Like most good things in life, “Final Deployment 4: Queen Battle Walkthrough” started in an Indian buffet restaurant.
That’s where Adult Swim’s Casper Kelly and Nick Gibbons hatched the idea for their new short film over dinner. “We were sitting across from each other, looking lovingly in each other’s eyes,” Gibbons joked. “And this came out of that. We just started spitballing ideas.”
For Kelly, it’s the follow-up to his viral hit “Too Many Cooks,” a hilarious and bizarre spoof of ’80s sitcoms that starts with a fake show’s opening credits and then spins out of control for 11 insane minutes. Kelly and Gibbons’ latest late-night masterpiece, “Final Deployment 4” (even the title is funny), is an parody of YouTube and Twitch video game walkthroughs. But the game “Blair Trigger” is playing is definitely not your average shooter, and like “Too Many Cooks,” there are several surreal twists in store. In case you missed it…
A day after “Final Deployment 4”s online premiere, I spoke on the phone with Kelly and Gibbons, both self-professed gamers, about the origins of their new short, learned how their trippy short nearly broke a computer, and found out if we might ever see a feature film from these guys. (SPOILER ALERT: One is in the works.)
“Too Many Cooks” debuted in the fall of 2014. How much of the interim was spent working on “Final Deployment 4”?
Casper Kelly: A year and a half.
Nick Gibbons: It’s probably over a year and a half, but I don’t like saying that, cause that seems like way too long. But yeah, we’re sticking with a year and a half.
You made “Too Many Cooks” for late-night television but then it became a huge viral hit online. I was wondering if that factored into the decision to make a spoof of video game walkthroughs at all. Gaming videos are a perfect target for a viral video, because it’s going to live online, side-by-side with the thing you’re poking fun at.
CK: I wish that we were that smart in terms of marketing. It was more about the idea of our relationship to games and that world. That’s very smart, in a marketing sense. What you’re saying is it’ll live well as a YouTube video. We weren’t thinking about that.
NG: We didn’t go in with the mindset of “How do we make this live virally better online?” There’s so many genres to play with in this particular realm that that’s what drew us to it. We kept thinking of all these different games and game styles. It’s a very fertile world to play around in.
CK: Are you a gamer, Matt?
I definitely play video games. I’ve watched a few video game walkthrough videos. But I have two young kids now, so I don’t have time to play as many games as I would like.
CK: I love movies. Movies are my favorite. But when you get addicted to a video game … anyone who games tells a story of when they start playing at 10 at night and then they look up and it’s 6AM. There’s something so completely engulfing about it. It completely transports you from your own life’s worries. That’s something in this piece also.
How did you know how many layers of walkthrough was the right amount? Too few and it’s probably not as funny, too many and the audience might lose their minds.
NG: When we started conceptualizing the script, I was like “Let’s keep pulling out.” And Casper was like “Let’s push in.” That’s what really makes this special. It’s easy to keep pulling out of something.
At some point, we wanted it to be a cyclical thing, so we had to limit the amount of layers to a certain degree so that it wouldn’t get too confusing for an audience member. I think we hit upon the right amount as far as that was concerned. We talked about other games that we wanted to make fun or play with; there’s so many out there. I think we landed on just the right amount.
CK: It’s also kind of intuitive. For a while we thought we had too many layers as it was. But then we ended up liking it.
Making things for very-late-night television, I’m wondering about the rules in terms of content. Are there network notes about things you can say or show? Did you have to censor anything?
CK: Just your basic TV-MA guidelines. There was one line that Moonshaft says that we had to change. When he says “You haters out there can kiss my square ass!” It used to be something else, and we had to change that.
NG: Yeah. You can use the word we used in different contexts, but the way we used it they were like “You can’t use that word in that context.” We had to switch that up a bit. And the title screen for the Boobfart game was a little different, and we got a little pushback and we had to change that. Obviously some words we can’t say.
