionist even though he was now in the Witness Protection Program (all of his voices now sounded the same.) "It was dumb," Glaser admitted, "but it was always fun to do and the thing I liked about it was that he was super arrogant and smug and confident, even though his humor was sh*tty and hacky, and just that archetype of a character, the smug a**hole, was really fun to do and I always wanted to do something with it after I left Conan, so that's where the idea came from for this show."

13. JOHN C. REILLY WON'T TALK ABOUT PLAYING DR. STEVE BRULE.

YouTube

"I just showed up with my costume and started channeling that guy. I don't know where he came from. I find the less I say about Steve Brule the better. I think of him as real, and anytime I start to analyze him, it just gets really boring," Reilly told Esquire about playing the title character in Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, before saying he wasn't interested in talking about him anymore.

Tim Heidecker revealed that Reilly cannot see through the glasses Brule wears. "So he does kind of zone out, and there’s a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of thing where he really gets into that character. It’s amazing. He does think of that guy as another person."

14. THE RICK AND MORTY PILOT SCRIPT WAS WRITTEN IN SIX HOURS.

The original concept from Justin Roiland was from an animation he made for Community creator Dan Harmon and writer/director Rob Schrab's nonprofit short film festival, Channel 101. He made admittedly bad impressions of Doc and Marty from Back to the Future for a short called The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti. Immediately after Harmon and Roiland successfully pitched the idea to Adult Swim, Roiland suggested to Harmon they just stay in Harmon's office and write the pilot script right then and there instead of doing it over three months.

15. THE ERIC ANDRE SHOW PILOT WAS TAPED IN A "SEMI-ILLEGAL" BODEGA IN BROOKLYN. 

YouTube

"It had crap and piles of broken glass everywhere and it was super nasty and we just cleaned it up a little bit, threw up curtains," Eric Andre explained. "While we were shooting, like six to seven different dudes claimed that they owned the place." Andre ran out of money and taught himself Final Cut Pro to edit it. A bunch of networks said no to him, except for Adult Swim.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Walt Disney Pictures
10 Facts About Hocus Pocus
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Bette Midler said she'd be interested in doing a Hocus Pocus sequel. "You have to go to send in your cards to the Walt Disney company," she said. "The ball's in their court." While you get those cards ready, here are some facts about the original, which arrived in theaters 25 years ago today.

1. THE STORY ORIGINATED AS A BEDTIME STORY.

The story for Hocus Pocus came about after writer David Kirschner invented a bedtime story for his kids. He later wrote the story up and submitted it to Muppet Magazine (why does this not still exist?), where it gained recognition.

2. THE WRITERS USED PROPS TO PITCH IT TO STUDIO EXECUTIVES.

Bette Midler in 'Hocus Pocus' (1993)
Walt Disney Pictures

To pitch the story to Disney, the writers had execs enter a dark room with broomsticks and a vacuum cleaner hanging from the ceiling. They also scattered 15 pounds of candy corn throughout the room in an effort to invoke Halloween nostalgia. It obviously worked!

3. IT WAS NOT AN IMMEDIATE HIT.

Though it’s a cult classic now, Hocus Pocus didn’t do that well when it first came out in 1993, perhaps because it was released in July instead of September or October. Though it didn’t have a terrible opening—$8,125,471, putting it in fourth place at the box office that weekend—it fell to $2,017,688 a few weeks later, and bad reviews from the critics didn’t help matters.

Entertainment Weekly was particularly put off by the movie, calling it a “piece of corny slapstick trash” and saying that “It’s acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they’re Bette Midler fans. In which case it’s depressing as hell.”

4. BETTE MIDLER LOVES IT.

Bette Midler, by the way, has said that Hocus Pocus is her favorite film out of all of the films she’s ever done. (At least as of 2008.) Thora Birch agreed, recently saying, “The most fun I ever had on a film was Hocus Pocus.”

5. KATHY NAJIMY LOVES IT, TOO.

Midler isn't the only star of the film who isn't immune to its allure: Kathy Najimy has said she watches the movie with her family every year on August 15.

6. IT COULD HAVE STARRED LEONARDO DICAPRIO.

The role of Max was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turned it down to do What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

7. SARAH JESSICA PARKER IS RELATED TO A WOMAN FAMOUSLY ACCUSED OF BEING A WITCH.

Had Sarah Jessica Parker known then what she knows now, she might have approached the role of Sarah Sanderson a little differently. When the actress went on the show Who Do You Think You Are to trace her family history, Parker discovered that one of her ancestors was Esther Elwell, one of the women accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. After a young girl said she saw Esther’s “spectre” strangling neighbor Mary Fitch, Elwell was arrested, but escaped going to trial.

8. THORA BIRCH REVISITED THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICAN BEAUTY.

While the kids are prematurely celebrating victory against the Sanderson sisters after locking them in the kiln, they’re shown talking in front of a house as they walk to a park. The house was later used as the house Thora Birch’s character lived in for American Beauty.

9. THE KIDS WEREN'T HUGE FANS OF THE CATS.

The kids all hated working with the cats. Many different cats were used to represent Binx, and each one served a different purpose—one was good at cuddling with the kids, one would jump on command, etc. Every time a new cat was used, the children would have to coerce the kitty to trust them by using treats and a clicker. They got sick of it.

10. MUCH OF THE ORIGINAL CAST REUNITED FOR A 20TH REUNION.

Most of the cast participated in a 20th anniversary event for D23 (the Disney fan club) members. Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler were not in attendance, but pretty much everyone else was, including Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson), Vinessa Shaw (Allison), Omri Katz (Max), Thora Birch (Dani), and Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson). You can watch some of that reunion above.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios