Were there other cartoons that influenced you?
AT: I think we're all hugely influenced by "Ren & Stimpy." Besides the amazing absurdity is the fact that it's two friends and their adventures, and it means the world to them.
Chris Viscardi: Will also worked on "Ren & Stimpy," so he was well familiar with that. I think collectively we're all drawn to that really tight bond you have with your best friend, be it a brother or a pet snake -- there's so much there to mine. So many kids have those best friends.
WM: They not only have best friends, but now they have Best Friends Forever. We didn't have that. We didn't have acronyms to describe our friendships.
One of the generational things I've noticed working with these guys who are younger than us -- who are basically us when we started and didn't know what we were doing and made some of our best work because of it -- is that they grew up watching every of episode of "The Simpsons." It's a good thing; your Simpsons knowledge permeates your comic sensibility.
AT: I can talk about "The Simpsons" ad nauseam, as these guys know. That's the best show that's ever existed for me. I was 12 when it started, and I was primed for it, but there's a generation of -- not kids, adults now, 23 years old -- who've never lived without "The Simpsons."
What's it like being back at Nickelodeon?
CV: We hadn't done too much for Nickelodeon in about eight or nine years; they often invited us to develop stuff for them and would send us projects every once in a while to get involved in. And most of the things we passed just because it didn't feel like something that we were all that into; it was a sensibility that we weren't all that thrilled with. And then Audrey Diehl asked us to executive produce a pilot they had in development with Ryan Quincy, who's now doing "Out There" [on IFC]. So Will and I helped executive produce and co-write that pilot. I think "Sanjay and Craig" was actually one of the projects it was competing with, and they went with that. And then Audrey asked us if we would take a look at it, and as soon as we saw it, I think we both had the same reaction. It was, "This feels like it could have been made at Nickelodeon 15 years prior." It had a kind of "Ren & Stimpy"/"Pete & Pete" old-school Nick quality to it, so it totally drew us in and we've been on board ever since. The long and the short of is we had the chance to come back many times in the past, but were just not interested, based on what they were doing. And this one really tickled our fancy.
WM: The timing's been great for something different to get through the pipeline, because Nickelodeon's beginning to think, "Maybe we should revisit what we used to be, when we were more kid-oriented and less caught up in coming up with TV shows based on movies." It kind of reminds me of back in the day -- but it's even better now. It was mostly hands-off when we did "Pete & Pete," but now not only are the execs giving us permission to do all kind of things you wouldn't think they would, they really are pushing us to go further.
CV: Also with "Sanjay and Craig," it's not like you hear the idea -- "It's about a boy and a talking snake" -- and it makes you think, "Whoa! I can't wait to see that!" It's "Oh, that sounds kind of cool." But it's the interpretation of the idea that really makes it special. It's not something that's so far out of the box, but it has a familiarity to it that just locks you in and takes you to a pretty strange and wonderful place.
WM: I's been a long time since I've been in a writer's room, where you sit down you'd be like, "So, what was your favorite thing to do when you were 11?" A lot of the stories come out of real stories, and that's part of this show's genius.
CV: And just a lot of things that make you laugh. [To Dirschberger:] I remember you and Jay and I were walking and one of you started laughing and the other one mocked the laugh and you started doing this mock laugh back and forth. And then you talked about how all the way from San Francisco to L.A. you drove one time making each other laugh with moronic laughs -- and I thought, "That's an episode." It came from such a kid place. Jim had a number of experiences growing up we used as episodes. One was, he was walking to school with his sister and saw a $100 bill frozen in ice.
JD: All I could think about all day is, "I've got to get that money out of there."
CV: We turned that into an episode.
JD: I got out of school and it had snowed and we couldn't find it, but we were digging around out there. We broke it open and got the hundred bucks.
AT: Sweetest hundred bucks ever.
WM: I would say there's a lot of stuff here that's reminiscent of "Pete & Pete," but because it's a cartoon you don't have to worry so much about having it all feel like it's in some way grounded. In "Pete & Pete," we tried to throw everything at our stories, and I think it ended up kind of hurting its popularity -- just too many moods and extras thrown together. With a cartoon you can take it as far as you want to go, and it's unquestioned -- wouldn't you say, Chris? This, this goes way further -- it has just as much heart, with coming-of-age stories and stories of things you obsess about -- but then it goes to places where characters for no reason just teleport and the show ends.
CV: Because it's animation, you can go to places where you could never normally go. And also it's very liberating to tell stories in the 11-minute form, because you can just focus on the one thing that really cracks you up. I guess where it's like "Pete & Pete" -- and very different from Nickelodeon over the last few years, oddly enough -- is that it comes from a very strong kid point of view, and it's really about the backyard and the neighborhood and the wonders you can find on your street: You don't have to necessarily go to some mystical, magical place or another world, although we do at times go to that place. It's more rooted in a heightened version of everyday reality. So in that way it's very familiar territory; it's a sandbox we love to play in.
AT: Part of what I like so much about what we're doing and what Will and Chris have been immensely supportive of has been -- although funny is at the heart of the show -- we're not tied to that formula of having to end on a hilarious joke. Sometimes you let a beautiful visual, something really from the heart, carry the show or the ending at least. Sometimes there's sadness. Neat storytelling isn't always the most important thing. Sometimes just getting the most real emotion is at the heart of it.
WM: I think it also comes from a lifetime of watching "Peanuts" cartoons.