Cartoon Network promotes Regular Show as "anything but regular." That's true in two ways: the show is crazy, quirky and sometimes naughty. But it's "anything but regular" due to the fact that more than many current shows, it's traditional in its format of storytelling.
Even though each episode goes from the everyday to the spectacularly insane, that's what the great sitcoms did--both live action and animated. When Lucy Ricardo got starched, lit her nose on fire or got wasted on Vitameatavegemin, each script was constructed from the zany point back to the beginning, which seemed very normal and everyday. Through this exacting process, the most outlandish situations can seem plausible.
That's really what makes it "anything but regular" on today's animation landscape, because most modern shows (and films) tell multiple stories rather than linear ones. Since Seinfeld and its contemporaries, there are usually several plot threads that unfold until they converge at the end. Even dramatized biographies now flow in and out of flashbacks and side steps.
So Regular Show is regular and it's not. According to the show's creator, J.G. Quintel, the title indeed teeters between irony and accuracy.
J.G. QUINTEL: Even though it looks completely bizarre, it is just a "regular show." Once you get past the way it looks, it is a sitcom you are watching. The title was going to be Regular Show, "Normal Show" or "Weird Show." "Normal Show" was not quite right and 'Weird Show" was too on the nose.
GREG EHRBAR: What's that sound we hear over the titles in each episode?
J.G.: That is supposed to be the sound of a TV changing channels. It's as if you're searching through the channels and when you find Regular Show, that's when you stop.
GREG: You and your team have done over 100 episodes and are headed into the fifth season, so the show and characters have evolved. What's cool about watching the original first and second seasons now?
J.G.: You can see how Mordecai and Rigby started out. They aren't the same characters they are now. In Season Two, we started experimenting with Muscle Man. He used to more of a rival of Mordecai and Rigby. Seeing it from the very, very beginning, it feels as if they "just got here." Benson is more of the classic boss, really on their case all the time. He has some really awesome freak-outs in Seasons One and Two. It's nice to revisit the original shows that started it all and add to the backstory.
GREG: You say on one of the audio commentaries that you wanted the show to "sound good" to adults as well as kids, so it wouldn't grate. Sometimes contemporary TV, especially aimed at kids and daytime audiences, seem to have a mandate to "keep up the energy," which translates often into a constant level of cacophony, rather than the more impactful peaks and valleys of storytelling.
J.G: It is very easy to write a romp, going from "a" to "b" They want something and they're going to get it so then a car chase and something crazy happens. We've found that it's much stronger to have an emotional element threaded through. They somehow have to care about this thing that they want. There is something emotional at stake, beyond something hollow. That way, it rings true. Everybody has those kinds of feelings and they can relate to it. That in turn makes it more fun to see them go though it.
What we always try to do--and it's really hard--is to make something that you think would have held up for you as a kid, would hold up for kids today and that grownups can find entertaining, hopefully for a long time to come.
GREG: Are some of the stories inspired by real life things?
J.G.: Some of the stories that have happened to us. "The Power" is a good example, Mordecai and Rigby are just screwing around, they bust a hole in the wall and have to fix it. That literally happened with two guys at work. They were wrestling and they slammed their backs into the wall and popped a hole into it. Instead of telling anybody they just covered it up with a bookshelf. The episode we won the Emmy for, "Eggscellent" [Season 3] is based on a real restaurant in San Diego that gives you a hat if you eat a twelve egg omelet. I couldn't even get a quarter of the way through.
GREG: What is the story process for Regular Show?
J.G.: We have several teams of storyboard artists but in the writer's room where we come up with the concepts. We play this game I played in college where you all sit at a table and come up with fake titles for episodes that sound cool. You throw those into a hat and pull one out at a time. You set a timer for two minutes while you try to write as much of a complete episode as you can. In an hour you can have 125 ideas.
We read them all out loud and any of them that make us laugh and sounds like something that is worth moving forward on, we build around it. It gets written into an outline with a classic three act structure. Even though it is animation and you can do almost anything, you can lose the audience if all of a sudden it doesn't make sense. You always have to make sure that you keep them engaged and they "get" the story.
GREG: Would you call Mordecai and Rigby "co-dude-dependent?"
J.G.: They do need each other. I don't think they could ever be ripped apart for too long otherwise they would be incomplete. They definitely have their moments where one of them will piss the other one off but they always come back together before the end of the episode.
GREG: There's a balance that is disrupted if they are separated by an distracting person or event, the way Tom and Jerry were sometimes. Like when Mordecai saw Pops coming out of the shower and can't deal with that image in his mind.
