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SuperJail! Interview With Jackson Publick

When he's not writing or directing episodes or voicing half the characters in The Venture Bros., series creator Jackson Publick (known to some by his other name, Chris McCulloch) also works on another Adult Swim series, SuperJail! He was involved with the later part of the first season which aired back in late 2008 and has had a role in the upcoming second season which starts up at midnight on the night of April 3rd. I asked Jackson for some info on his involvement with SuperJail! and how it compares to working on Venture Bros.

Mantis-Eye:

So how did you end up working on SuperJail?

Jackson Publick:

Well, I've known creators Christy Karacas and Steve Warbrick for like a decade, so I was aware of their pilot and their pick-up and stuff. And when they were in production on season one, I'd always ask Mike Lazzo at adultswim how it was going whenever we were on the phone talking about Venture stuff. So when he told me they hit a snag in the writing around episode six or so, I offered to help out.

Mantis-Eye:

What were your contributions to the first season?

Jackson Publick:

I only worked on the writing of the last three episodes--"Cold Blooded" and parts 1 & 2 of "The Time Police." We brainstormed and broke the stories together, and then I did some punch-ups with them. But I did a handful of voices throughout the season.

Mantis-Eye:

Has that role been the same for this upcoming season?

Jackson Publick:

Pretty much the same. I'm officially the Story Editor and like a Consulting Producer or something. I'm like the go-between for the creators and the network. I run the writers' room, break the stories and outlines with the guys, give notes on their script drafts, and do some punch-up writing on the final drafts. Here and there I'll give a note on the animatics or storyboards. I also direct the recording sessions, and I'll be reprising my Ash, Nicky and Gay Inmate roles, plus a few new guys.

Mantis-Eye:

Do you miss the huge degree of control you lose compared to Venture Bros. since you're not the creator/writer/director/everything for SuperJail?

Jackson Publick:

Not at all. The last thing I need is another show to be a control freak about. It's a huge relief to be able to just help out where I can and let them do all the heavy lifting. And it's a lot of fun not knowing exactly what to expect when the video rolls, because Christy adds so much to the animation that isn't on the page.

Mantis-Eye:

What's been your favorite thing about working on this show?

Jackson Publick:

Working with the guys. And watching a show get made in-house, right under your nose, by a bunch of eager, talented artists--experiencing the energy of a new crew and a new studio. We also got to kind of groom two new writers--Adam Modiano and Joe Croson. They both worked in production on The Venture Bros. back at World Leaders, so it was really satisfying to be able to give them a shot at becoming writers and then sit back and marvel as they actually stepped up and wrote great stuff. Titmouse has beer on tap, too, which came in handy when the writers' meetings run late--which they always did because we all had day jobs.

Mantis-Eye:

So would you ever consider that sort in-house format for Venture Bros. in the future, assuming the show's animation requirements would allow it. Or perhaps for whatever future non-Venture stuff you do?

Jackson Publick:

Yeah, unfortunately, it wouldn't be feasible within our budget and schedule to try to pull off an in-house production of a full season of The Venture Bros. Which is probably for the best, because it's fewer artists' shoulders for me to look over and compulsively give notes to. But I'd always be open to trying it out with other projects, and in fact am currently involved in producing an 11 minute little something-something in-house.

Mantis-Eye:

And would Adam and Joe be the sorts of guys you might consider bringing on to work on Venture Bros. to help you and Doc with scripts?

Jackson Publick:

What, and put myself out of a job? No. Fuck those guys.

Mantis-Eye:

Wait a second... beer on tap? Does Titmouse need a web developer?

Jackson Publick:

I can't speak to their web development needs, except to say I know they don't need a drunk web developer.

Mantis-Eye:

Damn. What are the differences between working on SuperJail's eleven minute format compared to Venture Bros'. lengthier twenty-two minutes?

Jackson Publick:

The basics are the same, but the temptation to turn some of these stories into 2-parters had to be fought all the time. It can be hard to get story, character, jokes and action into just 11 minutes, at least for me. Because it's shorter, and it's SuperJail, it has to hit harder and faster than what I'm used to.

Mantis-Eye:

What about the difference between a show with a far-reaching continuity versus SuperJail's more one-shot sort of format?

Jackson Publick:

Again, it limits some of what you can do with character development. But on the plus side, it's fun not to get all caught in the mire of what you've done in the past, like who said what about whom one time at a party in an episode two seasons ago, and just go nuts with a big car race or a living blob made out of body parts. That said, we do try to squeeze in a little backstory and continuity every once in a while on SuperJail.

Mantis-Eye:

Any favorite moments from SuperJail?

Jackson Publick:

I love that scene in season 1 where the jail floods and the everything goes all blueish and the sound gets muffled and watery. And I loved doing the ridiculous harmonies for the singing Time Police with Reggie Watts. Here's a fun season two spoiler: John Waters did a guest voice for us in one episode!

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Mantis-Eye:

John Waters is a pretty amazing guest star to get. How did you guys get him in for a voice? Did you get to direct him? That sounds like it would be really fun.

Jackson Publick:

Someone at adultswim told us he was a fan of SuperJail, so we just kind of asked him. And yeah, I got to direct him, but sadly it was over the phone. It was still as much oddball fun as you'd expect talking to John Waters would be, though.

Mantis-Eye:

Okay, because I can't resist, a few Venture Bros. questions. We know there's more Venture Bros. coming, in some form or another, but how close are we to finding out what it will be?

Jackson Publick:

Very close.

[Ed: 'Close' being March 22nd, but this interview was written up around March 17th]

Mantis-Eye:

Will either of you guys be at any conventions this year?

Jackson Publick:

I'm pretty sure we'll be in San Diego, because right now our plan is to unveil a special little project we've been quietly working on for Comic-Con. Dragon*Con is still too far off for me to make a call on, but seeing as adult swim's 10th anniversary is that same weekend, chances are we'll be in Atlanta.

Mantis-Eye:

Who would win in a fight between The Warden and Dr. Killinger?

Jackson Publick:

Well, Warden's not really an intentional or hands-on killer. He kind of kills people by accident (and always with the best of intentions). He's also kind of a pussy. But he's probably more magic than Killinger, so it's a tough call. It is a fight I promise you will never see, outside of fan fiction.

Mantis-Eye:

I'm sure someone will pen that soon enough. How are you enjoying your time off from making Venture Bros?

Jackson Publick:

The sad truth is that I haven't had much time off. SuperJail kept me busier than expected, and I took on a freelance script for another show (which I can't talk about). But there was one month in there where I didn't do much more than sleep a lot and watch every episode of Castle and Damages and The IT Crowd in twitchy, late-night marathon sessions. Catching up on my TV and movies and books has been the best part. Renovating my apartment's been the worst part (and continues to be so). Honestly, I kind of lose my shit when I'm not over-worked and completely obsessed with something. I will spare you whole sharks-swimming-or-dying analogy and just say that I'm looking forward to taking a proper vacation and getting back to intense work.

Mantis-Eye:

Thanks a lot, Jackson!

Remember, SuperJail! airs Sundays at midnight starting April 3rd. If you're not familiar with the show you should check out some clips at Adult Swim Video or perhaps buy the season one DVD off Amazon.

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