Interview with Scott Gairdner
Interview by Alec Castillo
Scott Gairdner is a writer and director who has created work for Comedy Central, Adult Swim, Conan, and Funny or Die. We caught up with him to talk about Tiny Fuppets 4DX and some of his other projects.
How do you describe what you do for a living?
Recently, it's been simply "comedy writer". But I also direct and edit, and I pride myself on being a writer who's involved in all the elements of the process.
I love your series, Tiny Fuppets. I feel like its a real gem of the internet and it feels very sincere, as it never winks to the audience. Between the “creator” Arturo Lima, the names of characters like “Ms Woman”, and even the unnecessarily long credits it’s something that feels dense with layers to it. How did that series come about and what inspired it?
Thanks, much appreciated! I discovered a strange pocket of movies out of Brazil from a company called Video Brinquedo. They make a number of extremely low-rent ripoffs of Pixar and Dreamworks animated films: "Ratatoing", "The Little Panda Fighter", "Little Cars", "Tiny Robots". My wife Erin and I were just doing a bit together, naming other potential things they would rip off. Suddenly, Erin said with perfect clarity and stiff accent, "Tiny Fuppets!" I've never had anything set off such a lightbulb in my entire life. Her phrase "Tiny Fuppets" was so perfect and grotesque, I had to pick it apart and figure out what Tiny Fuppets was. I did a single test shot of 3 awful Muppet Babies ripoffs, and Erin laughed til she couldn't breathe. So I kept at it, and a decade later, it's been a strange project that I've plugged in and out of for my whole career!
And you recently released a new 4DX version of Tiny Fuppets. Was that inspired by the new CGI version of Muppet Babies?
It was absolutely inspired by the new CGI Muppet Babies. The addition of the new 3D character Rhomby The Rhombus was also inspired by the new 3D Muppet Baby, Summer Penguin. It was equally a nod to Muppet Vision 3D in the Disney Parks, which includes the new gimmicky character Waldo, the spirit of 3D.
How big is the Tiny Fuppets crew? Or is it a one-man band doing it all?
Typically, it's only me. I do all the voices, and I edit and do the (admittedly perfunctory) animation. It's extremely satisfying to have a project where I don't have to wait for anyone's permission or help. BUT in the case of Tiny Fuppets 4DX, since I wanted to use the new 3D medium which I know nothing about, I got a few 3D model artists off of Fiverr to design 3D versions of the characters. Once built and rigged, they were animated by Andrew Dickinson, a great digital artist who I went to high school with. I thought he really straddled the line between making the animation funny and watchable, but also selectively terrible and bizarre.
Do you speak Portuguese? If not, how much effort goes into translating the episodes into the language?
I have learned basic fundamentals of Portuguese pronunciation- how each accent is supposed to sound, what certain vowels sound like together, etc. I don't want the joke to be that the Portuguese is way off base, and I've gotten more accurate as the years have gone on. But I'm sure it still sounds atrocious to an actual Portuguese speaker. Also thanks to Fiverr, it's very easy to send the scripts to a Portuguese translator! It's wonderfully lazy!
You co-host PODCAST: THE RIDE. And each episode essentially goes into a different theme park attraction, and while there’s some obvious classics like Splash Mountain you also go into obscure things like the old Kitchen Kabaret show at Epcot. Is there any extinct theme park attraction of the past do you miss the most?
I am extremely fond of the Maelstrom, the boat ride in EPCOT's Norway pavilion. It was recently replaced by a Frozen ride, and I understand the reasons to do that and I'm not indignant about it. But I'll always miss the mysterious mists, the oddball animatronics, and the inexplicable scary oil barracks of the Maelstrom. In general, I very much miss peak EPCOT in the 80s/early 90s. Horizons, Journey Into Imagination, Wonders Of Life. It's been an absolute blast doing this show with Mike Carlson and Jason Sheridan, and we're thrilled to have an outlet to discuss our odd obsessions. As with Tiny Fuppets, it's wonderful to have a project we control ourselves and can do whatever we want with!
Are you more of a Disney World or a Disneyland guy?
I've lived in Los Angeles my whole life, so by default, I'm a Disneyland guy. I'm down there constantly, it's a perfect go-to weekend activity for my wife, my friends, and I. Give me a Manhattan at Carthay Circle once every three weeks or so and I'm a happy camper. However, I've been to Disney World 6 times, and the first time I went at age 7 loomed so large that it essentially ruined my brain forever. I can't tell you how often I'm watching old Disney World specials, or in-room hotel information videos detailing all the amazing activities at the World (circa 1987).
Working for Adult Swim and Funny or Die and even the independent work you’ve done, you’ve carved out a strong presence on the internet. Do you think there’s any secret formula to a viral video?
To me, it's more important to have a mobilized base of people who really appreciate your work. I've never exactly been a viral hit factory. There have been viral "formulas" here and there, and they usually gross me out! Lengthy clickbait title, boobs in the thumbnail, a broad performer making a silly bug-out face. It's a much bigger victory to me if I can get eyeballs on something that isn't super obvious. Sometimes odd comedy and viral merges in an extremely satisfying way, like "Sex Offender Shuffle", a nearly-decade old sketch with an inexplicable nearly 30 million views, and that was recently danced to by the infamous Backpack Kid! But it wouldn't mean anything if I didn't love the sketch comedically.
On a final note, have there been any valuable lessons you’ve learned while working in comedy?
I would tell anybody chomping at the bit to get into comedy to not rush it. I felt too panicked when I was younger: "By x age, I've gotta be at x point in my career". And a few times, I found myself in situations where I wasn't as qualified, confident, or frankly as funny as I needed to be to pull the thing off! So relax, get funny and confident so you're turbo-loaded if opportunities come your way! My other advice: diversify! Projects can easily fall apart, or get delayed endlessly. If you've got multiple ideas you can always be working on in multiple forums, you'll be less prone to have panic attacks if anything doesn't work out! And the more outlets you have, the sharper you'll be!
Thank you for stopping by.
Thanks Alec! Really appreciate your support of all these odd projects.