5 Questions with TV Writer Nick Watson
Entertainment and More caught up with TV writer Nick Watson. Nick is working on several unannounced projects but took the time out of his busy writing schedule to talk with us about animation, inspiration, his new podcast, and more.
What is your favorite animated series?
Nick Watson: Of all time? The Simpsons, undoubtedly. I would go so far as to say it’s the greatest TV show ever made. It paved the way for prime-time animation, basically invented the referential comedy that’s so prevalent in modern sitcoms, and was just incredibly smart social satire and commentary in its golden years. Right now, I’m utterly in love with Rick and Morty from Dan Harmon (of Community) and Justin Roiland. I’ve always been a sci-fi nerd and an animated comedy nerd, so combining the two is the stuff of dreams. They come up with ideas that are so out-of-the-box, and execute it brilliantly. I can’t wait for season three.
What about it inspires your current work?
Nick Watson: Everything. I genuinely worry that every joke or situation I ever write is unconsciously somehow just an imitation of the Simpsons. It’s kind of like the ‘Simpsons Did It’ episode of South Park- its cultural impact is so ingrained that you almost take it for granted. The irreverent tone, the cutting satire, the pop-culture references, the larger-than-life farce, the deconstruction of the ‘nuclear family’, all of those things have found their way into my work in one way or another. But TV comedy without the Simpsons would be like pop music without the Beatles. My life’s goal is to get myself in the Simpsons writers’ room. If I die first I’ll probably haunt that building, pitching bad jokes for season 79 or something.
What do you think makes comedy successful in the animation world?
Nick Watson: I think you have to do things that you can’t do in live-action. Animation offers tools and possibilities beyond the limits traditional storytelling. Rick and Morty get to travel to entirely new planets and dimensions every week, so the writers can build an entirely new world and set of rules and then challenge our expectations in fun and surprising ways. At the same time, you need things to be relatable to people. Deep down, we still identify with a character pining over an unrequited love, even if she’s an alien parasite who will only hurt him (emotionally, and by enslaving his planet.) The very best animated comedy finds a way to tell universal truths about ourselves and the world through a new lens that might be visually or conceptually impossible (or at least improbable) in real life. Pixar is a master of this – WALL-E, Up, Finding Nemo. Human stories and emotions in strange new worlds.
What upcoming projects do you have in animation?
Nick Watson: Right now I’m working on a show for Hasbro that hasn’t been announced yet so I can’t give any details, but it’s been an incredible experience so far. Aside from that, I have a few of my own projects I’m developing: an animated sitcom about a divorced dad who has to balance fatherhood with his dual-life as a supervillain (Mr. Doom), one about the four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse who try to end the world only to discover the world refuses to be ended by women (Horsewomen), and a feature about a fictional version of Walt Disney who is still alive, going senile, and running his theme park into the ground with bad ideas, so he recruits four teenagers to help him keep it afloat (Whitworld.) There’s also a brand new pilot I’m working on with my writing partner that’s essentially “What if the kid from Neverending Story, 20 years on, was still escaping to a fantasy realm to get away from his shitty job and real-world problems.” (Neverworld).
What’s it like coming to work in LA?
Nick Watson: It was incredibly difficult arriving in LA knowing no-one, and nothing about how to survive and thrive here. I had to figure it all out by trial and error, and whatever scarce resources I could find. But I want to make that journey easier for people who find themselves in that position, so I recently started a podcast called ‘Paper Team’ aimed at people, especially writers, trying to break into the industry from the ground up. A lot of the resources out there skip over the whole ‘actually breaking in’ part, so we’re trying to fill that gap. Both my co-host Alex and I are foreigners (he’s from France), so it’s basically everything we wish we knew when we first got here. You can find it at www.paperteam.co , and there’s a new episode out every week with a bunch of cool guests.
Checkout out Nick’s podcast here: