Jeff & Some Aliens Interview

The first episode of JEFF AND SOME ALIENS, a spin-off of the animated show TRIPTANK, debuts next Wednesday on Comedy Central. After reviewing JEFF AND SOME ALIENS (which you can read here). ComicsVerse recently sat down with the creators of the show, Sean Donnelly (Writer, Actor, Stand-up Comedian) and Alessandro Minoli (Writer, Actor, Voice Over Artist) to learn a little bit more about it.

Comicsverse: Can you guys describe how JEFF AND SOME ALIENS was picked to be spun off from the show where it originally debuted, Comedy Central’s Triptank?

Alessandro Minoli: It wasn’t like we were all together making TRIPTANK, we sort of made our own things on TRIPTANK and they just housed a bunch of different stuff made by different people. Part of the reason is because we originally had conceived JEFF AND SOME ALIENS as a full show. We then pitched it to TRIPTANK and were making these shorts in hopes of always making JEFF AND SOME ALIENS a full show, as a lot of the sketches on TRIPTANK were made more as sketches and they weren’t necessarily thought of as a full show.

Sean Donelly: We were just happy they were like “you guys want to make this a show” and of course we said yes.

AM: Yeah, It wasn’t like they just said, “Do you want to make this a show,” and we were like “Please make this a show.” We pitched it like a million times and made a bible, and then making after, like, nine shorts we essentially wore them down and they let us do it.

SD: We pitched it as a full-length show even before it got (on TRIPTANK) as a short. It was kind of a soft pitch. We realized cause after we pitched it they said, “this is great, when you guys come in for the real pitch this will be great”. So we learned what a real pitch entails and in our case, it was developing a world over the course of a bunch of shorts, which was a great fun way to fill it out.

Jeff and Some Aliens Interview

CV: Looking at the cast for this upcoming season, it’s pretty obvious you guys have a very talented and diverse group of voice over artists. Have any of them helped mold the characters in a way you didn’t see coming?

SD: Well, I know Bret (Gelman) would like to hear this. He is just so talented and able to infuse Jeff with so much life that we get inspired by that, so we can just hear his voice in what we write. Richard Kind (Jeff’s dad) has one of those voices that once you start writing a line for him, it just comes to life in your head.

AM: Yeah, one of the first times we started recording, Richard called Jeff “honey,” and we started using that in the scripts, so the actors definitely add a lot to the characters and inform who they are and how they will talk.

SD: And the best actors riff. You can really tell actors who will say “let me try this again” and will have a certain take on it. Josh Fadem is a guy we bring in for a lot of stuff, and we give him lines for small characters, and he’ll take it and make it funny by adding a whole new angle on it.

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CV: In terms of writing, has the show taken any interesting twists that you did not foresee when you started or do any episodes in particular stand out as being something that ended in a way that you did not think it would when you began writing for that episode?

SD: I guess in a way almost all of them. The amount of content for this first season was mind blowing for us to wrap our heads around for awhile cause it’s ten full episodes, and the pace of the shorts, a lot of those, there’s a lot of story in two or three minutes. So to fill 21 min we had to go to every possible place we could think of.

AM: Apart from the types of stories we ended up telling and exploring, for example, what Jeff’s niece’s world is like and there is also the relationship between Jeff and the Aliens.  Which, in the shorts, we really didn’t have time to explore. We began thinking what would their habits be like and how would they get on each other’s nerves as roommates, so that opened up a whole series of directions.

CV: Are there going to be any episodes that focus mainly on the Aliens?

SD: Well, if you stick around, we do go to their home planet and get to see where they are coming from. We use the Aliens as a tool a lot to explain the human problems of Jeff and his world. Seeing it through their eyes helps, cause they don’t understand our world. We haven’t done as many episodes yet focusing mostly on their problems, but we are doing it more as we go through the seasons.

Jeff and Some Aliens Interview

Is there any particular aspect of the show you are excited to explore more of now that you have half an hour?

SD: I think basically being able to explore anything, because it’s pretty hard to explore anything in five minutes. You kind of have to structure them around all a joke or a twist or a crazy ending and try to keep people’s attention, but when you have 20 min, you have to have a meatier story that holds it all together. So I think that has been exciting and fun to follow these stories through and tell tales of the human condition in all shapes and forms. And the Alien condition.

