‘Right Now Kapow’ creators talk the unusual making of their animated sketch comedy
While WB live-action projects air on a host of networks, WB animated series have mostly aired on what was then The WB and Cartoon Network (also under the umbrella of Time Warner).
Right Now Kapow premieres tonight on Disney XD, the first time the network has aired an original series produced by WB.
Creators Justin Becker and Marly Harlpern-Graser were developing the animated sketch comedy series at a time when Disney XD was looking for something akin to Mad, the Cartoon Network series that aired from 2010-2013.
“Disney XD is trying to go off in new directions and do different, interesting kinds of things. They were a fan of what we had done on Mad, and they were looking for a show like that,” Becker explained.
Unlike Mad, which featured various methods of animation (from CG to claymation), Right Now Kapow is 2D computer animated, though that doesn’t mean artists with pen in hand are totally absent from the process. In fact, the WB animators hand-draw the frames of Right Now Kapow on tablets, using Adobe Animate.
Like Mad, Right Now Kapow is a sketch comedy series, and Becker and Harlpern-Graser aim to bring to the show their experiences from both Mad and onstage improv and stand-up. The duo met at Emerson College, where they were in a comedy troupe. They also honed their comedy chops in Zebro, a group that posted sketches on YouTube in the video platform’s early days.
Image credit: Disney XD
For Right Now Kapow, “the overall goal is to write the kind of smart, clever, absurdist sketch comedy that you would expect in live-action comedy but then put it into animation,” Harlpern-Graser said.
Among the weirdness in the show’s early sketches are giant monsters who keep interrupting a victory speech, a forgetful OR surgeon, and a mummy with an elaborate plan to test his friends’ loyalty (so, yes, a pyramid scheme).
Additionally, the show’s colorful cast of characters — six cartoon heads named Dog, Moon, Ice Cream, Candy, Diamond, and Plant — are each meant to be like a cast member from Saturday Night Live.
Image credit: Disney XD
“We want people to have that emotional connection to the performer, since the characters change from sketch to sketch,” Harlpern-Graser said. “When Will Ferrell comes out in a Saturday Night Live sketch, you're already excited, because you know Will Ferrell. Whenever Ice Cream comes out in a Right Now Kapow sketch, we want you to be excited to see Ice Cream, whether he was a pirate, or a baby, or a crazy man in a junk yard.”
Many of the voice cast members are from the realm of stand-up comedy and improv, including Emily Maya Mills (Key & Peele) as Diamond, Michael Blaiklock (Comedy Bang! Bang!) as Dog, and Baron Vaughn (Grace and Frankie) as Moon. After the writers had penned a few episodes, they’d gotten to know their voice actors and cast of cartoon heads better.
“When we first started it, the writers pitched the sketches without casting who would be in them, and then we would sit down and figure out who's best for which part,” Harlpern-Graser recalled. “By the end of writing season 1, the writers were pitching things, already knowing, ‘Oh, Plant would be perfect for this,’ or ‘This is definitely a Dog kind of role.’”
Becker and Harlpern-Graser count Monty Python, Mr. Show, SNL, and The Kids in the Hall among their influences.
“When I was a kid, I was obsessed with sketch comedy,” Becker said. “It was at that right time where Kids In the Hall was being replayed on Comedy Central in the afternoon. I would sometimes pretend to be sick, so I could leave school early, so I could go home and watch it.”
The two Right Now Kapow creators are well aware that their show will likely be introducing the medium of sketch comedy to several young viewers, and they hope it will impact some kids in the way that sketch comedy influenced them. Said Harlpern-Graser: “The idea that maybe a kid would watch our show, and get into sketch comedy, and then find Kids In the Hall would be basically the best thing that could possibly happen."
Right Now Kapow premieres on Disney XD tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT.