Adult Swim’s “Squidbillies” writers talk origins

Photo courtesy of Adult Swim

“Squidbillies,” which airs on Sundays at midnight on Adult Swim, entered its eleventh season earlier this year and has released four episodes of nine planned so far. Both the success of the show and its improvement over the course of time is mainly due to the devotion of the writers, Dave Willis (“Aqua Teen Hunger Force”) and Jim Fortier (“The Brak Show”).

Technique: This next season of Squidbillies is the eleventh season, and I saw online that Squidbillies is the fourth longest running show on Adult Swim.

Willis: Well, I know we are the longest running show for animated squids. But, we also just broke through to being the third longest running show on Adult Swim.

Technique: How did your previous experience on other shows lead to the creation of Squidbillies, and how is this work different from your past work?

Willis: Well before this, Jim and I were writing “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and through the show we learned how to produce good content with a very small staff. Because “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” was funded so little, us writers had to learn how to wear different hats. You know, we’re editing, we’re writing,
we’re producing.

“Squidbillies” is a little different because when we wrote “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” we had no money. Now, we have a little money.

Technique: How long have you guys known each other, and how did you know you wanted to work together?

Willis: We went to the same high school, Heritage High. We weren’t buddy-buddy then or anything. We had a few of the same classes, but we didn’t know that we were going to be writing together. Everyone changes out of high school. Once we both found out that writing was an interest we shared, we teamed up.

Technique: A lot of the cast is very tight knit, and Squidbillies has brought on new actors that you both knew from high school. Is this the case for the majority of the cast?

Willis: I don’t think so. Some of our cast just happens to be friends of ours like Daniel McDevitt, the voice of Rusty. When we were choosing voices for the show, we really just wanted actors that could pull off an authentic Southern accent, not like Forrest Gump. For example, the star of the show, Unknown Hinson [who plays Earlie Cuyler] was just some random guy.

Jim Fortier: In some sort of the word, Daniel [McDevitt] was a last resort. I remember when we were going through the auditions for the role [of Rusty Cuyler], and at one point Dave was just like, “you remember that voice that Daniel used to do? I’m going to get some voiceovers from him and let’s see what happens.”

Technique: Do you have a favorite character on the show?

Willis: I don’t necessarily have a favorite, but Rusty was a character that we ended up changing to have a stronger role in the show. Initially, he was just this BMX madman to the voice of reason because our show needed one at that point.

Technique: One big plus is that this show is vertically integrated all within Atlanta. The writing, the filming and the producing all happens here. What does Atlanta provide that other hotspots like New York and LA do not?

Willis: Well, primarily, we haven’t gone to New York or LA because we haven’t been invited there yet.

Fortier: LA and New York are mainstream and uninvolved!

Willis: I think the main thing is that we only had a few dollars in our pocket when we first started, and when we began producing content locally, we decided to just stay that way. And really, we’re here for the same reason everyone else is — the sweet tax break [for film and TV in Georgia].

Technique: How did you get the idea for the name of the show, and what is the significance behind squids?

Willis: I remember it as Mike Blazo walking down the hall, and he said “squidbillies,” and we laughed. Blazo told us to make a show out of it, so we did.

Fortier: Not only that, I remember we got the inspiration from “Squiddly Diddly,” an animated squid created by Hanna-Barbera a long time ago.

Willis: That’s how a lot of shows get made here. Someone says a title and it happens. I remember after we finished working on “Space Ghost,” one night we went to a bar, and I found this redneck soap opera. That was something like ten years ago.

Fortier: Then Blazo said “Squidbillies,” and the show
was born.

Willis: When we created this show, we made it authentic. We are all from the South; the actors are from the South. So we aren’t just making fun of the South. The show is only 85 percent mocking and 13 percent reference.

Technique: Which is 98 percent.

Willis: I know. You guys over at Tech will like that formula
right there.

Technique: What episodes can we look forward to seeing on the new season?

Willis: The Christmas special, premiering on Dec. 10, ignites the “War on Christmas.” As part of the War, everyone must say “Merry Christmas,” and “Happy Holidays” is no longer allowed.

Fortier: It launches an insurgency on the holiday.

Willis: Our finale episode will also be one to watch and premieres the week after on Dec. 17.