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Interview with Eric Kaplan

producer of Futurama and creator/exectutive producer of Zombie College

Eric has Currently written the following episodes: 'Hell is Other Robots', 'Why Must I be a Crustacean in Love?', 'A Bicyclops Built for Two', 'Parasites Lost' and 'I Dated a Robot'

reed: Hi Eric, welcome

Eric: Hi reed, hi Andie!

reed: ok, let's get started!

Eric: Sir! : )

reed: Why choose to write comedy?

Eric: Well I assume I absorbed some sort of comedic sense from my family. I wasn't actually totally committed to professional writing for quite some time. I was an English teacher in Thailand for a while and then I did five years of philosophy graduate school at Columbia and UC Berkeley. But I always enjoyed writing so I tried to get a job at The Late Show with David Letterman. That was my first t.v. writing job although I had done some magazine work. I worked on the show for a year and a half.

reed: Zombie College is quite a weird idea, how did you come up with it?

Eric: I like the idea of the human ability to get used to practically anything. That there's nothing so horrible that we can't get used to it and accept it as part of life. So for example we go around in cars which are full of burning fossils and if we make a mistake we can get killed, but we just don't think about it. Also food - people eat cows and so on. So the zombie idea is sort of a metaphor for that. Zombie College is an environment where there are undead monsters running around and trying to eat your brain but everybody is o.k. with it and they're more interested in getting good grades. Also there's a main character who loves his girlfriend so much that he's willing to risk becoming a zombie to be with her. I think that's an interesting idea - what are people willing to give up for love?

reed: How does being the boss on Z.C compare with being on a large team of writers for Futurama?

Eric: Well the biggest difference is the one you allude to - on Futurama I'm one voice among many creating a communal project. On Zombie College as far as the writing goes, I'm the only one. I don't have to run my ideas by anybody before executing them. Although in the actual creative process there is a team - most importantly John Rice who's the animation director and is extremely talented, and also the talented storyboard artists, voice-over actors and so on. Oh, and Smashing Ideas the studio.

reed: Is it harder?

Eric: I wouldn't say it's harder. It's different.

reed: Alot of the Futurama cast lend their voices to the characters on Z.C. How did this come about? Eric: Well I was familiar with their work from Futurama and cast them. Actually Zelda is played by an actress who does another animated show for Fox.

reed: Is it John DiMaggio [Bender] that voices Zeke?

Andie: I knew it sounded familiar...

Eric: Yes. It's actually pretty similar to his own voice. Mr. Dimaggio is like a giant mountain of a man - a force of nature.

reed: What's in store for the characters on Z.C this season?

Eric: Well this season we will find out how Zelda became a zombie. And we will learn how zombies are made and actually see a person being made into a zombie. Scott will continue trying to get Zelda back. There will be 10 or 11 episodes, we are figuring out how long one of the episodes is right now.

reed: Are proud of Zombie College?

Eric: I've received positive feedback from them. Actually if you do a search on yahoo there are quite a few entries. And I heard we have a picture in The New York Times today(Wednesday October 20th 2000)! I heard this from my mother. We've received a great response from the media.

Andie: Is she a big fan?

Eric: She's not 100% sure what to make of it actually. I think the word "disgusting" may have come up.

reed: Will we see more of the minor characters this season?

Eric: Yes. The rock star, who's name is Graham, figures prominently in the story as does the Naked Woman

reed: What about the Eskimo?

Eric: Not much Eskimo I'm afraid, but if you guys want him maybe for season 3. His name is Oogoongoroseok and he's an exchange student from Greenland.

reed: Will the episodes be individual or linked together like last season?

Eric: They will link together with each other and with the episodes from last season. The story just picks up from where episode 7 ended.

reed: Plenty of cliff hangers again then?

Eric: Yes sir. Really you don't understand episode 1 clearly until the end of episode 17. Things are not what they seem, I'll just say that.

reed: Tell us how you came to write for Futurama

Eric: Well I had recently quit Letterman and moved out to Hollywood to look for a job in half hour work - and when I heard that Matt Groening was doing a show in the year 3000 I was very interested and applied for work using some writing samples. After about a month of sweating it out I got the job!

reed: How much is Matt Groening involved in the actual episode to episode writing in the show?

