This month, Aqua Teen Hunger Force co-creators Dave Willis (who voices Carl and Meatwad) and Dana Snyder (Master Shake) took their show on the road. The live show, which has its final date in Atlanta May 15, features puppets, clips from unseen episodes of ATHF and Squibillies, Christmas music and all manner of mayhem. Before hitting the stage in Seattle, Willis and Snyder updated Paste on how the tour’s going so far and their dream of playing for an audience of corpses.
Paste: You’ve done four shows so far on the tour. How’s it going?
Snyder: The official start of the tour, which is tonight, will include completely different elements than the previous shows.
Willis: We frantically rewrote it in a meth haze this morning. Anything you’re seeing on YouTube is completely irrelevant.
Paste: Are you going to be changing up the shows as you go along to stay ahead of the viral video crowd?
Snyder: Well, there are some things we’ve already built into the show that will be different in each place. Like Carl’s regional beef, for example. Whatever city we’re in, Carl comes out and tells them why your-city-here sucks.
Willis: I don’t know what he’s going to do in New York. He’s going to have trouble coming up with a way to say the city sucks because he loves it.
Snyder: He’s from New Jersey! Why would he love New York?
Willis: He loves New York sports teams, but I think it’ll be funny. It’ll all be sort of backhanded compliments at the New York show. I noticed someone put up on YouTube the New Orleans one. It was great, basically telling all those people that the New Orleans Saints suck. Have you ever seen a puppet ripped to shreds?
So, Carl is a puppet?
Willis: Yeah, I just got his piece sewn on last night, so he’s ready to go. New Orleans ripped him to shreds. He’s ready to tear Seattle a new one.
You’re doing Christmas songs on this tour—
Willis: The whole show is Christmas themed!
Snyder: This is a gift for you. Merry fucking Christmas. Here we are. Merry fucking Christmas. This is us on stage for you. But we say it in a nice way.
What made you decide to take this show on the road? That seems kind of an odd choice for a cartoon.
Snyder: How dare you!
Willis: Everyone asks this question, and everyone does it in a halting manner. What made us decide to do it? I don’t know. For you, my reasons would be, yes, ego. Feeding just an enormous, monstrous ego. Out of control. Somehow trying to keep it at bay with a live tour. We all know that as soon as the tour is over, it will want to feast on something else.
I don’t know, it’s fun taking stuff out there, both original stuff and stuff that we’ve done for the show that we’ll air at some point and getting that reaction from a live audience. It feeds us, too. It’s great. I mean, that’s not our experience. Our experience is tooling away at something and putting it on the air and having the people that love it respond with an, “Oh, that was fun. Now what else is on?” And those people that are crazy and hate it go to the internet and shred it. This is a way to just connect with fans and to focus group this stuff, to see what works and what doesn’t work. Dana’s a performer, and I’m less a performer. It scratches an itch for me. It’s nice to have a totally new experience that’s different the same grind of ten years of just doing cartoons.
Did you make the puppets yourselves for the live show?
Snyder: This is no joke! This is made by an ex-employee of Jim Henson’s creature show.
Willis: Yes, he was fired for bringing a gun to work. [laughs] He was brought in for psychiatric evaluation and then slowly phased out.
Snyder: These are like super professionals.
Have you had anyone approach you to take you up on the offer to help them with Women’s and Gender Studies papers?
Snyder: Actually, we just pick someone up who looks like they’re working on one of those and give them some tips.
Can you give us a taste of what that advice entails?
Snyder: Sure. I tell them that doing papers for school is for suckers, and you shouldn’t do it anyway. That’s someone above you trying to lord over you, and you don’t need to play their games. Then we suggest they get outta that college and maybe hike around for a couple of years and really learn from the streets. The real deal. Isn’t that what I said last time, Dave?
Willis: Yeah, that’s right. Many times. Wait, what?
Snyder: Either that or we say, “Oh you know what? There’s a thing online that you can print. Pre-written test papers. It’s free.”
Fans of your show have a bit of a reputation as being sort of a late-night stoner crowd. What’s it like to be in a room full of Aqua Teen Hunger Force fans? What’s the vibe?
Snyder: It’s funny because it’s not all those guys. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of them. But there’s always—I mean, at the New Orleans show we did, there was like a fifty-year-old couple in the second row and they were laughing hysterically. And they were not there with anyone else. It’s surprising how much of it is not that.
Willis: Aqua Teen touches so many people! It touches so many people, and so many hearts!
Snyder: In so many ways, both appropriate and inappropriate.
Willis: We’ve seen Boy Scout troops, old-age homes do field trips to our show. Four generations of Aqua Teen followers who come to our show…to protest. Most people that are fans of our show are family people, they’re people with values. They’re people with professions.
Snyder: So they’re not people who want their kids watching it at home on television.
Is there a demographic of people you haven’t seen in your fanbase that you’d like to bring into the fold?
Snyder: I’d like to reach out to the nun market.
Willis: I was going to second that with corpses!
Snyder: Actually, Dave I’ve seen some people in our audience who look like that’s what they were.
Willis: I don’t know how that would benefit Budweiser or Death at a Funeral or any of the current products that are buying in on our blog. Corpses don’t have a lot of disposable income.
Snyder: Actually, they have nothing but disposable income. [laughs]
Willis: That’s right, but they don’t know how to spend their money.
Snyder: That’s very true.
Willis: God, wouldn’t that be eerie, if we did a show for 400 corpses? What a terrifying two hours that would be!