HBO’s new animated comedy, Animals, features a lot of your favorite comedians doing truly ridiculous things. For instance, Adam Scott and Molly Shannon having fowl sex. And no, that’s not spelled incorrectly, because in the scene in question, each is playing a particular water-based bird. In fact, everyone’s playing animals (as if you couldn’t guess from the title of the show itself), but therein lies the lynchpin in a series as absurd as this. If it’s not ridiculous, weird, and/or unsettling, it’s not doing its job. Because animals-as-human proxies should be one thing if nothing else: earnestly awkward outsiders.
So we chatted with the series’ creators about the hilarious cast, what recording sessions with a bunch of improvisers are like, Zach Woods‘ impressive knowledge of trees, and the aforementioned Parks and Recreation star’s aptitude for sex honking. Please note: there are minor spoilers about the series involved.
The show has managed to amass quite the impressive voice cast—a mind-boggling smorgasbord of incredibly hilarious people like Mark and Jay Duplass, Lauren Lapkus, Jon Lovitz, Wanda Sykes, musician Kurt Vile, Aziz Ansari, Eric André, Scott Aukerman, Ike Barinholtz, Rob Corddry, Nathan Fielder, Nick Kroll, Joe Mande, Jason Mantzoukas, Justin Roiland, Paul Scheer, the aforementioned Scott and Shannon, Matt Walsh, Zach Woods, Steve Zissis, Amir Blumenfeld and Jake Hurwitz, Nicole Byer, Pete Holmes, Mitchell Hurwitz, Thomas Lennon, Gabe Liedman, Melanie Lynskey, Marc Maron, Danny McBride, Kumail Nanjiani, Lennon Parham, Horatio Sanz, Ben Schwartz, Jenny Slate, Jessica St. Clair, Casey Wilson, and Ali Wong—just to name a few. (Seriously.)
But that’s made all-the-more special given that the sessions were—contrary to many others typical voice actor set ups—done all together. “If it’s a scene of for people, there are four actors in the room, and Phil and myself are not behind some glass wall: we’re sitting in the room with the actors as well, laughing along,” explained Luciano. “More times than not—and pretty much across the board—we’d finish the sessions and the actors would say, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never done that before. I’ve never sat and just got to improvise with other people doing voice-over work.’ That’s blown our minds that that hasn’t happened, or that’s the case.”
While a lot of the show begins with co-creator Phil Matarese “and [co-creator Mike Luciano] fucking around and talking to each other and transposing it into these animals,” there’s a necessity in their storytelling for it to come from that non-human point of view. “The benefit the animals gives us is we can turn up how naïve they are about the world and really get a clear-cut view on how something brand new to existence would view something like gender, or death, friendship, trust, lying, and stuff like that. We can really make them not know a lot of these and learn those things, but in the same token we can have them be almost superhuman, meaning very human, and just tell a funny, silly story about a rat getting a boner.”
And rat boners are just the beginning (she wrote, in earnest). Throughout the several episodes we were able to preview prior to our conversation, sex and sexuality plays a major role in the relationships of the animals. Probably because, well, sex does play a big part in how people navigate their own understanding of relationships and social interactions.
“The rats are like us in our teens and 20s and going to parties and that kind of thing,” explained Luciano. “Then the pigeons are us when we’re in our 30s and I’m married and Phil is like the weird uncle friend … and the squirrels, we’re little kids.”
One episode in particular that really plays into this involves Shannon and Scott, ahem, going to town in a swan nightclub only to have Scott—a goose masquerading as a black swan—shunned after his true identity’s revealed.
“That sex scene was intense,” explained Luciano. “A lot of these recording sessions took place in one of our bedrooms in an apartment in Los Feliz…It was our makeshift recording booth. Adam Scott and Molly Shannon came over and we acted out the whole thing, and then we eventually got to the part where it was, ‘Okay, you guys are going to have very passionate sex right now. Adam, when you cum, you’re going to honk. Just go ahead and let her rip.'”
Added Matarese, “They were all, ‘You need us to do it again?’ and we were all, ‘Nope! I think we got it.'”
“‘That’s good! I think I hear my neighbor knocking on the door,'” interjected Luciano before adding that it “was one incredible take and [Scott] is really good at fucking honking.”
But that wasn’t the only thing the duo learned during their recording sessions, though. “Zach Woods knows a lot about trees,” said Matarese. He just dropped all this entomology [and] proper terms about trees and shit. It was fucking bonkers.”
Animals premieres Friday, February 5 at 11:30pm on HBO.
Image Credit: HBO
Alicia Lutes is the Managing Editor of Nerdist Industries. If she were an animal she would definitely be a sarcastic fringehead—which is a totally real animal LOOK IT UP—and would 100% voice one if asked. Find her on Twitter (@alicialutes).