15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Clone High’
Following the success of adult animated series like South Park and King of the Hill, MTV picked up a little show called Clone High that would air in 2002 and piss off the entire country of India. Centered around historical figures cloned by a shadow government and sent to high school to suffer, show creators Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Bill Lawrence managed to miraculously use characters like Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc and Mahatma Gandhi and turn them into teens akin to those found in Dawson’s Creek and Beverly Hills, 90210.
The Show’s Original Website Is Still Online
Preserved by The Wayback Machine, internet folks can still click through “Ye Olde Unofficial Clone High USA Interweb Whatever” and access the olde message board, listen to the original songs and read about the producers’ high praise for Marilyn Manson.
JFK Became a TikTok Meme
The year 2020 saw the rise of the app that isn’t Vine and, with it, the return of the show’s macho clone of former President John F. Kennedy. Using the clip in which JFK shouts, “Nothing ever bad happens to the Kennedys!” TikTokers have remixed the audio of said clip, lip-synched to his musical numbers and turned the character into a khaki-wearing cosplayer.
The Show Launched Its Co-Creators’ Careers
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller credit the show with helping them as feature filmmakers. After the series, they would go on to helm The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street (and its sequel), before winning an Oscar for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Miller said that the show was basically their film school. “We learned how to edit and how to do all that cinematic stuff on the fly,” he explained to Entertainment Weekly. “We keep ripping ourselves off from stuff we learned making that show. I feel like constantly when we’re talking about things, we’ll be like, ‘Oh, we did something sort of like this in Clone High.’ It comes up all the time.”
The Writers Sometimes Worked in the Hospital Used in ‘Scrubs’
Bill Lawrence was simultaneously showrunning Scrubs at the time, so his co-creators and writers often found themselves meeting at the empty hospital used in his medical sitcom. “It was a huge empty building, so all the Clone High writers would just stay in the psych ward, which still makes us all laugh,” Lawrence has remembered. “It’s also why a lot of the Scrubs cast ended up being on the show, out of, ‘Hey, you guys are upstairs, wanna come downstairs and record this?’ It was really funny.” Zach Braff, for instance, cameoed as both X-Stream Mike and Paul Revere.
MTV Was Worried That No One Would Know Who Sigmund Freud Was
The creators explained that, of all the characters, they were most worried about their portrayal of JFK. “JFK was the one we were nervous about,” Lord has said. “Like, ‘Oh, I wonder if we’re just gonna get a knock on the door, and it’s gonna be the Secret Service, and they’re gonna tell us to quit it.’” Miller elaborated: “Or the Kennedy family’s gonna be mad at us. MTV was also really worried about the intelligence of the viewership. One episode, we had a joke with Sigmund Freud in it, and they were like, ‘Ah, you might have to explain who he is.’ It was like, ‘You guys really are expecting the worst of your audience.’”
The Direct Reference to ‘Dawson’s Creek’
The “very special episode” that saw Ponce de León (voiced by Beverly Hills, 90210 star Luke Perry) die from litter and candy was a reference to the absurd way Dawson’s Creek killed off Dawson’s dad, who met his end thanks to an ice cream cone.
The Creators Wanted to Add Another Love Interest into the Show’s Quadrangle
When asked whether they were planning to resolve the love quadrangle between Abe, Joan, Cleo and JFK, the creators said they had toyed with the idea of adding a fifth character to the messy mix. They wanted them to be an older woman, like a teacher (in the same vein as Pacey’s affair with his teacher in Dawson’s Creek), and ended up throwing around names like Susan B. Anthony and Ayn Rand.
The ‘Clone High’ References in the Creators’ Other Work
Will Forte, who plays Abe Lincoln in the show, also voices Lego Abe in The Lego Movie. Dolphin noises, a running gag in the series, show up in 22 Jump Street and most of Lord and Miller’s other work and Clone High pops up as a billboard in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
The Show Was Scrapped Because of Gandhi
Hundreds of Indian MPs and activists pledged to fast for a day in protest of the show’s depiction of Mahatma Gandhi — even though it didn’t even air in the country at the time. However, it was enough for MTV to pull the plug, as India threatened to revoke MTV’s broadcasting license in their country. The creators tried pitching solutions — either scrap the character altogether or reveal that he was actually a clone of Gary Coleman — but MTV rejected it all, and that was that.
’Say Whaaat?’ Became a Meme
The line delivery in the clip where Gandhi tries his best to impart some acting and character techniques went viral, becoming part of pop culture nerds’ lexicon and it’s been remixed to death ever since.
Chris Miller Came Up With the Idea in College
“When I was in college, I had this idea for clones that go to college together,” Miller told Grantland. “Then I graduated, and we (Miller and Lord) started working together, and we decided it’d be a high school.”
“It was right in the Dawson’s Creek era, when teen angst-y shows were a big part of the staple of television,” Lord elaborated. “And we thought they were pretty ridiculous, and so overdramatic, and the idea of combining the weird concept of people throughout history with the structure of a teen drama was a really special thing. It was chocolate and peanut butter.”
It Was Will Forte’s First Acting Job
Initially writing for The Jenny McCarthy Show and Late Show with David Letterman, Forte said that Clone High was his first acting gig and that he harbored fond memories. “This was my first acting job,” the actor has explained. “So it was a very special experience that I had back in the day. I was way more nervous than I probably should have been just because it was such a low-key job with friends.”
What the Creators Had Planned for the Show Before It Was Canceled
Lord and Miller told Film School Rejects back in 2013 that they had a total arc planned for the show. “Season One would be junior year, Season Two would be the first half of senior year, Season Three would be the second half of senior year, and at the end of Season Three, they would go through a wormhole and go back in time to repeat senior year,” Lord revealed. “And if there was a Season Five, it would be college.”
“We were gonna contrive many ways for them to stay in high school. Until they were even into their 30s,” Miller added.
The Most Animated Character on the Show
The number of drawings per episode averaged in at 14,760, and that’s not counting the more than 300 hand-painted backgrounds. Gandhi was the most animated character, as he required “twice as many storyboard poses as any other character.”
The Cliffhanger Was Planned All Along
Regarded by many as another show finale with a strange and unsatisfactory ending, it turns out the creators knew exactly what they were doing when Abe and his pals ended up getting the freeze again. “We definitely had our suspicions that we might not ever come back, and we thought it was funny that we would leave the series in suspended animation,” Lord admitted. “Maybe forever. So it was a very deliberate move.”
The co-creator also said that they played with the idea of a Jason Bourne plot — should they get a second season — with the characters suffering from amnesia and trying to figure out what happened to them inside that meat locker.