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Entries in Ugly Americans (6)

Wednesday
Apr212010

News of the World

--Since most Apiary readers connect to their Motorola RAZR flip-phones via Bluetooth headset, you'll be happy to hear that popular earpiece manufacturer Jawbone is giving away 10 THOUSAND DOLLARS if you make a funny video and follow all of their rules.

--Looking to get a nice Chevy Chase face tattoo? Here's a design for you.

--The tone on the Aziz Ansari thread on AST is trending towards sour as Ansari reaches the uppermost echelon of the showbiz food chain.  One user complains about his show, "Tickets for Aziz are a recession-busting $49.50 with a $15 Service fee added to that." Another fan bemoans, "I first fell in love with Aziz when I heard his track on Invite Them Up like 4 years ago. And when you love something that is kind of small and relatively unknown like that I think it's natural to sort of feel extra connected to it and feel like it's 'yours.' And him hosting the MTV awards is the biggest sign yet that he's no longer 'mine' and is now 'everyone's,' which bums me out."

--Comedy Central has a hit on their hands with Ugly Americans. The network has ordered up 7 additional episodes.

--Because we have zero understanding of what's happening from scene to scene, we are grateful that Videogum's hilarious LOST recaps help us make sense of it.

--BIRTHDAY PARTEEZ: Sue Galloway and Zach Ward advance one additional year in age this week and Achilles Stamatelaky's blog is now 2.

--Get your limited edition Splinterheads "Deep Sixed" movie poster featuring The Amazing Steve & Wyoming today!

--Go see Moshe Kasher while he's in town. His speedy standup set at Union Hall this past Sunday was so fiery, our eyebrows got cinged to the point that our facial expression is now one of permanent surprise.  We hear he's in NY to pitch some kind of book.  Keep a watch on this guy!

Wednesday
Mar172010

INSIDE WITH: MATT OBERG & RANDY PEARLSTEIN, FEATURED VOICES ON UGLY AMERICANS

Leonard Powers (voiced by Randy Pearlstein) and Mark Lilly (voiced by Matt Oberg) | Image courtesy of Comedy Central

It may be St. Patty's Day today, but tonight is the premiere of Ugly Americans (Comedy Central, 10:30PM / 9:30C). To commemorate this animated homage to the multicolored, splotchy and well-worn fabric that is The U.S. of A., we spoke to the guys who voice two of the main characters on the show: Matt Oberg (Mark Lilly, a social worker at the "Department of Integration,") and Randy Pearlstein (Leonard Powers, an aging, drunken wizard). When they're not speaking into microphones, Oberg and Pearlstein can be seen improvising every Wednesday at The Peoples Improv Theater.

Let's go left to right here. Who is Leonard on Ugly Americans?
Randy Pearlstein: Leonard is the senior member of the cast. He is the Ed Asner, the Lou Grant. He's the guy who's been around for 700 years, so everything is just as cool as a cucumber to him. Meanwhile, the young kids are racing around, nervous, anxious -- he plays it cool. He's the grounded member of the cast -- the Fonzie, if I may.

And Mark Lilly?
Matt Oberg: Mark Lilly, to keep with the Happy Days, is the -- Opie? What was his name on the show?
RP: Richie. I know you have seasons one through five on DVD. That was for charm purposes.
MO: I'm playing it cool. But, yes, Mark is the Richie Cunningham of the show. With a little bit of the Chachi. He's the one guy who's not a creature, has no powers, is a human, and he's a social worker who's sort of the reason all of these aliens are in the same room.
RP: He's the heart of the show.

From what I can tell Lilly is the character who keeps finding himself in the eye of the storm.
MO: In the auditions, I remember we'd get in the sound booth -- a whole bunch of us, Randy, Kurt Metzger, and Pete Holmes. And those guys would just start slinging gags around. And then I would just read the next line. And that got me the job. So, yeah, Mark Lilly is kind of the straight man.

And as the straight man, or Voice of Reason, did you not get to sling gags around?
MO:
I don't want to get pigeonholed as the straight man, 'cause I'm a maniac. But I never really saw the sort of avenues to the improv. There was enough going on that I sort of thought it was time to bring it back home when I said the lines I say. So, really, what I do on the show is read aloud into a microphone.
RP: But some of the people who read for multiple characters on the show would tend to go pretty nuts. But then Matt would ground it quickly, whether with just a line or a bridge line to get it there. I remember during the  callbacks we'd be crammed in this little booth and then there'd be this pause and Matt would go, "Well, as we were saying..." and just nail it. Like a laserbeam!

So how did you find Leonard fitting into this puzzle?
RP: I like Leonard. Among all the craziness, I think he's a nice dude. He's a drug addict, a sex addict, and a party animal who's 700 years old, which is inherently funny, but he does care about Mark's character and living life like it's his last day on Earth. I'm not a frat guy, never was a frat guy. But through Leonard I get to be a frat guy.
MO: He's a 700-year-old sophomore in college.
RP: And he's magic. Anything he wants magically appears.