J.G.: Yes, yes. He just wants to get his friend back. He accidently wipes his mind.
GREG: The two of them are easily manipulated by TV advertising.
J.G.: That is my favorite--showing just how manipulated and malleable Rigby and Mordacai are to these commercials. They will buy anything. If the commercial is cool enough they are sold. Commercials were really funny to me when I was a kid and I loved video games. I remember which games I thought were cool, so I always try to make sure the games in "Regular Show" are the same types of games--and then we usually make fun of them.
GREG: You said that Mordecai is sort of like you in college.
J.G.: Yes, it's true. I can remember specific things I would do that would get me into really big trouble. My parents would say, "Why did you do that?" Honestly in my mind I didn't know, I just did it. Both Mordecai and Rigby have varying levels of intelligence but you can tell that Mordecai is the more responsible one. Rigby is the one that is going to do things without thinking. They keep each other in check. It's fun to see them play against each other and play with each other and how the stories unfold because of their choices which are always interesting.
GREG: You're the voice of Mordecai. Forgive me for asking, but do you have formal acting training?
J.G.: I remember taking an acting class called "acting for animators." When Regular Show came along and I had done the voice for my character in my student film [included on the Blu-ray/DVD] where I was just being myself so that was no big deal. The only thing that was kind of hard for me at the beginning was kind of learning how to yell because I don't really yell in real life, ever, and Mordecai yells a lot when he gets into all these crazy situations. I had to do a couple of big screams to get used to that.
GREG: When you record the voices, do you use a storyboard as a script?
J.G.: We do. We have a script typed up because it is easier to read in the records but we go off of our storyboards. We even have a monitor in the record booth showing the storyboard pictures in case anybody is not getting how intense it needs to be. That makes it much easier. Bill Sawyers, Sam Marin, Mark Hamill, me and any others go through the script in a very linear way and then that will be that. Other times if we get people that are on the east coast, we will do phone patches once in awhile.
GREG: The show uses a lot of established songs, like "Working for the Weekend" in one of my favorite episodes, "Free Cake." How did that come about?
J.G.: When we started producing the show, we were putting in temporary music just to give a feel of what we wanted. I'm a huge fan of 80s so I just put that stuff in. When the executives watched it, someone said it sounded really cool and wanted to know if we wanted them to get the original versions. I didn't think that they would ever suggest that but we actually ended up with them. I'm pumped that we did, because it really colors Regular Show in a unique way. Parents watching it might remember those songs. Kids might not know them, but they'll still think they're still cool songs. A lot of kids comment online that when they hear a certain song, they think of "Regular Show."
GREG: I noticed in one of your commentaries, you mentioned that something was traced, and you said, "Tracing is okay, kids." That was great, because sometimes a creative interest can be derailed in life by rules that don't always apply in later life.
J.G.: There are a lot of little insights in the commentaries about what we have learned in making cartoons, our process and how it has evolved over time. It was really fun to get to talk about a lot of that.
GREG: But a successful career isn't just handed to you in real life, is it?
J.G.: No, it is not. There is a lot of luck involved. I think you've got to be in the right place at the right time with the right idea that a studio just happens to be looking for and they like it. Beyond that, you have to be able to make it consistent so people will want to watch it, which can be tough.
GREG: There are a lot of extras on the set--in addition to the commentaries--including a music video with live action people representing the characters. What's the deal with that?
J.G.: That was really cool. It's from the episode "Mordecai and the Rigbys," when Mordecai lies to Margaret about being in a band and then accidently enrolls himself in this battle of the bands, so he and Rigby have to learn how to play just one song so he won't get caught. They end up playing this song in the end. In Atlanta, where Cartoon Network is based, they took that song and some of their live action guys just made that video. I watched it and my jaw just dropped and I was laughing so hard.
GREG: In the commentary for "Death Punchies," you say that "There are things funnier than a fart." Funny flatulence has been around since Vaudeville, but nowadays it's become the go-to gag for entertainment aimed at kids and teens.
J.G.: It's true. It's kind of cheating in a way. You can do really crass humor and get a laugh but if you take the time to think of a clever way around it so that everybody can enjoy it, that's usually the better way to go. But it's harder to do. It takes more time. Usually we have to work quite long hours to keep it up, even though it would probably be much easier to just toss in a fart once in a while.
While we really make "Regular Show" for ourselves, and a lot of us are in our twenties and thirties, I hope adults won't automatically think, "Oh, this is for kids and I shouldn't watch it." That's not true at all.
