Cyanide & Happiness at MCM London Comic Con
Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 23rd of May 2015
Ribs were tickled, bellies were busted and chortles were had on the Vidfest stage in the Cyanide & Happiness Panel featuring co-creator, writer, actor, animator and producer Rob Denbleyker. The panel took its audience through the growth of the hugely popular web comics, from stick figures to animated shorts, showing exclusive clips from their video vault and a few fan favourites to top it off. Their YouTube channel houses over 120 videos and has gathered an incredible following, with over 4 million subscribers. During the panel, Rob revealed the origins of Depressing Comic Week, his animated inspirations and the rewards of collaborating.
The panel began by showcasing one of the first Cyanide & Happiness video shorts, ‘The Sign’, a simple animation with a kicker of a punch line (sorry), following it up with one a clip from one of their latest efforts, the slickly-animated and completely hilarious Cyanide & Happiness Show. He explained the steps the Explosm team took to make their show a reality, starting from how they made their entry into the world of animation.
“We have actually been animators since way before the comic even started. When I was 14, i ‘borrowed’ a copy of flash from the Internet and taught myself how to animate some Newgrounds stuff. It’s actually where a lot of these guys started like Eddsworld and TomSka. It was a little hotbed of creativity where you post your first shitty animation and people would tell you you sucked and you made another one and you got better and better.”
After posting their first few Cyanide & Happiness shorts in 2007, they decided to seek help with production. “Around 2010 we decided that we were being held back by making these ourselves… We collaborated for the first time and made a sequence of shorts including Beer Run.” The YouTube channel began to take off, jumping to 600,000 subscribers and there was some interest in making a Cyanide & Happiness TV show. After about a year and a half of discussions with two prospective producers of the show, the team decided to go a different way, as “any contract they showed us involved us giving up all of our rights, so we’re were like, ‘screw that – we already have a fanbase online!’ At the same time, Kickstarter was becoming a thing, so we decided to go that way instead.”
The generosity of the Cyanide & Happiness community came through, and the Kickstarter target of $250,000 was exceeded. Instead of the proposed 8 episodes of The Cyanide & Happiness Show, the team ended up making 11, as well as an entire year of video shorts in the lead-up with the Explosm team having full creative control. Watching these videos is enough to convince anyone that the investment was worth it, and Cyanide & Happiness regularly produce some of the funniest and most original videos you can find online.
Following the presentation, Rob opened up the floor for a Q&A. Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:
Guest: How long does it take you to think of these ideas?
Rob: Most ideas just come from hanging out with friends…It’s very collaborative, especially the comics.
Guest: Who came up with the baby in the trunk sketch?
Rob: That was Kris. We almost didn’t made it because we were trying to figure out a good way to end it, but when we came up with the ending, it was the finisher we needed.
Guest: How do you know which ideas will work?
Rob: I think it’s something we’ve gotten better at over the years. I think the key is collaboration: when you’re in a group of 5 people and they have the same sense of humour, you can trust your sense of humour if it makes the room laugh.
Guest: Do you have any advice for anybody who wants to do something similar?
Rob: Just do it. The tools are available and it’s becoming cheaper and cheaper. All you need is Flash and YouTube… If you enjoy something just do it, don’t worry about the business, just worry about making it funny or moving or something you genuinely are interested in.
Guest: Is there a future for Ted Bear?
Rob: There is a Ted Bear 3 in the works. I just started writing it.
Guest: What was the story with The Depressing Episode?
Rob: It started out as Depressing Comic Week in 2006… I sent this comic to Dave. I wasn’t sure about it so asked him, and he said it was a good comic, but it was more depressing than funny. I said, ‘Hey, we should do a whole week of depressing comics!’ And he said, ‘That’s a terrible idea, let’s do it!’ And there’s been a Depressing Comic Week ever since. There’s also a Depressing Comic Book now. The episode was a special.
Guest: How long did it take to make the Lunk episode?
Rob: About 5 months. That was one of our longest ones. The Lunk one began as a sketch. Kris drew the most ridiculous messed up version of Link and he just titled it Lunk.
Guest: Will you ever make a full-length feature?
Rob: We have an idea for a musical, but it’s a bit too much for us just yet…
You can meet Rob Denbleyker at the Cyanide & Happiness stall (number P3), stock up on Explosm goodies and commission a sketch of your own this weekend, only at MCM London Comic Con.