Ready to get your Ugly on? Comedy Central's animated series, Ugly Americans returns tonight for its second season. The show follows Mark Lilly, a social worker of sorts, who helps integrate residents into life in New York City. These include humans and all manner of "horrifying beast, science-fiction freak, and fantasy faerie." Actor and comedian Kurt Metzger plays Mark's roommate, Randall - oh, and Randall happens to be a zombie. We chatted about the upcoming season, religion, censorship, and Liam Neeson's terrible American accent.
Tell us about Randall.
Well, he's a zombie. He's a little bit of a slob. He is the opposite of Mark, his roommate. They're like Felix and Oscar [The Odd Couple].
Well, sure, and Mark is alive and Randall is undead.
That's a very good point. See, he's the perfect foil.
What can we expect from Randall this season?
So far, my favorite episode is the one where Randall starts coaching Mark's class's football team. I get this replacement arm that is really muscular with pinpoint passing accuracy, so I start encouraging everyone to follow their dreams. Of the episodes I have seen so far, that is my absolute favorite. Then there is one where I get a car service, driving celebrities around. Christian Bale and Michael Cain, their conversation cracks me up. That Christian Bale impression, it's the kind where he tries to sound American, like Batman.
Is it that raspy, too?
Nah. But you know when a British or Australian person tries to do an American accent and it sounds too forceful? They all start to sound like Batman. But the worst of all time is Liam Neeson. That is the worst American accent I have ever heard. It's astounding. It's like, just make him an Irish character.
Will this season be more insane than last, or after doing so many episodes, does it all feel "normal?"
Well, I think these are way funnier than the last season. I mean, technically it is all part of the same season I guess, but the ones from [this batch] are the funnies ones I've seen so far. I think the show has been getting better, which makes me happy. These things take a while to develop the characters, then the writers have to figure out how to write for the characters... I think what we have going for us is that people like the characters. I'm impressed with how much better we have gotten since we first started. I mean, we've only got two seasons so far. The first three seasons of The Simpsons are unwatchable. I mean, there are a few episodes, but they don't hold up. Same thing with like the old Family Guys. There are very few that are good right out of the gate. Usually Adult Swim [shows] start off really good... but then they get not as good. But I feel like a show like ours just gets better.
Horror and comedy go very well together, and there seems to be a lot more of it nowadays. Why do you think that is?
There is a glut of vampire shit, and zombies... I remember when our show got picked up, someone - I can't remember who - said that with the economy the way it was, people like fantasy [genres] more. I think that's true. Everything is so tense and scary now, everyone wants to escape to a magical world of some kind. And because there is so much of it, there has to be some kind of deconstruction of it. Plus, you want to make jokes about scary things naturally. That's the basis of making jokes. I get into this with audiences all the time. I think I was making a joke about Penn State, and people were saying that there are some things you just don't joke about. I think that is ridiculous. The whole reason you are joking is because you are horrified by something. So anything that is scary will lend itself to being made fun of, to take the air out of it. I don't think our show is actually making fun of the horror genre. I think it is using horror to make fun of life in New York.
Do you see Ugly Americans as having a good amount of social commentary?
I guess all the monsters represent all the different kinds of people who have to live together. There is an element of truth to my character because he is me. I have moved around a lot in this city, and I've been "that roommate" a bunch. I slam-dunked the audition because it was me, and they actually changed him a little bit after [I got the role] to be me. I don't think it is any kind of heavy social commentary, but it is New York stuff that rings true. New York isn't really a P.C. town.
Did you expect Ugly Americans to be as popular and successful as it has been so far?
No. I don't expect anything that I like and want to work on to stay. I like to be professionally pleasantly surprised when I get to do a job I like.
Has there been any public backlash to the subject matter in any of the shows?
If you watched South Park [Ugly American's lead-in show] then stayed to watch us, I can't imagine you'd be angrier at us. We are on after 10pm on cable - that's the controversy-free zone, as far as I can tell. There was, when the show first came out, an article I read that was like, "Oh great, another America-bashing show." Someone thought it was about actual Americans who were ugly. I think that got cleared up pretty quick.
I find that when I am doing standup, plenty of people are offended, but it's not by the stuff you think would offend. It's always some weird thing that I never would have imagined someone would be offended by. It just hits someone personally and they get weird about it. In my experience working on TV in general, no one really has a problem with being dirty. If you are making some kind of really heavy social comment, that is what gets censored. That, and angering an advertiser. Every time I have been censored on TV, it was almost never because I said something dirty. There are certain buzz words that make people mad, and they don't want, like, Hot Pockets to pull out. I couldn't do a Haagan Dazs / Ben & Jerry's joke somewhere because it seemed derogatory to Haagan Dazs. That's the reason stuff gets censored.
Has there been anything that Comedy Central has said no to, as far as subject matter?
Not that I know, but I'm not a producer and I'm not on the writing staff. The stuff that they change that I see is like, "This doesn't make sense." I wrote for the Chappelle Show and there was a lot more stuff there that I didn't think would fly, but ended up going through.
You were raised a Jehovah's Witness, and became a minister. What made you leave for comedy?
A lot of things. The thing I realized when I was Christian - supposedly Christian - is that Jehovah's Witnesses are not out there trying to get laws changed or screw with anybody. All the stuff in the Bible that condemns gays, yeah they believe it, but they're not going to get political. They do it the Amish way, where they say "We believe this, and you guys can believe whatever you want." And I respect them on that level. The thing was that, after reading a lot, I just stopped believing that the Bible was a history book and - to a certain degree - a newspaper. Then I went to college, I had a girlfriend, and I started doing all this stuff that you weren't supposed to do. All being a Christian did for me was make me a better liar. It made me very dishonest. Not just the things that are "wrong" like "fornication," but it could also be something like reading a book that you are not supposed to read. Growing up, I was always in trouble for that because I really liked sci-fi and horror. I'm a fan now. I would have been forbidden to watch Ugly Americans just because it depicts a demon, and you are supposed to have a fear for these fictitious characters. I got in trouble [when I was a kid] because I had the Dungeons & Dragons monster compendium. I was like 11 and I got in huge trouble because [my parents thought] I could bring a demon into the house. I remember my mother, a grown adult, saying that to me, and I thought it was just insane.
All of those religious groups are smart, because there are plenty of reasonable scientific arguments not to be religious. But if you are religious, you are not going to listen to that, because it is not a threat to you. The only real threat to your made-up nonsense is other made-up nonsense. Now I indulge in this made-up nonsense, but it is enjoyable and it is not making laws to govern my life.