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Rick and Morty returns for another season of mayhem

 It’s animated, but it’s definitely not for kids. Fans have been waiting a long time, and now the fourth season of Rick and Morty is here, streaming first on Showmax in SA. 

The Emmy-Award winning half-hour show follows a sociopathic genius scientist, Rick, who drags his inherently timid grandson, Morty, on insanely dangerous adventures across the universe.

We sat down with creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon to talk about the fourth season, as well as the buzz around the series as a whole. 

Will there be as long a break between seasons four and five?

DH: I think it’s safe to say that the gap between seasons three and four will be the longest and last time it takes so long that it’s ridiculous. There are so many things that had to be settled before we even started season four and we’re literally writing season five while finishing season four, forcing ourselves to commit to a schedule.

Not to get anyone’s hopes up, but it’s structured into our deal that if we’re going strong, there are options to deliver more episodes at a time. Adult Swim can say, “These are on time and great. Do you want to do more instead of taking a break?” And we can do more. I’d like to see that day. Just knowing it’s possible makes me eager for it.

How did it feel when you made the deal to create 70 more episodes of Rick and Morty?

JR: There’s a lot of stories we want to tell, a lot to do, so it’s great. Job security does not come easy in this town.

DH: It felt like permission to ask for a lot of money and actual permission to quit all my other jobs. It has been my fantasy for twenty years to just have a regular job. 

Do you think you’ll want to end the show at 70 episodes?

JR: It’s way too early to say. On any given day you’ll feel like Rick and Morty can go for 20, 30 seasons. We have characters that don’t really age; it’s very Simpsons-esque.  

DH: Sure, I’ll end it! But I don’t know that would be on 70 episodes. I would be unequally surprised if you told me that this goes for 20 years. If it still feels right, we’ll do it.

How has season four gone in terms of the creative process?

DH: Every single season there’s a little bit of anxiety: Now what’s our definition of having fun and being good? Are we going to continue to be difficult on ourselves because that seems to be an ingredient in the quality? It’s our job to relax and be happy because that’s another huge ingredient.

It’s always going to be there, thinking too much about the audience when you should be thinking about yourself, because that’s how you’ll please the audience. I think that happens on every show, but it’s weird when your job is to continue churning out something that you are proud of for its scarcity. Every season you feel like your job is never the same. 

JR: I think every season is a different process. We want every episode to be good. There are times we’re like, “Okay this episode will be the worst of the season,” and we’re still compelled to do everything in our power to fix what is wrong with it. It could be considered one of the reasons the show takes so long.

When we get the episodes back in colour, it’s easy to see that if we cut this and add that, it will elevate the episode significantly.. Sometimes we get episodes back and are like, “We need to roll up our sleeves and figure this out.” This season however has been good.. 

How do you approach writing a new episode?

JR: Dan does a pass on every script. We have an amazing writer’s room. We break stories together, then Dan and I sit in the edit bay for every thumbnail animatic in colour and we kind of do a pass in there that’s more of a looser version of a pass. In some cases, it’s like, “Oh, we could beat this joke” and then we just riff in the room.

I think that process allows us to refine, and refine, and refine for better. Some episodes are good to go. ‘Pickle Rick’ was one that just flew through production and there’s other episodes like ‘Froopyland’ with Beth and Rick, and that one was one that we were rewriting and editing a bunch of work in colour.    

Are there any guest star voices you can reveal for this season?

JR: We’ve got Paul Giamatti, who does a voice in a crazy train episode. We have Sam Neill, Kathleen Turner, Matthew Broderick, Liam Cunningham from Game of Thrones, and Taika Waititi does a voice. Sam Neill is from the same species as Taika’s character and we wanted a Kiwi flavour for their species. 

Did anything come from the offer to turn over an episode to Kanye West?

JR: We’re trying to schedule something. It’s not going to be for this batch coming up, but we love the idea of doing something with Kanye. It’s a discussion of what exactly that is, and then sitting down and talking with him. He had to reschedule, then we had to reschedule. We need to sit down and chat about it but it’s a very sincere and legitimate offer.

Which Rick and Morty reference are you most sick of hearing?

JR: It would be the “wubba lubba dub dub” catchphrase. Only because we were making fun of the idea of stupid catchphrases. At first it wasn’t all that and it was funny because it was a dumb catchphrase, and then we subverted it by making it mean something really depressing.

The hardcore fans get the irony behind it, but I think some fans maybe don’t? I don’t want to bum anybody out. I don’t want somebody to be like, “I love that!” and then read that Justin hates it. I don’t hate it.

DH: It always bums me out when somebody uses a meme of a quote from the show and it’s being used by somebody who isn’t the greatest specimen. I hate it when a line from our show is being used by the meanest person in a conversation online but, it is what it is. It’s a popular show.  

What’s been the most surreal proof of Rick and Morty’s popularity?

JR: For me it’s always Comic-Con and how many people show up for the panel. I think the whole Szechuan sauce thing.. Aside from it being a weird bit of a bummer for everybody, it was also an insane thing we never predicted. That a joke in our show would have caused a giant multibillion-dollar corporation to bring back a sauce they used to serve in the late ‘90s. 

DH: On a bittersweet note, it was amazing when Anthony Bourdain tweeted, “Rick and Morty is everything.” It’s incredible that the guy, famous for “Let me take you under this bridge to an amazing crab shack that has the best butter,” thought about our show. It’s sad that he’s no longer with us, but that was a huge thing for me. 

You rolled out a clip from an episode at San Diego Comic-Con, what was it about?

JR: We showed an animatic for the ‘Space Snakes’ episode, which is a season four episode. And then we also showed a little animation introducing Glootie, a character who is in one episode voiced by Taika Waititi. They made Funko POPs of them that came out like a couple days ago, so people are like, “Who the hell is this character?” And Glootie has ‘Do not develop my app’ tattooed on his forehead. Rick literally tattooed this on his forehead because he really wants to develop an app so bad. Of course, Jerry gets sucked into it after being explicitly warned by Rick to not develop his app. 

DH: But the number-one rule of app development: don’t follow the rules.  

Catch up on Seasons 1-3 and watch Season 4 on Showmax. New episodes drop every Monday express from the US from 18 November 2019. 

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This article was published in partnership with Showmax.

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Rick and Morty returns for another season of mayhem