This time last year, hardly anyone outside of devoted fans of Dan Harmon knew anything about Rick and Morty, the animated series from the Community creator and Fish Hooks writer/actor Justin Roiland. But much to the delight of the duo, and Adult Swim, the show premiered in December to critical acclaim, and went on to become a certifiable hit.
The series centers on Rick Sanchez (Roiland), an alcoholic, sociopathic scientist who, after being missing for nearly 20 years, shows up on his daughter’s doorstep looking to move in with her and her family. He soon converts the garage into a laboratory, and be-gins involving his 14-year-old grandson Morty (also Roiland) in his insanely dangerous adventures.
As Rick and Morty heads toward its second season, Harmon and Roiland took a few minutes to talk with reporters about the show’s success, and its second year at Comic-Con International (in a significantly larger venue this time).
The two shuffled into the room, coffee cups in hand and already a little worn out from the convention experience. But the moment they began talking about the series, their energy levels shot right up.
What's your real opinion on Comic-Con?
Justin Roiland: It changes every year. Honestly? I want to be at my house in my bed. I want to be watching Orange Is the New Black. I'm halfway through the first season; I want to continue to watch it. I don't want to be drunk right now. Not that I am, I'm not. I will get there shortly, and I guarantee, come 11 'o clock tonight, I'll be so drunk and I don't want to be. Why, Comic-Con? I have to be to survive this fucking thing.
Dan Harmon: I've been coming to Comic-Con since I was in the comic book business in the ‘90s. […] It was a lot of comic books and a little bit of pop culture, and it was a mecca for nerds, including the actual, most important thing about being a nerd is about being allowed to be fat and tired and sit down on the floor. It's a bummer when Bruce Willis' security team comes up and tazes you ‘cause you're trying to read your Green Arrow that you spent a lot of money on, you drove from God knows where. When you go to New York Comic Con, and I was just at the SuperCon in Miami, I really just like seeing nerds just sitting on carpet. It's very religious and it's literally not allowed here. It makes a big difference for me.
Roiland: Yeah, they should just change the name from "Comic-Con" to "Pop Culture Con" or something for this one.
Harmon: Also Rick and Morty isn't a comic book, so what are we doing right now?
So going back to Rick and Morty, the responses from viewers, what have they been like?
Harmon: The reviews have been great. We had a million viewers at the beginning of the season and ended with close to 2 million. Everybody around us that usually makes us miserable because all they care about is numbers and money is really thrilled with the show. To me, it's to the point of where all of a sudden I can care about ratings and things. With Community, I always have to be like, "Ratings don't matter," but for the sake of my own sanity. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We are the number one-rated animated show on IMDb. The important thing about this convention, and I think it's going to change everything, because I know it changed it for Community, there's no way this simulator imagined the actual sound of a room full of people actually responding. And we've aired an entire series of Rick and Morty between these two Comic-Cons, so Justin is about to go out in front of thousands of people and hear for the first time this really weird sound that never really gets out of your bone marrow.
Roiland: Last year it was a weird panel because we were pitching it. We were, like, in this small room in the convention floor. It felt like we were pitching the show to executives in a big room of them. I was like, "It's good, I promise it's good!" This year we're going into a room where people presumably all have seen every episode or a significant number of them. When I said we were in a bubble, I mean production-wise. We're working our asses off for Season 2. You kind of are in a bubble in regards to that, what we're about to maybe, if you're not wrong, we get out there and there's just crickets.
Harmon: There's like three people waiting for us.
Roiland: There's the Internet, there's 4chan, there's Reddit.
We were just discussing 4chan and just how awful it is.
Harmon: I can't believe this guy gets on 4chan to look for opinions about his show. That forum's opinion on humanity will –
Roiland: You have to have a full working knowledge of 4chan because there's a lot of different boards, and some are horrible and offensive and terrible. Some are very moderate. The cartoon one is the one I troll on the most. I should not say this but I'm going to: Early on when the show first started to air, I would go on and I would go through the board and I would find a Rick and Morty thread that someone started, and then I would be like, "Man, fuck this show! I hate the fucking voice of Rick." I would be the most aggressively angry anonymous voice on the thing. And then of course, as it happened, so many people did eventually have that opinion, and I was like, "I was meaner to myself than that guy was, and it doesn't even bother me." It's so weird.
So I've got to ask you about those burps really quick. Are they real?
Roiland: Yes, they're real, and they don't come easy.
Harmon: He pays a hard price for those burps.
Roiland: I swear to God, Sarah [Chalke] comes in and she can just burp like that. When I learned that I was so bummed and jealous. I have to sit there with, like, a Miller or just something kind of shitty low-calorie beer, and a water, and I drink it in a really specific way that gets air down into my throat and then I can suck more air in. I'll do the line eight times and then finally, oh, here it comes.
Have you ever puked accidentally while doing that?
Roiland: No, but this is horrible: The pilot episode, I burped on every single line. It took four hours to record,and I went home and I felt like I might need to go to the hospital. A lot of it didn't come back out the way it came in, and I'll let your imagination fill in the rest. I remember laying in bed holding my stomach and going, "This isn't going to work!" And then the funniest thing was that Harmon said, "We have to pull back on the burp." I was like, dammit, I wish I had known that, and also, thank God because I can't do that.
Rick and Morty returns in 2015 on Adult Swim.