15 Trivia Tidbits About Adult Swim
It’s been 22 years since Cartoon Network determined that its sizable audience of stoned college students watching Powerpuff Girls reruns in the middle of the night would be better served by original programming explicitly tailored for them. By now, Adult Swim is like a public service we as a society take for granted, having long forgotten what it was like to live in a world in which only kids watched cartoons and adults only watched Matlock. So let’s celebrate the miracle of its existence by peeking behind Adult Swim’s “adult section at a video store”-type curtain...
Adult Swim’s Creator Started Out Doing Menial Jobs
Adult Swim is the brainchild of Mike Lazzo, a high school dropout who started working at Turner Broadcasting System’s shipping and receiving department in his mid-20s. He eventually worked his way up to programmer at Cartoon Network, which at that point consisted of nothing but reruns of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Lazzo got into the habit of watching some of those old cartoons at 4 a.m., and that’s how the idea of Adult Swim slowly began to take shape.
The Original ‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast’ Pilot Was Recorded in a Broom Closet
Looking for ways to repurpose old cartoons into new programming back when the budget at Cartoon Network was, in Lazzo’s words, “no money,” he and his crew spliced some footage from a bunch of 1960s Space Ghost episodes with an existing Denzel Washington interview. They recorded new dialogue “with a Radio Shack mic in a broom closet.” Once Cartoon Network approved the idea, they produced a slicker pilot with Space Ghost’s original voice actor, but Lazzo preferred the shoddy feel of the first pilot and told the crew to make the actual show more like that.
Adult Swim Was Almost Called ‘Parental Block’
In late 2000, Cartoon Network announced the upcoming release of an adult-oriented animation block called “Parental Block,” after the channel-blocking setting that parents could enable on cable boxes to prevent kids from accidentally seeing a boob on Cinemax. Other names considered were “Aviso” (“Warning” in Spanish) and “Insert Quarter.” Lazzo personally wanted “Cartoon Network After Dark,” but he was overruled, and they went with “Adult Swim” (which he still hates).
Early On, the Whole Network Was Pool-Themed
The original ads and bumpers for Adult Swim took a rather literal interpretation of its name by showing elderly people performing pool-related activities. In fact, the block’s entire brand revolved around swimming: The announcer was a lifeguard, bumper messages were presented as warning signs on a pool and press kits came in the form of towels or first-aid kits. Eventually, they sorta forgot about that and just went with white words on a black background as the brand identity.
‘The Venture Bros.’ Was Rejected by Comedy Central... Twice
The Venture Bros. creator Jackson Publick offered the show to Comedy Central twice, and they said “no thanks” each time. He didn't even think about pitching the show to Cartoon Network because he figured they’d tone it down so much that it’d end up being Jonny Quest with two Jonnys. That’s when a friend informed him that Cartoon Network had been “airing some pretty weird, grown-up stuff late at night,” so he figured it was worth a shot.
‘Robot Chicken’ Started on ‘Conan’ in 1999
Robot Chicken came from Seth Green being a big dork who made personalized action figures of his Buffy the Vampire Slayer castmates as Christmas gifts. This got him in touch with fellow action figure lover Matthew Senreich, with whom Green collaborated on an extremely dated short for Late Night with Conan O'Brien in which Conan’s action figure has a crush on an 18-year-old Britney Spears. Somehow, this led to a web series and 220 episodes and counting of a hit show.
Adult Swim and ‘Family Guy‘ Saved Each Other
When Family Guy reruns began airing on Adult Swim in 2003, the block only lasted three hours for five nights a week. This discarded show, which had been canceled by Fox a year earlier, boosted Adult Swim's viewership by 239 percent and “helped turn the block into a cultural phenomenon,” according to Cartoon Network’s executive vice president and general manager Jim Samples. By 2005, the block had expanded to seven hours for six nights a week, and it just kept growing from there. Giggity-giggity.
