Green is a three-time Emmy winner for Robot Chicken, which earned 13 nominations overall, including one this year (in the Outstanding Short Form Animated Program category) for the Halloween special titled "Happy Russian Deathdog Dolloween 2 U." The show has become a staple for anyone looking for smart commentary on iconic pieces pop culture (Stranger Things, Star Wars, Scooby-Doo), as well as clever original characters. It is a show Green has pumped a lot of creativity and energy (and hours) into for the last decade and a half, and while it is undoubtedly his baby, he has still managed to juggle several other important gigs alongside it.
"I love acting — acting is my favorite thing — but I also don't want to do it for stuff that's not awesome," Green tells Metacritic.
Here, Green breaks down the storytelling process for Robot Chicken and reflects on his experiences with Mass Effect and Buffy.
Since Robot Chicken has such a long production process with the creation and stylization of the puppets and the actual stop-motion work, you have to work on the material a long time before it will air. How has the approach to what you comment on in the pop culture zeitgeist changed over the years because of that timeframe?
Robot Chicken is never really concerned with the stuff that feels fleeting. And if we're gonna make a joke about something that only 50 people knew and remember from, like, 30 years ago, that sketch is gonna be less than 30 seconds. So, that's really the way that we we measure that. We're only looking for the stickiest stuff and the big comments that nobody's made about the stickiest stuff.
What is the process to even figure out what that stuff is?
Everything's a hedge. We assemble a panel group, basically, to talk about all of this stuff. It's the panel of judges: me and Matt [Senreich] and Tom [Root] and Dough [Goldstein]. And then we brought in a vote process, but it's really only the four of us who will get high and mighty about what belongs on the show. And really, it's usually me: I'm usually the guy who comes in and goes, "Guys, this isn't what the show is."
But it's taste-based; you don't have a checklist of things you're looking for?
No, but we don't like jokes to be mean spirited. We don't like jokes to be coming from a place of like, "You're dumb!" That's not very funny, and I don't like promoting that kind of comedy. So, Robot Chicken is, 99-percent of the time, just pointing out the inherent silliness of life and the stuff that we love and the things that we inflate to godlike status.
Along those lines, I do want to dig into the Emmy-nominated 2021 Halloween special to talk about how you decided what costumes would be iconic enough to warrant a place in it and why now was the right time to play with time loops.
We knew for a Halloween special that we wanted to do something that was long form, rather than having something broken up by channel flips. And we all thought it would be really funny 'cause time loop movies have just become such a vogue, you know? You go back to your earliest, like Groundhog Day, and then you look at every way the concept's been innovated or debated or made for horror or made for comedy or made for romance. And that in itself becomes a fun conversation, and that's what Robot Chicken really is: like, "Man, how did this idea get so stuck in pop and what are the opportunities for it? What are all the ways that it is a story and has become a trope, and how do you subvert that to make a comment about how much it's become entrenched in pop?" To the degree that you don't need to explain it. My favorite thing about the way pop culture evolves is that the next generation of audience is smarter: They don't need the origin story. They're hip to it; they get it. You've almost seen enough deep trauma movies that the concepts of those hyper-specific and 20 years ago exclusive traumas have become such a pop cultural touchpoint you can make a context joke with people that you've never met. We love talking about that, but not in a dictatorial way; you want to let people think about it after the fact. So that was it, "We were like, 'How do we tell a great story about time loop concepts while we're deconstructing the entire concept of these time loop movies?'"