Talking To Ryan Quincy About The Wry Humour And Nostalgic Melancholy Of His New IFC Series, Out There

Talking To Ryan Quincy About The Wry Humour And Nostalgic Melancholy Of His New IFC Series, Out ThereI gave sometime South Park writer and animation director Ryan Quincy a call this week to ask him about his new show, Out There.

It's a sad, strange little comedy that seems to tap right into the feeling of being an ungainly adolescent. Think Freaks and Geeks – just perhaps a little more literally.

Here's some of what Quincy told me.

This project goes way back to 2008 when I originally pitched the story to 20th Century Fox as three, four five minute shorts… little vignettes, interstitials, introductory things about these two friends, Chad and Chris. 20th liked it, we wrote a pilot script.

That script is the episode Chris By Any Other Name. They ultimately passed on it but IFC loved it, they didn't want to change a thing, they embraced it, they nurtured it, they curated it and that is when we got the order of ten episodes.

We got three or four writers and, yes, we would all get in a small room and start talking about that time of our lives, embarrassing moments that happened and getting to know these characters.

We never really come out and explain why the characters look the way they do in the show. There were a lot of times when we were shopping the show around and everyone wanted to know why they look this way. Did a meteor hit the Earth? Is there something in the water? I feel like they just are the way they are. They way they look on the outside is how they feel on the inside. Plus, it's just been my character design style for the longest time.

The character designs are animalistic, they have claws and paws instead of hands.
If this was done with human looking characters you might question "Why isn't this in live action?" or whatever. I was heavily influenced by the style of Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak and that just evolved into my characters and my cast.

There's a level of just otherworldliness to it that is still universal and still resonates with people. And in animation you can go into fantasies, daydreams and nightmares – and it's just a lot more fun to work in animation than to deal with live action and actors on the set.

Whenever I see teenagers walking around today I think they look like hairy headed creatures. I think that's how people think. Especially adolescents and teenagers, they feel like that. I still feel I look like that. They feel uncomfortable in their skin, like teen creeps, anomalies. I think that's one of the underlying themes of the show – feeling uncomfortable in your skin. Especially at that part of your life where you have one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood and you've got to crossover at some point. These characters are stuck right in the middle, that cusp.

Nostalgic melancholy was one of the things I was focusing on, that time period where you're fourteen or fifteen and you can't drive, you don't have a job, you don't have any money and you walk everywhere.

We never come out and say what time period the show is set in but it definitely predates computers, cellphones, Facebook, Twitter and all these things. I wanted to set it in a time where I didn't have to deal with that stuff. More disconnected, you know?

I was born in the 70s, grew up in the 80s, those Gen-X kind of years. There's a lot of autobiographical material that I mined for this show.

People will label it as a comedy but I think it's probably more of a dramedy. Even though adolescence can be horrifying it's hilarious too, so that stuff just naturally oozed out into the work. It's more of a dry humour, more a wry sense of humour. It speaks more to the melancholy and mundane woes of those times. I'd compare it more to a Charlie Brown world to a South Park world.

I hope everyone can enjoy this. I have a son who's eight and he's seen some episodes. I hope anyone from eight to a hundred can relate all this stuff. Everyone feels alienated or is looking for friendship to help soften their trials and tribulations. My target audience is everybody.

There's a little bit of serialisation in it, we don't really reset every time, there's a little bit of a gradual storyline. For example the love story with Chad and his love interest, who is voiced by Linda Cardellini, there's a little bit of an arc there. Though it's not something where every episode is a cliffhanger and that type of thing. I think you can pick up on the show whenever and you'll be fine.

Originally I thought it would be interesting to see these characters throughout the four years of high school then they'd go their separate ways and never see each other again. Your first best friend, those potent bonds you create at that age, and after that, a lot of people don't really have such strong bonds with friends ever again. I felt like that was a very interesting area to explore so I was thinking it would be interesting to travel with these two best friends through high school.

But then there is something to be said for them being stuck at age fifteen too, in this purgatory, this limbo. We'll see what happens if, hopefully, we get a season two.

There's a little bit of me in all of the characters but definitely Chad. I do the voice of Chad and a lot of these stories are autobiographical. I'm more Chad, the introverted, wallflower kid. Chris is more that devil-may-care wild child influence. But there were so many parts of me I had to share across the board with all these characters because I couldn't pin them all on Chad. I couldn't put all of these burdens on Chad. I wear glasses, I have terrible eyesight, but we gave that to Chris. He can deal with that. I have a lot of moles so we gave that to the bully… We couldn't give all of my flaws and insecurities to one character.

This is my diary, it really is. It's scary. A lot of these story lines are all, like I said, taken from my own adolescence. But it was cathartic, it was almost like therapy to get this stuff out.

The way we had it set up, we front loaded all of the scripts before production. Casting also helped us get to know the characters.

I would always be in the booth with the cast and read with whoever was in that day, but we tried a couple of times to do two or three actors together and it just felt better to focus on just one actor at a time and put it together later. In Fred Armisen's case a lot of times he had to do it over the phone so we'd have to patch him in and do it that way.

And just like that, we were out of time. Hopefully Out There will run and run and I'll get to dig a little deeper with Ryan the next time around.

There are preview clips available at IFC's site and you can catch the first episodes tonight on IFC from 10:30, 9:30 Central.