A Cartoon Network Exec Resigned Over ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’
Samples, the Family Guy-loving Cartoon Network VP and GM, probably doesn‘t feel the same way about Aqua Teen Hunger Force since he had to resign from the company over what Wikipedia has dubbed the 2007 Boston Mooninite panic (in which promotional ATHF placards were mistaken for bombs). At least the two artists arrested for placing the devices respected the gravity of the situation by calling a press conference to talk about “hair cuts in the 1970s.”
‘Childrens Hospital’ Was Shot in the Same Hospital as ‘Scrubs’
Childrens Hospital was partly shot at North Hollywood Medical Center, which means it shared a main location with one of the shows it satirized, Scrubs, plus stuff like Six Feet Under and Jet Li’s The One. That would have been an interesting crossover, but sadly the place was demolished in 2011.
John C. Reilly Doesn’t Like to Talk About Dr. Steve Brule
Reilly, star of Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Adult Swim's Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, prefers not to say much about his greatest role (the latter, obviously) because “I think of him as real” and “some things are just better left mysterious.” The first time he played Dr. Brule, he just put on the costume and “started channeling that guy,” not really knowing “where he came from.” Turns out he’s just as baffled by the character as his guests on the show (which, yes, are real and apparently never watched Boogie Nights).
Eric Andre Marathoned ‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast’ Before Making His Show
If that fan-made The Eric Andre Show/Space Ghost Coast to Coast mashup above makes a little too much sense, that‘s because the former was actually inspired by the latter (along with other influences like The Tom Green Show, Da Ali G Show and Martin Short‘s Jiminy Glick). Andre, a long-time fan, has said that he tried to “absorb as much Space Ghost as I could” before shooting and also tried to pick Lazzo’s brain about the show, only to have his heart broken when Lazzo “couldn't give a #$%@ about it.” “Space Ghost? Space Ghost is dead to me,” Lazzo reportedly told him. Cold.
Lazzo Got Into a Reddit Fight With David Cross Over Adult Swim’s ‘Infomercials’
When Too Many Cooks, a bizarre 11-minute sitcom intro aired at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday, unexpectedly became a cultural phenomenon, David Cross accused Lazzo of stealing the idea of surreal early-morning programming from him via a Reddit AMA. Why? Because in 2009, Cross and Bob's Burgers’ H. Jon Benjamin made a fake infomercial titled “Paid Programming” or “Icelandic UltraBlue” that kicked off Adult Swim’s loose Infomercials series, but they were only involved with the first one. Lazzo signed up on Reddit to leave a long, profane response, leading to an even longer reply from Cross and another from Lazzo. We’re assuming they’re still going at it over private messages.
One Adult Swim Show Reportedly Had ‘Coded Swastikas’ in It
The short-lived Million Dollar Extreme: World Peace (2016) raised internal controversy at Adult Swim due to its creators’ links to the alt-right, The Daily Stormer and terrible people in general. According to a source speaking to BuzzFeed News, the network had repeatedly found and removed “coded racist messages, including swastikas.” But hey, those intros looked pretty cool! (Hopefully, we’re not embedding coded quotes from Mein Kampf here.)
Twitter Personality dril Had a Live Show on AdultSwim.com
If you never bothered watching Adult Swim’s web-exclusive live-streaming shows, you missed at least one gem: Truthpoint: Darkweb Rising (2019-2020), starring Twitter’s dril and Derek Estevez-Olsen, which was like Alex Jones’ InfoWars if it was 5,000 percent more honest and coherent. So yes, it was pretty nonsensical, but dril’s heartfelt tribute to his dogs is a great moment in the history of television (which never aired on television).
‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast’ Was All a Hallucination, Apparently
Scooby-Doo! Team-Up #40, guest-starring Space Ghost and his teen sidekicks from his original show, states that Space Ghost was once hypnotized into thinking he was a talk show host, but he “snapped out of it after eight seasons.” Space Ghost doesn’t like talking about it. Maybe it’s a John C. Reilly/Dr. Steve Brule-type situation?