Once upon a time, a young man from an almond orchard in Manteca, California named Justin Roiland moved to Los Angeles to follow his dream of making it on the small screen. After serving in producer roles on a handful of ABC and Comedy Central shows, he began to work for Channel 101 – a weekly non-profit monthly short film festival – in 2004. While working as a director, producer, writer, and actor for the organization, Roiland formed a friendship with one of its cofounders, Dan Harmon. From that point, the two worked together on several projects for the festivals, such as Roiland’s creation, House of Cosbys, a series which lasted four episodes before Channel 101 received a cease and desist letter from a certain comedian. Eventually, Roiland started landing voice acting jobs for popular animated series, such as Gravity Falls, Adventure Time, and Fish Hooks, the latter of which he also worked for as a writer. Meanwhile, Harmon found his own success as the creator of the hit sitcom, Community. With all this experience under their belts, the two talented showrunners pitched an idea for a series for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block. It was based on one of Roiland’s Channel 101 series, The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, which feature two characters that were parody versions of the two protagonists from the Back to the Future film trilogy. However, for obvious copyright reasons, they could not use those names. Thus, Rick and Morty was born, and the world would never be the same.
As it enters its third season some time, Rick and Morty has consistently impressed fans of comedy and animation alike. The show follows the titular pair, both of whom are voiced by Roiland; Rick Sanchez, a brilliant yet sociopathic scientist enlists the help of his well-meaning but naïve grandson, Morty Smith to assist him in his outrageous adventures, leading the two through outer space, alternate dimensions, and so on. Most episodes center around lampooning science fiction, whether it be tropes of the genre like love potions, microverses, and hiveminds, or specific films, such as Jurassic Park, Inception, and The Purge. The writing staff on the show does a fantastic job of taking these basic premises and bringing them to such ridiculous extremes, resulting in some of the best humor on television today. Also adding to the hilarity is the tremendously talented cast. Unlike most shows – especially animated ones – Rick and Morty implements a method known as “retroscripting.” What that means is, rather than having a script of set lines, the director tells the voice actors what happens in the scene, and they improvise what the characters say. While this could turn out to be disastrous in less suitable hands, the show greatly benefits from its performers’ inherent comedic abilities. In addition to all this, Rick and Morty manages to delve into philosophy with surprising competence. In between all of the insanity and mayhem, there is a show that gives very interesting musings about the nature of free will and existentialism.
Rick and Morty has quickly become one of the most successful adult animated cartoons of all time. Not even three seasons in, it is already being mentioned in the same breath as shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park. Adult Swim knows that they have hit something special with this series. On their YouTube channel, there is a video of Roiland using his voices for Rick and Morty to recite the transcript from State of Georgia v. Denver Fenton Allen, a case that saw a judge get into a lewd argument with a defendant. The result was utterly hysterical, and is just an example of how much talent is on display for the show. Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have created some of the best television in the past decade, and are as dynamic a duo as their creation.