So how would you like the cable-subscribing portion of America to perceive the show?
MO: Perhaps it takes a show like this, which displays how ugly New York and America can be, to help us all realize how beautiful our nation has become.
RP: And in nature, some animals are considered ugly to our eyes -- the rats, the ferrets, the sloths. But  truly, they're all of equal value. And as you know, among the people in comedy, some of the least attractive people are the funniest and best to be around.

(beat)

Thanks, guys.

--Keith Huang

Tuesday
Mar162010

Inside With: David Stern and Dan Powell, Executive Producers of Ugly Americans

Next in our series of interviews with the Americans behind Ugly Americans: the executive producer duo of David Stern and Dan Powell .

Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

David Stern: I started on The Wonder Years for the first three seasons, moved to The Simpsons for a few seasons, Monk, Oliver Beene... and a bunch of other stuff you probably haven't heard of. As far as Ugly Americans goes, Dan hooked me up with Devin Clark after they had created the web series "5 On," and I developed it from there.

Dan Powell: I was an Associate Producer at The Daily Show when Comedy Central hired me as a development exec in 2004. I bought 5-On as a web series in 2007 and wanted to figure out how to translate the basic concept to primetime, so I approached David after I found out he wrote my all-time favorite episode of The Simpsons ("Duffless", for the record). When the show got picked up to series, I talked to him about bringing me onto the production, and he agreed just to stop my pathetic groveling.

What do you do in your day to day roles on Ugly Americans?

David: I write and oversee all the scripts as well as oversee production.  

Dan: I help David with day-to-day oversight of the entire operation, but my focus is more on the elements of production from the table reads through delivery, so he can focus more of his attention on the writing, which naturally is what drives the show. Although I did co-write one of the episodes ("Treegasm", airing 3/14). Also, I embezzle petty cash, but that's not part of my official job description.  

Is the series wrapped up already -- are you in wait and see mode?

David: The first seven episodes are virtually wrapped up. But I am currently writing another batch of seven for hopefully a second order.  

Have any good stories from the production process?  

David: I have only good stories from the production process but none of them are interesting.

Dan: Since this is for The Apiary, I know a lot of the readers are familiar with Kurt Metzger, who voices our zombie character "Randall". Randall was originally designed to be this small, squirrelly character. But after we cast Kurt, we had to totally redesign the character so that the voice would match. I think he's definitely the heaviest zombie I've seen in pop culture (except for maybe that hillbilly zombie in "Zombieland"). It raises a lot of questions about how much Randall has to eat to stay that heavy, what with his flesh deteriorating at a rapid pace.

Another interesting nugget is that Kurt has such a disturbingly lewd vocabulary in real life, whenever we needed Randall to say something tasteless, we found ourselves going with what Kurt ad-libbed in the booth -- it was almost always more off-putting what was originally on the page.

Randall (Voiced by: Kurt Metzger), Leonard (Randy Pearlstein), Mark (Matt Oberg), Callie (Natasha Leggero), Twayne (Michael Leon Wooley), Frank (Larry Murphy)

How did you go about wrangling talent and staff for the show?

David: Anne Harris and JoAnn Grigioni were instrumental in casting the show. They're really tapped into all of the local talent in New York City. As far as the writing staff, I slogged through 150 scripts sent by every agency in town and whittled it down from there.

Dan: The voice talent was basically culled from the New York comedy community, though we were lucky to find Michael Leon Wooley ("Twayne") at a reading for Trey Parker and Matt Stone's forthcoming musical about Mormons. We were literally looking for someone who sounded like the plant in "Little Shop of Horrors", and then during Michael's audition we found out that he actually voiced that role in the Broadway revival. That was pure coincidence. Michael also played the voice of the alligator in Disney's "The Princess and the Frog", which was released after we cast him, and it was really surreal to hear the demonic Twayne's voice coming out of that lovable reptile.

Here's a question I hear a lot around my office which sounds like something I should ask, "What are your benchmarks for success?" The Jeff Dunham Show had ratings and got canceled, Michael and Michael has diehard fans and they didn't get renewed. What does Comedy Central want out of a new series?

David: I can't speak for Comedy Central but as far as I am concerned we've already won. I've got seven killer episodes produced and seven more on the way that I am really proud of. I'm having a blast and getting paid for it.

Dan: Comedy Central wants instant and immediate success and will settle for nothing less. Just kidding... (sort of). Seriously, having worked there for 5 years I can say that it's a narrow window to find stuff that fits the DNA of the brand, but is still successful on a ratings level. They sincerely want to deliver cutting edge comedy but, ultimately, it's a business that needs to deliver profits. Comedy Central will have their own benchmarks for success, and most likely it will be a combination of the ratings (vs. cost) and how the senior executives feel about it creatively. For our part, I agree with David -- we delivered seven episodes that we are thrilled with, and so we already feel it's successful. Obviously we hope the ratings echo that sentiment.

Is there a watch party people can attend?

Dan: Just a party in your brain when you watch the show. Our first season's seven episodes start rolling out Wednesday at 10:30pm EST, behind new episodes of South Park. Enjoy!

