Event Review: Graphic Festival – Robot Chicken Live – Sydney Opera House

Since 2005, the Comedy Channel has been the host of one of TV’s most irreverent and disturbing, but also hilarious comedy programs. Robot Chicken uses stop motion animation, toys and the twisted minds of Seth Green and Matt Senreich and their fellow animation creators to challenge the boundaries of taste. The GRAPHIC Festival showcase at the Sydney Opera House brought out the two co-creators along with Tom Root, John Harvatine IV, Eric Towner and Doug Goldstein for a talk and Q&A about Robot Chicken, the inspiration behind some of the episodes, twerking and pizza toppings.

The night itself was rather bizarre, with each member coming out onstage like a wrestling champion to a particular theme song, artificial smoke and either kicking some beach balls into the crowd or in Tom Root’s case, throwing rose petals into the first two rows of the audience. They all introduced themselves but there was a slight awkwardness as it didn’t seem like they were fully prepared for the run-through of the night. Both Matt Senreich and Seth Green commanded most of the discussions. This began with an impromptu Twitter submitted question and answer from each of the team. Their responses in particular to the ‘which character from the show would you f*ck marry and kill’ were an amusing insight into which characters the creative team felt particularly attached to, most opting for the “Nerd Guy”.

The pacing started to even out a little more when each of the team then showed off their favourite short with an explanation as to why they felt it was so compelling. In particular the short ‘Law and Order: KFC’ highlighted how the writing team felt that parodying the Law & Order series and its ability to convey its plot and structure could be done without necessarily being in English, substituting it for Chicken. Another favourite was the ‘Children Of Lego Men’ and the main reason for it being selected was due to its extremely difficult but clever style of shot and use of camera angles. Basically the team had to work particularly hard on getting the camera down to the right level to give the shots both a sense of scale and size and depth. Seth Green’s choice of ‘The Tooth Fairy’ was actually one of the sketches that laid the groundwork for the series and show as a whole. It was always considered one of the darkest ones they had done and they generally use it as a baseline when determining whether other sketches would be appropriate or inappropriate for airing.

After that, we were then treated to more Q&A but this time, for audience members present. These can always be a little hit and miss, as it’s dependent on the fans that get the guts to stand up behind the microphone. One question in particular asking how they go about getting their inspiration referred us back to the ‘Starbucks Mermaid’ short. It revealed that sometimes, even the simplest things like staring at a Starbucks coffee cup and asking the simple question of “How did they come up with the logo of a mermaid that has nothing to do with coffee?”, can result in a hilarious piece. Usually it’s the simple things that they as individuals find funny, is often what other people also find amusing and its fodder for the show. By this stage of the evening, all of the team onstage were feeling comfortable, and Green in particular was bordering on quite tipsy after consuming a good portion of his Jameson whiskey and of course somehow the question and answers soon devolved into tangents and ridiculous stories and Green propositioning one audience member (and excitable fan) into twerking for the $100 cash he had in his back pocket (she didn’t do it much to our disappointment).

Another fan asked them what their favourite pizza toppings were, the consensus seemed to be predominantly pepperoni. One of the last audience members to Q&A the team threw down a challenge to come up with an accurate satire of Australia using an Australian Barbie doll (apparently there’s one in the Sydney Opera House souvenir shop) at which point Green and Senreich both agreed; although acquiring authentic Australian toys might be trickier than they anticipated. That ought to be an interesting sketch should it ever make the light of day.

Fittingly, the last question was pertaining to how to best go about achieving and succeeding in the field. Green basically said (I wish I could remember it exactly so I could quote it, alas I will have to paraphrase) that their success came from being truthful and honest about what they wanted, surrounding themselves with people who felt the same way and wanted to achieve the same things and had it not been for their tenacity and persistence Robot Chicken would never have made it to our screens.


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Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.