“Gooder Than Hell”: A New Season of Squidbillies

Connor White

Adult Swim is known for its surreal and sometimes absurd brand of comedy, and “Squidbillies” is no different. For those unfamiliar with the show, it grandstands the lives of the Cuyler clan, a rowdy and redneckish family of land-dwelling squids living in the hills of northern Georgia. We were given the opportunity to talk with show creators Jim Fortier and Dave Willis in a brief phone interview to discuss influences and motivations for the show.

Fortier and Willis both were born and raised in Georgia, where the stereotype of the hill-hailing, hell-raising, booze abuser sometimes toes the line of fact and fiction. They were drawn to these characters and how their potentially explosive reactions could make for excellent storytelling. As for why the Cuylers were turned into squids, well…they pictured the oceans receding and a squid crawling out onto the land, grabbing at a sawed-off shotgun and some whiskey, and it just made perfect sense. They couldn’t think of an animal funnier than a squid, anyway.

But they don’t see “Squidbillies” as taking advantage of the hillbilly stereotype, and are frustrated when viewers take that to mean everyone from the South is like that. They just had stories to tell, and the Cuyler clan simply made for the best characters.

Like many other Adult Swim programs, each episode is created for a fifteen minute time slot-only eleven minus the commercials. I was curious if they ever felt constricted by that small of a time frame, but on the contrary, they felt liberated by it. Even though they consider creating a three-act comedy in 11 minutes as challenging, “Squidbillies'” format gives them a chance to explore ideas that would have otherwise fizzled out underneath the traditional half hour. They’re more than aware of the internet’s increasing presence and of audiences’ shrinking attention span; bite-sized gags stay fresh longer and keeps them entertained with their own work.

It also makes the most economic sense. Shorter stories are easier and cheaper to produce, but that’s about as far into cutting corners as Fortier and Willis are willing to go. Unlike more popular shows like “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons,” “Squidbillies” is produced entirely domestically, in Atlanta, and give it a home-spun charm far from the stilted assembly line manufacturing that Willis and Fortier disapprove of. Animation should be made with love, they said, no matter how weird your brand of love is.

Refusing to outsource has its drawbacks, however. Because their teams are small, they can’t be divided onto different projects, and the breaks between seasons can sometimes take a year or more. But if it means maintaining their artistic integrity, it’s a sacrifice Fortier and Willis are more than willing to make.

“Squidbillies” uses everything in Southern culture from the Georgia Bulldogs to the history of the Confederacy to tell its jokes (to great effect, I might add), and has attracted a number of guest stars as a result, such as David Allan Coe, .38 Special and even Larry Munson (legendary announcer for the Bulldogs) as the voice of the Lord Almighty. It’s a great example of a show made by Southerners, about Southerners and for Southerners.

Season eight premieres Sunday night at 11:45 p.m., and if you haven’t given it a chance yet, I highly encourage you to do so. The setting and subject matter may be utterly bizarre, but it’s a home-grown comedy I can always expect to crack me up.