AM: Yeah we had one story that we originally thought of as a full-length episode, that we were considering as a short, which was the episode called Energy Trader. The Aliens give Jeff a machine where he is able to exchange his life energy for material goods and that helps him with his simple problems in life, but obviously, creates new ones as he misuses it. We tried cramming that into a short and it was like “Ah man, we could cram this into a short, but there is so much to explore here, and it would be fun to just keep following down this path and see where this leads,” and it was just awesome to get the chance to do that with that episode.

CV: Alessandro, you do the voices for Jimmy, Ted, and Sammy (The three Aliens). They all have very different voices. Can you describe the process of doing their lines? Do you do one take or multiple?

AM: Well, it’s good to have a lot of honey on hand. Sammy’s voice–and this choice was made back when we were just doing shorts–I was like “Yeah, I’ll just do the gruffest voice imaginable,” and it definitely takes a toll in the booth, but then I slowly figured out ways to make it easier to do. But yeah, I usually just do one character at a time. I’ll do the whole episode and go back. I start with Jimmy because he is the first to blow out on if I go to hard. Jimmy is the high pitched Alien and then I’ll end with Sammy.

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CV: Do either of you have any favorite supporting characters right now?

SD: I’m a big fan of Malcolm Mcdowell as the Galactic Council Leader but the truth is, it’s hard to pick favorites because of all the great people we have.

AM: Yeah, there were a lot of people as one-off guest stars that we liked a lot, that we were like “Hey maybe we can find a way to bring them back,”. Like Christian Slater’s character and Keegan Micheal Key.

SD: Oh man, yeah, he came in and just killed it.

AM: Yeah, he plays Jeff’s friend so hopefully, he will be back. So yeah, as you build up this arsenal; now we have the voice, the character, and the character files so everything is ready to go. It’s fun to have all of these pieces to work with, to smash up some new stories. It’s fun because it’s a good mix. When you make a show like this we can reach out the actors we look up to and don’t know at all, but we also bring in people that we’ve worked with in the past that might not be as well known that we like a lot. So I think we have a good mix of those people. Josh Fadem, Katie Crown are people we’ve worked with before and they came in and added a lot to the show, but then yeah, we got Alicia Silverstone and Ke$ha and Christian Slater.

SD: Yeah our casting director Ivy does a great job on that front, she just kind of like is always ” how about this person for this” and we’re always like “Yeah! cool, we never would have thought of that.”

AM: We try to keep a diverse cast, like it’s not all stand-up comedians or all UCB people. We go all over the map with the people that we have, right?

SD: Yeah, we are always trying to get the most serious actors we can get, and I think we’ve found that.

Jeff and Some Aliens Interview

CV: So there seems to be a phrase that kept coming up in researching for this interview which was “They canceled Futurama for this?” But do you feel any of that pressure to live up to Futurama? Do you welcome it? Is it even something you think about when you’re writing?

SD: I think that was more of a comment to every time one of us would look at a new show that came out, didn’t matter what is was, it’d be like “they canceled that for this?”. Futurama was the classic example of the one you’d see, not just animated shows. It would be anything on FOX or Comedy Central you know, so it’s just that attitude of you know when something new comes people are always like “Oh the old show was so much better than this.” So in terms of pressure I mean, we are just hoping people will watch it.

AM: So the truth is I think, both of us were huge Simpsons fans. I don’t know if either of us ever really got into Futurama. I didn’t watch it. Nothing against it, just never really found the time or watched it so it wasn’t really an issue. We had a writer in our writer’s room who would be like “Oh there was a Futurama episode where this happened” and we’d be like “Oh yea? we’ll look into it” but besides that it wasn’t something we thought of too often. I’d say the pressure wasn’t from one show in particular, the pressure is just to make a good show which is harder than anything.

SD: Hardest thing in the world

AM: You write a draft, which takes a lot of work. You’re tired and you’re like “yeah this is no good” so it can be so demoralizing sometimes. So I think there is definitely pressure from that sense and you have executives who are like “Guys this isn’t that good yet” and we’re like “We know”.

SD: Actually, that was kind of cool to come through the hardest parts and be like “alright now we know how everything works” and we got a lot of support on that end.

AM: Sure, it definitely feels good to go from something that doesn’t work at all, then have people be positive and say “yeah it’s working”. You feel like you cracked a tough nut, you know, and then you do it over and over again like ten times.

SD: But to answer your question, no, no pressure at all.

JEFF AND SOME ALIENS debuts on Comedy Central  January 11th at 10:30 pm, after the season premiere of Workaholics.

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