Ugly Americans Tonight 10:30pm / 9:30c
Preview - Christ Angel
www.comedycentral.com
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Monday
Mar152010

Inside With: Devin Clark, Animator and Series Creator of Ugly Americans

To get pumped for the premiere of Ugly Americans, we chatted with the braintrust behind the show. First up: animation wiz and series creator Devin Clark.

Hi Devin--how exactly did you get an animated series on Comedy Central??

Oh, man! The dicks I had to suck! Thousands! Really, it was no short road. A couple years ago Comedy Central was looking for web content for their on-line portal, Motherload. I had previously done some network animation and branding work for Comedy Central. So, they were already familiar with my work. Plus, getting a meeting for a web show is far easier then a TV series. You don't need the backing and support of a entire production company or the allure of big name actors. For someone starting out in the TV business it ended up being the perfect way of making a connection with the network.

Where did the concept for Ugly Americans come from? Was this something that's been running around your head for years?

Living in New York for the last 10 years, I've gotten into the habit of drawing while waiting for the subway. A couple years ago I was taking these big sheets of paper, splitting them into 8 panels, and drawing 8 of the same type of creature all talking about a single topic. For instance I had things like 8 demons talking about religion, 8 zombies on sex, and 8 robots on money. It was all weird creatures making little comments on these esoteric topics. I've always liked the humor that can be derived from taking something horrific or absurd and normalizing it. It is most likely the product of watching so much British humor as a child. Those 8 panel comics became a key element in pitching a web show 5-On to Comedy Central. 5-On was the seed that, with help of our showrunner and Executive Producer David Stern, grew into the world of Ugly Americans.

5-On: Demons on the Environment

Animation seems really hard. How did you get started? And where did you learn how to do this stuff?

I've always been drawn to the moving image, especially animation. When I was 10 or 11 I took my dad's old super-8 camera and started making my own stop motion films with paper, clay, toys, and what ever I had lying around. I've been experimenting, playing with, and working in time based media ever since, be it film, video, animation, or live action.

What's been the most surprising or challenging thing you've encountered about the production process on Ugly Americans?

I think the biggest challenge was keeping a fresh perspective on things. Sometimes, a scene feels right just because you've gotten used to seeing it that way for so long. It's crucial to step back and make sure everything is actually working. It can be very difficult to do that in the midst of the chaos of production.

How long does it take to create one episode? Are you able to write in current jokes the way South Park does?

South Park has a unique production process that allows them to turn around an episode very quickly. In order to maintain the visual style and level of animation we wanted in our show, we had to take a more traditional approach to our work flow. Scripts to voice records, radio play to storyboards, layout to animation, and finally sound design and scoring takes about 5 months per episode, and that doesn't even include the writing period. However, we are able to work on multiple episodes at a time. At some points in the production we are working on all the episodes at once.

What are some other animated series or shows that you watch, enjoy, or recommend?

It may sound lame but honestly, ever since I started making TV, I haven't had any time to watch TV. However, right before I was sucked into the melee of animation production, I was keeping up with Venture Brothers, Metalocalypse, Superjail, and Futurama.

Do you see yourself as the series' lead character, Mark Lilly - the voice of reason in a crazy world? That's what he is, right?

Not at all. I'm more of the evil, bloated, demon-mother birthing an army of bizarre creatures for Mark to deal with. "Here is a man-sized bunny with a horn growing out of his head! What do you think of that, Mark?!"

Ugly AmericansWeds 10:30pm / 9:30c
Preview - Fun Bags
www.comedycentral.com
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games

Ugly Americans premieres on Comedy Central Wednesday, March 17th at 10:30 after South Park.

Thursday
Feb252010

Ugly Americans Street Posters

Walked by some slick posters for CC's upcoming Ugly Americans series premiering on March 17th. Here's the latest preview clip:

Ugly Americans Mar 17, 10:30pm / 9:30c
Preview - Group Therapy
www.comedycentral.com

 

RELATED

Wednesday
Nov182009

Ugly Americans Teaser Airs Tonight

Image via Animation Magazine

Alert comedy hivesman Soce the Elemental Wizard tipped us off today that Comedy Central will air a short preview of its newest animated series, Ugly Americans. The series is being executive produced by Dan Powell (The Colbert Report, Important Things With Demetri Martin) and David Stern (Monk, The Simpsons) and produced by Devin Clark. Animation is being handled by Augenblick Studios. The series is also a spin-off of comedycentral.com original web series, 5-On, and according to our pals over at CC Insider:

Ugly Americans is about a social worker who helps monsters adjust to living in New York and features the voices of Natasha Leggero, Matt Oberg, Randy Pearlstein, Mike Britt, Kurt Metzger, Rebekka Johnson, Pete Holmes, Julie Klausner, Larry Murphy and Michael Leon Wooley.

Why are we excited? Because we know and love all those voices! Ugly Americans won't air officially until March 2010, but get a quick fix tonight during South Park @ 10PM (EST). Here's the preview clip:

Ugly AmericansMarch 2010
Sneak Peek
www.comedycentral.com
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games