In news that’s bound to surprise no one, a new Vanity Fair profile on ‘90s-era Nickelodeon staple Rocko’s Modern Life reveals that that shit was just as crazy behind the scenes as it was onscreen.
Writer/amateur knife-thrower Dan Povenmire, for example, used to edit scenes by flinging a letter opener over his back at the storyboard. “The impaled scene would get the cut,” Vanity Fair notes. “Swampy” Marsh, meanwhile, would carry a six-shooter pistol replica in a holster strapped to his thigh, terrifying Nickelodeon executives. Povenmire also tells of another colleague who would set up their office like a late-night talk show set. “If you came in, he would play canned applause and motion you to sit in one of the seats, and he would interview you for an imaginary camera,” Povenmire said. “If you said something vaguely funny, he had another tape with canned laughter on it. If someone else came in, he would make you move down one seat so that the next guest could be interviewed.” The employee is unnamed, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he went on to work for Seinfeld.
It’s not all that surprising, though, when you consider just how crazy the series truly got. As the article notes, this is the same children’s program that built jokes around phone sex, the Kennedy assassination, and the rape scene from Deliverance. Of course, it was that zany edge that made the show as memorable as it was. It also paved a path for those writers, many of whom went on to work for game-changing shows like King Of The Hill, The Simpsons, Adventure Time, and SpongeBob SquarePants. SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg (R.I.P.) cut his teeth on the Rocko staff.
“It was the Yardbirds of animation,” says Carlos Alazraqui, the actor behind Rocko’s voice.