Eric: Matt is often in the room pitching jokes, and his general sensibility guides the way decisions are made. Also he gives notes at every stage of the production from script to re-write to the final audio mix.

reed: Do the writers visit the fan sites and do you think FOX will start closing them down like the simpsons?

Eric: I don't know - Fox will tend to be upset if they make copyrighted material available and rightly so. The writers do visit the fan sites and like them a lot. Especially in the first nine months of the show before anybody had seen it it was a great morale booster to know that there were already fans out there. Everybody is very impressed by the general high level and attention the fans show.

Andie: I think fan sites give publicity to the show...

Eric: Yes that's true. From a personal point of view as a writer it's very gratifying to know that there are people out there who get it.

Andie: I don't think I would've watched futurama if I never saw it in realvideo on a site back in 1999.

Eric: Well that's an interesting observation! The fear is that people will just download the shows from the web and not watch them on TV But I guess that fear is wrong - if people like the show because of the fan site that's great...

Andie: I did a poll once to check that and 99.8% said they would watch the show.

reed: In 'A Bicyclops Built for Two' there's that amazing internet scene which one Bari Kumar an Emmy award. Being the writer of that episode, how did you feel when you heard this?

Eric: I felt great! I thought Bari did an amazing job and well deserved the recognition.

reed: Particularly in scenes like that, how closely do the writers work with the artists in visualising the scene?

Eric: It was very cool because it was creating something that really didn't exist before. Well we actually had some discussions with Rough Draft (Futurama's animation studios) about how the characters would look in their web avatars. And I stressed that it was an unreal world with a lot of very abstract visual elements like primitive video games. But stuff like the rows of identical clouds in a red sky, that was all them. It's really a dialogue.

reed: This has been bothering me for ages so I'm just going to get it over with and ask it: Please explain the two versions of the scene with Fry in the cryogenics lab. What was Nibble doing under the table in the first one?

Eric: Well if there was anybody under the table, which I don't necessarily admit to, their presence (or absence) would be something that would gradually be revealed in the course of the series. You might have to keep your eyes open for other clues and also solve the second Alien Alphabet. We will learn more in the season 3 but if I tell you it's kind of like playing tennis with the net down. What makes you think it's Nibbler?

Andie: Same shape, no doubt about it. Or a nibbler shaped plant. And why was the guy in the cryo chamber wearing glasses in the second version?

Eric: Right, but it's a 2-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional shape. And was he wearing glasses? Or were the glasses wearing him? Well I've said too much anyway!

reed: What romantic stories are in line for Fry and Leela this season, and how do you see their relationship developing?

Eric: Fry loves Leela. But Leela has mixed feelings about Fry because he's such a dope. In a couple of episodes we will see that dynamic change markedly. Let's just say there are two ways that the relative intelligence of Fry and Leela can change.

reed: We were introduced to a whole host of new characters in season 2. Can you tell us about any more in season 3?

Eric: Well there's Dwight, Hermes' son and an insane robot named Roberto. We also travel to a parallel universe where we meet the parallel universe doppelgangers of our crew. That's in 'I Dated a Robot'.

reed: Any more you can tell us about the season?

Eric: Well, Fry encounters a Tyrannosaurus Rex, gets into a fight in a deep space truck stop and destroys an entire planet!! Also, Fry and Leela journey to the world of the Internet again. (I Dated a Robot) There's also a battle in New New York between our crew and an army of robots! We'll see more of Mom and Cubert also makes a suprising discovery... Do you guys like Cubert?

Andie: No! Most people want him dead. We had a 140 post in our message board about how much people hated him :) They even thought of ways to kill him with animated gifs and everything!

Eric: Ok! Cool people, I won't write anymore Cubert episodes!

reed: Thanks for chatting Eric, it was great talking to you and I know the fans will enjoy it!

Eric: Take it easy! We're screening a colour version of one of my upcoming episodes now! Watch Zombie College!

Andie: cya!

reed: bye!



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