Turning Everyday Conversations Into Animated Comedy Gold
Can two average folks talking about bird flu translate into a TV comedy hit?
There's a guy sitting in a Los Angeles production studio named Kit Boss who certainly hopes so.
Boss, a TV writer/producer with credits including Seinfeld and King of the Hill, helped create an Americanized version of a British TV series called Creature Comforts. The premise: record conversations between average people with distinctive voices and attitudes, then animate them with clay animals using the technique perfected by the guys who brought us Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromitt.
And because Boss used to work here at the St. Petersburg Times -- he was an intern for a few months in 1984 -- he hired a local guy to help collect voices and several of them wound up in the show, including the Times' own Deputy Editor of Editorials, Tim Nickens. Here's my story in today's newspaper about the show.
I didn't put Tim's exchange with his wife Bridget on my site because I didn't want to be accused of violating CBS' copyrights. But here's a look at what the show, which premieres tonight on CBS, does best -- taking cute comments voiced by subjects and providing even cuter animated visuals as illustrations.
Already, Kit had turned two other guys working here at the Times into characters on King of the Hill (Bob Jenkins, our LifeTimes editor and Joe Childs, Clearwater publisher, are guys working at the newspaper where Peggy Hill briefly worked). This time, he turned Tim and Bridget into pigeons sitting on a statue debating the validity of bird flu.
Kit says: “In a lot of ways, we structured the show like a TV magazine or a series of documentaries. We would break each episodes into twoor three segments, each with a common theme. That particular interview, we used in a segment called or the birds, where we talked to people about their thoughts about birds. You try to imagine stuff that would work in an animal context. You try to steer people way from human references, more to feeling about things."
And sometimes, they had to "reverse engineer" by taking mundane talk and turning it into a joke with cool visual images: "Where we have the dogs sniffing another dogs behind – that’s a funny image. We thought it would be interesting if you found some guys who were really into wine and got them to describe a tasting, but made the visual the dogs sniffing each other. It yielded some really funny wine talk."
The result, he hopes, is a show all ages can enjoy: "You can’t go wrong in comedy when you smash together the very high and the very low. The guys in the UK, the British sensibility, fully embraces the universal humor of poop jokes and fart jokes. We also have moments that are very poignant. We interviewed some people at retirement homes and senior citizen centers here in LA. There was this couple who had met in the home,e each other them had lost their husband and wife before they got here. They were in their 70s nd 80s and they found true love at a time when they thought their lives were over. They were talking about how they met and how they felt about each other. It was just so heartfelt and so authentic. In a case like that, we wanted to allow that poignancy to come through. In this case, the joke is that we made him a rhinoceros and her an ox pecker standing on his back. They talked about the relationship in a very symbiotic sense. It made sense that there would be these two mismatched animals that are perfectly matched.”
For a better interview with Kit, check out the website of the guy who did all the Tampa Bay area interviews for Creature Comforts audio, Bob "Mr. Media" Andelman, available here and on iTunes.