Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
The cast and creator of Adult Swim’s The Heart, She Holler gathered at New York Comic Con to discuss what it’s like to work on the most nonsensical show on television. Co-creator John Lee, known for his work on MTV’s puppet-based Wonder Showzen, led the panel, which consisted mainly of an extended question-and-answer session.
Before the panel got under way, the audience was treated to a screening of an unaired Season 2 episode in which Hurlan Heartshe (played by Patton Oswalt) attempts to find a kidney for Meemaw while the Sheriff tries to reignite his loveless marriage, with help from guest star Amy Sedaris.
Afterward Lee brought out part of the show’s cast: Heather Lawless, Jennifer Regan, Leo Fitzpatrick, Joseph Sikora, Kevin Breznahan, David Cross, Jonathan Hadry and Judith Roberts.
Lee began by asking Hadry and Roberts, the oldest panelists, how they describe the show to their friends. “It’s not stuff you watch with other people,” Hadry replied. “I have told people, you watch it home alone, you stifle your laughter and you look away. Then you look back for more. You can’t believe they’re doing what they do.”
Sikora, who plays the Sheriff, said, “When Leo comes out of the tumor, he’s all lubed up and there’s all that junk.”
Fitzpatrick, who plays the Preacher, added, “I think I took about three showers to get clean.”
Lee joked, “Well that’s not the first time you’ve been covered in lubricant.”
When no other actors volunteered to answer, Lee said, “So we can write worse stuff then? It’s good to know your standards are that high.”
Fitzpatrick countered, “What I think is really interesting is that when you read the scripts the first time, you don’t understand how you’ll be doing it. It’s so hard to envision what you’re going to put us through. I think that’s why we all agree to everything at first.”
Lee then opened up the panel to audience questions.
An excited fan asked what it was like working with Sedaris in the just-screened episode, where she plays an alternate version of Kristen Schaal’s character Hurshe Heartshe. “They’re both great, they did it totally differently,” Sikora said. “Amy’s very, very sweet.”
Lee said they wrote both versions of that character the same way, even though she was played by Schaal and Sedaris in the episode. “All these people are replaceable!” he added with a grin.
He then gave the fan a Season 2 promotional DVD, which caused about a dozen fans to immediately run to the question microphone. “Oh, yeah, now that I pass out free stuff look at them go!” Lee said. “You fucking moochers! I’m mean now, I said I’d be nice but look at you assholes!”
He added that the heavy use of prosthetics and costuming was “how we lured Amy [Sedaris] to the show. She likes teeth and dresses.”
Another fan asked where the idea originated for the Season 1 episode in which everyone has the same hallucination at once. “We just wanted them to have a collective delusion,” Lee replied. “It just came from Vernon and I staring at each other, and I guess we want to be little girls.”
Asked how he pitches “bat-shit crazy” shows like The Heart, She Holler, Lee said, “No one ever approaches us. For this particular show, we just drew a picture. It was this family tree, all the different families. There’s really strange backstories to all the families we’ve done. There’s these four family trees and they’re all based on different philosophers, actual philosophers, and we wanted to create a new philosophy, the Heartshe philosophy. We drew these four trees and they all begun to intertwine. We sent that to Lazlo, and if you get something like that, you’re gonna call back. At least I would.”
He told a Wonder Showzen fan that, unfortunately, those puppets can’t make an appearance on The Heart, She Holler because of legal issues with MTV. “We have the puppets, though,” Lee said. “They’re in some sort of storage box, suffocating.”
Cross was asked how he keeps getting involved in projects like The Heart, She Holler Mr. Show and Men in Black 2. “Yeah, those three are wildly similar. It’s just part of my community service for my attempted arson,” he replied. “No, I love these guys and everything they do. … They just asked if I had the time and inclination, and so I did it. It’s not the most pleasant working experience. We’re in this shitty, acrid, dusty, dank, moldy soundstage.”
Lee said they film in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and “when lunch is called there’s nowhere to go. You’ll get knifed. So everyone just tends to stay in the squalor that is the set.”
Cross added, “There’s one place and it’s called You’ll Get Knifed.”
Asked whether it was harder to plot the show or come up with the wordplay, Lee said, “The plot is much more difficult. We spend most of the time trying to figure out the logic. It’s crazily tight logic. You can’t write to jokes, you gotta write the jokes to the story.”