A Comic Ap­proach

The cre­ators of Com­edy Cen­tral’s Trip­tank pull to­gether a di­verse slate of shorts that pairs up top com­edy acts with an­i­ma­tors. By Thomas J. Mclean

Animation Magazine - - Tv -

What do you do when you run an an­i­ma­tion stu­dio and con­stantly run across some of com­edy’s fun­ni­est folks with ideas for shorts?

If you’re Alex Bulk­ley and Corey Campodonico of Shad­owma­chine, you turn them into Trip­Tank, a new eight-episode half-hour an­thol­ogy se­ries pre­mier­ing April 2 on Com­edy Cen­tral.

“This is re­ally com­edy based,” says Bulk­ley. “What we’ve done is re­ally ag­gre­gate a lot of tal­ented com­edy writ­ers and put them to­gether with an an­i­ma­tion for­mat, and that’s any for­mat of an­i­ma­tion you can imag­ine.”

Bulk­ley and Campodonico took in­spi­ra­tion for Trip­Tank from their own ex­pe­ri­ences, pref­er­ences and even a lit­tle bit of his­tory. Hav­ing been the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion house for Ro­bot Chicken, they had ex­pe­ri­ence in as­sem­bling a show of short sketches.

They also are fans of shows like Liq­uid Tele­vi­sion, MTV’s 1990s an­thol­ogy show that brought ex­per­i­men­tal an­i­ma­tion to an en­tire flan­nel-clad gen­er­a­tion, as well as shorts fes­ti­vals and events like Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Fes­ti­val of An­i­ma­tion.

They also note that some of an­i­ma­tion’s most en­dur­ing hits, in­clud­ing South Park, Beavis and Butt-head and even The Simpsons, sprang out of short sketches or in­ter­sti­tials on an­thol­ogy shows.

Sharp-eyed view­ers caught a pre­view in De­cem­ber when the net­work aired the pi­lot, which fea­tures such cre­ative com­edy talent as Bob Odenkirk, Zach Galafi­anakis, Ku­mail Nan­jiani, Brett Gel­man and Kyle Ki­nane.

“We have a long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with a lot of dif­fer­ent people across the com­edy spec­trum, and we re­ally be­lieve in this kind of short for­mat,” says Campodonico.

Some of the big­gest com­edy names came in via an as­so­ci­a­tion with some­one who had al­ready worked with Bulk­ley and Campodonico. But the ma­jor­ity of sketches came in from just about every­where.

“We fielded thou­sands and thou­sands of these pitches,” says Bulk­ley. “Some­times it was some­one who had a fully de­vel­oped con­cept with a bi­ble, ev­ery char­ac­ter de­signed and episodes writ­ten and ev­ery­thing else, and that turned into a short. Other people came in with a para­graph idea and we would pair them with a cre­ative team whether it was in house or out of house.”

“This isn’t a show that spends months in de­vel­op­ment. It’s stuff that comes in right away and it ei­ther makes it or not,” says Campodonico.

“We were fairly ag­nos­tic to what was com­ing in the door as long as it was funny,” says Bulk­ley.

As ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers, choos­ing the best con­tent to fill eight episodes and de­cid­ing what airs with what was a ma­jor chal­lenge. A huge board was worked end­lessly to find the right mix for max­i­miz­ing the im­pact of each short and each episode.

“It’s a tricky ma­trix and some­times what ap­pears to work next to each other re­ally doesn’t,” says Campodonico.

Mak­ing it even more dif­fi­cult was the freeform na­ture of the shorts. “We’re not go­ing in with the writ­ers or cre­ators and say­ing this has to be ex­actly 60 sec­onds or 180 sec­onds; they all would come in at dif­fer­ent times,” says Bulk­ley. “So as you look at a full se­ries, how best to pro­gram was by far and away the big­gest chal­lenge.”

Shad­owma­chine’s long re­la­tion­ship with Com­edy Cen­tral fos­tered trust on the project, with Bulk­ley and Campodonico us­ing their ex­pe­ri­ence to fo­cus on con­tent that fit the net­work’s needs and the net­work tap­ping its talent pool to bring in cre­ators new to the ex- ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers.

Along with a di­verse set of one-off shorts are some recurring sketches, such as the Trip­Tank phone re­cep­tion­ist field­ing in­sane calls of ado­ra­tion or con­dem­na­tion from the pub­lic, and a se­ries called Jeff and Some Aliens.

Bulk­ley says the recurring sketches give some bal­ance to the idea of an an­thol­ogy. “The weight isn’t all on one sketch or one show the way it is with nor­mal shows. There’s some­thing in it for ev­ery­body,” he says. “But at the same time, it’s fun to like some sketches more than oth­ers, which I think is what makes it a fun show. It’s un­pre­dictable.”

“It’s im­por­tant to crate a spine that ev­ery­one can come back to week in and week out and have that spine be as funny as any of the sketches in the show,” says Campodonico.

Whether any­thing that made the eight-episode first sea­son of the show will break out into some­thing big is un­known, but Bulk­ley and Campodonico would be nei­ther sur­prised nor un­happy if that did in­deed hap­pen.

“We ended up with just about 100 in­di­vid­ual prop­er­ties, so you can imag­ine the po­ten­tial spin outs or de­riv­a­tives from the thing is big, but you never know where that nee­dle in the hay is go­ing to come from,” says Bulk­ley.

Je­sus shows off his talent for turn­ing wa­ter into wine in a sketch from an­thol­ogy com­edy se­ries that pre­mieres April 2 on Com­edy Cen­tral. Trip­tank, an Alex Bulk­ley Corey Campodonico

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