CK: Truthfully, I don’t feel that’s where comedy is now. Compared to the National Lampoon days, where pushing the bounds of taste were new and exciting, now with the internet where you can have everything I don’t think that’s as much where comedy is.
I’m curious what you make of video game walkthroughs as a genre, for lack of a better term. Why do people like watching people play video games? Not just help playing games, but as entertainment unto themselves.
CK: Nick and I usually watch them when we’re stuck on something. But you’re right; our children watch them for pure entertainment, even about games they’ll never play.
NG: I have friends who are not gamers who watch them sometimes, which is strange to me.
As a gamer, it’s kind of relaxing to watch someone else playing, because sometimes it’s so frustrating to play it yourself. You’re watching someone else who good at it skirt through it. It’s kind of like sports. People who aren’t good at basketball like to watch professional basketball games.
Almost like you’re relieving some tension watching it because they’re so good and it’s so easy to them. Interesting. I hadn’t thought about that.
CK: Our boss [Adult Swim executive vice president] Mike Lazzo watches this Twitch livestream of — I can’t remember if it’s PUBG or Fortnite — and he follows this particular team that are amazingly good. They just slaughter everyone. And he does that every night. He went to Scotland on a golfing trip, and figured out how to beam it to his TV so he could watch it on the TV in Scotland. Because he has to watch it!
I did spot a “This is a poor man’s ‘Too Many Cooks’” in the comments section of the Blair Trigger YouTube channel. Are there other Easter eggs in there I missed?
CK: Yes, but I don’t think we should tell you.
But there are more? I should keep looking?
NG: There’s a … yeah, I won’t give it away.
CK: Like a walkthrough, you can wait until someone else finds it.
[laughs] I need the “Final Deployment 4 Walkthrough” walkthrough.
CK: Yes. “The 10 Best Easter Eggs of Final Deployment 4.”
How much more difficult on a technical level was this film compared to “Too Many Cooks”?
CK: It’s hard to give a percentage, but it was more difficult. It’s twice as long, and it has so many layers.
NG: I always compare it to a puzzle that you don’t have the picture to look at to help put it together.
NG: Just thinking of all the layers and how that’s going to look. When to push in, when to pull out. It just killed our heads to figure out the look of it all.
CK: In fact, we had a version of the edit that was so many layers it wouldn’t play properly because it was too much for the machine to handle. We had to render that as a movie, and then start putting layers on top of that so that it would play. It was probably more layers than Adobe Premiere likes.
You not only broke your brains, you broke the computer’s brain as well.
Beneath all the gaming jokes is a surprisingly serious examination of free will here. Did that stuff come from a personal place for either of you? Are we all at the mercy of some deity playing video games?
CK: That’s well-said. I think we do wonder about that.
In a more concrete way, it’s very much in the culture, this sort of Tim Ferriss brain-hacking of how to convince yourself to exercise in the morning. Your brain wants to do things but another part of your brain doesn’t want to. That’s very much in the zeitgeist now; people trying to override their human flaws.
Nick has also said we’re immersed in so much media now, more than even 20 years ago. And so much media and social media is designed to control our behavior and to be addictive. We start to worry that the media is controlling us.
So “Too Many Cooks” is like 11 minutes. The new short is about 20 minutes. You said this film almost broke a computer’s brain. Can you keep expanding and getting more ambitious? The thought of something this weird and strange as a feature is really exciting to me — is that something that’s ever been contemplated?
NG: Casper’s working on a movie script right now. So maybe. Maybe there’s something even weirder coming out.
CK: Yeah, I think so. It will be different, because that’s a different way of sustaining an audience’s attention. But I think it can be done.
What can you tell me about this script?
CK: Uh… I don’t want to talk about that yet. I want that to be a pleasant surprise.
Will we have to wait four more years for the next thing from you guys, whatever form it takes?
CK: Oh my God.
NG: Casper’s already told me “Never again” several times during this project. I think he’ll change his tune, though.
CK: We would love to be faster, and we will work diligently to do that.
Gallery – The Best Comedy Movie Posters of All Time