REGULAR SHOW EPISODE GUIDE - SEASON 1
Episode 1, September 6, 2010
Rigby and Mordecai try to fix a hole in the wall with a magic keyboard and send stuff to the moon.
Episode 2, September 13, 2010
Just Set Up the Chairs
Of course, the guys don't set up the chairs, but their discovery of some old video arcade games blows up in their faces.
Episode 3, September 20, 2010
Caffeinated Concert Tickets
The guys need money to attend a concert by a band from their past.
Episode 4, September 27, 2010
Rigby gets tired of Mordecai winning at Punchies so he goes to great lengths to beat him.
Episode 5, October 4, 2010
Desperate to have cake but with no money the guys scheme to force Skips to celebrate his birthday
Episode 6, October 11, 2010
Meat Your Maker
A dispute over tasty hotdogs leads to a near death experience. Tim Curry voices the leader of the hot dogs.
Episode 7, October 18, 2010
Grilled Cheese Deluxe
Mordecai and Rigby eat Benson's sandwich. When they go to get a new one they pretend to be astronauts to skip the long line.
Episode 8, October 25, 2010
The Unicorns Have Got to Go
Instead of attracting ladies with his "Dude Time" cologne, Mordecai attracts unicorn dudes who promise to help him attract ladies.
Episode 9, November 1, 2010
The dudes pick the wrong person to prank call: the Master Prank Caller.
Episode 10, November 8, 2010
Rigby's more likable, nicer brother arrives to do accounting for Benson. Coincidentally, the animated Beetlejuice had a likable brother named "Donny."
Episode 11, November 15, 2010
Rigby becomes a green blob in a trash can after overindulging on junk food. This episode could get more kids to eating salads than some public service announcements.
Episode 12, November 22, 2010
Mordecai and the Rigbys
Mordecai lies to Margaret about having a band. To cover for him, the dudes form a band and sign up for battle of the bands.
REGULAR SHOW EPISODE GUIDE - SEASON 2
Season 2 Episode 1 / Series Episode 13
November 29, 2010
Rigby is scared after watching a British horror movie about an evil car.
Season 2 Episode 2 / Series Episode 14
January 3, 2011
Rigby gets mad at Mordecai for wanting to go the a movie with Margaret instead of him so he sets up a date with Margaret.
Season 2 Episode 3 / Series Episode 15
January 10, 2011
When Rigby starts writing false items in the employee record, what he writes comes true.
Season 2 Episode 4 / Series Episode 16
January 17, 2011
Fed up with all their slacking off, Benson uses surveillance cameras on Mordecai and Rigby.
Season 2 Episode 5 / Series Episode 17
January 24, 2011
Pops is terrified of public speaking. A popular plot, this was also seen in an "Adventure Time" story but with a completely different take.
Season 2 Episode 6 / Series Episode 18
January 31, 2011
Muscleman and High Five Ghost are put in charge and seem to get away with everything.
Season 2 Episode 7 / Series Episode 19
February 7, 2011
The boys get it into their heads that the way to gain respect from others is to become good at a video game
Season 2 Episode 8 / Series Episode 20
February 14, 2011
Rage Against the TV
The guys go in search of a TV to conquer a video game everyone says is unwinnable.
Season 2 Episode 9 / Series Episode 21
February 21, 2011
The guys hire Party Pete to pep up their lame party. Pete's assistants are Chrissy and Janet.
Season 2 Episode 10 / Series Episode 22
February 25, 2011
Rigby uses an anime to help Mordecai get his brain erased after he sees Pops getting out of the shower. The characters themselves provide the audio commentary for this episode.
Season 2 Episode 11 / Series Episode 23
February 25, 2011
Benson Be Gone
Benson gets demoted and has to work alongside Mordecai and Rigby.
Season 2 Episode 12 / Series Episode 24
March 7, 2011
But I Have a Receipt
Mordecai and Rigby buy a lame board game.
Season 2 Episode 13 / Series Episode 25
March 28, 2011
This Is My Jam
Rigby gets an annoying pop song stuck in his head.
Season 2 Episode 14 / Series Episode 26
April 4, 2011
Muscleman's girlfriend breaks up with him and when Mordecai and Rigby try to help she falls in love with Mordecai.
Season 2 Episode 15 / Series Episode 27
April 11, 2011
Rigby hires a temp because he is tired of working.
Season 2 Episode 17 / Series Episode 29
Season 2 Episode 16 / Series Episode 28
April 18, 2011
Mordecai jinkses Rigby and when Muscleman gives him advice on how to un-jinx himself things go horribly wrong.