‘Too Many Cooks’: Writer/director Casper Kelly on creating new cult classicWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It starts out looking like most any cliche, cheesy sitcom opening sequence from the ’80s. Upbeat, bland theme tune. Actors turning with a smile to the camera. All very familiar.
But then things start to happen that feel … wrong. The theme music never stops; it just keeps on playing. More and more cast members appear, bringing it past the point of being ludicrous. The show’s genre seems to change — from sitcom to cop drama to prime-time soap and more. And then there’s the creepy guy who suddenly starts killing the rest of the cast.
This is “Too Many Cooks,” the comedy short that is taking the Internet by storm.
Produced for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim late-night lineup, the dark satire first aired in the network’s “Infomercial” slot — meaning 4 a.m. on Halloween. But something happened when the clip found its way online, and soon the bizarre short exploded virally. In about a week, the myriad postings of the short — both official and otherwise — had garnered over 5 million hits.
At the epicenter of it all is a young writer and director named Casper Kelly, who is both ecstatic and a little dumbfounded.
“It is super, super — three supers — exciting and thrilling, almost veering into the other side, of flop sweat and panic,” Kelly said in an interview with Toledo Free Press. “I’m holding it together, having fun.”
Kelly is not a new voice among Adult Swim’s class of comedic subversives. He has worked for years at production headquarters in Atlanta, composing funny promos for Cartoon Network shows, writing for shows like “Squidbillies” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and co-creating the series “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell.”
Not typical fare, even for late-night basic cable, but Kelly revels in the creative freedom working at Adult Swim provides.
“It’s wonderful, and our boss, Mike Lazzo — he’s a tough audience,” Kelly said. “He’s a very sophisticated viewer, and gets bored easily. But when he likes what you’re doing, he gives you a lot of rope, a lot of freedom to try it. And does not micromanage. He gives you kind of big ideas at the beginning, and might give you ideas at the end, but in the middle, he lets you do your thing — which is great.”
Still, Kelly was hesitant to pitch the idea that would become “Too Many Cooks.” Though there was plenty of precedent for Adult Swim’s experimental ideas like it in their late infomercial slots, he wasn’t totally confident that the concept could sustain a full short.
“I had the idea, and I didn’t even tell Mike Lazzo, because I didn’t know if it would work. So I was afraid to pitch it. But I told some co-workers, who at a work party told him. And the idea made him laugh, so I had to do it at that point.”
Filming came together remarkably quickly given how complicated the finished product would prove to be, Kelly said. “Interestingly — and this was probably a good thing — we did not have a lot of time, because we had a narrow window open up where our production company could do it. So once I had the outline, I think we only had a couple of weeks. So I just had to think about it constantly and just kind of throw down every idea I could.
“We had a lot of time in post, but leading up to it was a mad dash. And so much work was getting headshots, and finding people that had the right look, to give you the feeling for that character.”
Another crucial element would be the short’s music — that initially chipper tune that mutates into forms that are dramatic, haunting and more. Kelly was hands-on with its creation, as well.
“That took a lot of time. I wrote the lyrics — most of the lyrics — and then we used one audio guy, who was great, and then it got to be too much. Because we had no money — he was doing it for us as a favor. He did as much as he could, and then we had to hand it off to someone else to finish it, who did a great job. I think I really got the best out of both of them.
“People were saying that song gets stuck in their head. It sure did get stuck in our head when we were editing it.”
Kelly has no plans to rest on his laurels, even now that “Too Many Cooks” has garnered such fame and acclaim in a brief amount of time. He’s hard at work on the second season of “Your Pretty Face,” and said he’s primed and ready for whatever opportunities may arise.
“I’m excited, because I have opportunities now to make more stuff. And I have a notebook full of ideas, short films, and feature scripts and more. And I feel like a kid in a candy store right now.”
View “Too Many Cooks” on Adult Swim’s YouTube page: http://youtu.be/QrGrOK8oZG8.