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10 questions with FUTURAMA's funnyman - Part One

Co-creator David X. Cohen answers our questions about life in the 30th century

By Patrick Sauriol     August 14, 2003

David X. Cohen seems like a funny guy. Talking with him on the phone about this week's release of FUTURAMA - VOLUME TWO on DVD, Cohen comes off as likeable, even down to earth kind of fellow. But when you get him to talk to you about science fiction, that's when a more devious aspect of his personality emerges. For not only is David Cohen a charter member of the intergalactic fanboys association ("ONE OF US! ONE OF US!"), he's the most dangerous kind of fanboy: the one given power to create a network television show. Thankfully, he used his power for good, developing (together with SIMPSONS guru Matt Groening) Fox's animated comedy series FUTURAMA. Cohen also served as one of the show's producers and writers, as well as the director of the brand-new FUTURAMA video game about to be released this week.

Just as I mentioned, earlier this week saw the release of Volume Two of FUTURAMA on DVD, offering fans four new discs worth of comedy completely at the expense of bad (and good) science fiction shows and movies. (Don't worry, the genre had it coming.) On all of the 19 episodes included on Volume Two, each come with their own individual commentary track, giving all the creative personnel behind the show the opportunity to talk about their experiences making Fry, Leela and Bender adventures for network TV.

I had the opportunity to speak with Cohen and ask him anything about FUTURAMA. I sat down and came up with ten questions to throw at the man ranging from his thoughts on the show's cancellation to what's inside his DVD player as we speak. You'll get to read five of the questions and answers for today, five for tomorrow. How does that sound to you? It sounds good to me.

Let's begin!


Q1: So besides the DVD and reruns, what's going on with FUTURAMA right now? There's new episodes coming on Fox but the show's been cancelled, right? I'm confused.

COHEN: It's the only cancelled show that's on three networks at the same time, four if you count the Spanish station. It's somewhat gratifying that more than a year-and-a-half after we realized that we weren't going to return that suddenly the show is having a sort of an upsurge in popularity. The very last original episode remaining aired last Sunday night on Fox. It featured the return of the robot devil voiced by Homer J. Simpson himself, Dan Castellaneta. When we were making the episode we didn't know if we would be back for the next season or if we were cancelled. We had a 50-50 chance either way, so we shaped the episode so that it could serve as the end of the season or for the series.

Q2: Do you think that the arrival of the show on DVD and in reruns on the Cartoon Network is helping to increase its popularity after FUTURAMA's cancellation, in the same way FAMILY GUY also seems to be a hit now that no more new episodes are being produced?

COHEN: I think it's kind of a synergy thing with a bunch of things happening at once. [The show] is off the air for this month on Cartoon Network, it's rotated out, but in November they're going to have a brand new relaunch when they get the new season's worth of episodes, a new episode every day. At the moment we're on TBS, strangely enough, in the afternoons for the summer and then it's going to be back on Cartoon Network. So that's it as far as the cable front.

Just the fact that the show's been on every night where people can find it has been the major change. People never knew where or when the show was going to be on. Suddenly it's on the same time every night on the same channel, Cartoon Network, so people are actually getting to see it. The ratings have been huge by cable TV standards but even pretty big by any standards on Cartoon Network. It's been a total surprise to everybody how great FUTURAMA and FAMILY GUY have done in that hour block. It's helping our DVD sales. Already I notice that just for the pre-order on the Season Two DVD it's moved up to number 10 on Amazon on their daily hit list.

Q3: The second volume of FUTURAMA has plenty of commentaries by the creators including yourself and Matt Groening. So what's it like sitting around in a room with your co-workers, watching a 22-minute show and having your conversation recorded?

COHEN: The first couple of commentaries that we did back in Season One I was kind of nervous about it. I was reviewing the episodes beforehand, looking over my old notes, that kind of stuff. Matt Groening quickly established a tone of 'No no, forget that.' These things are much more fun if everyone is rambling and talking about whatever pops into their minds and tells a story about their great aunt. He quickly established that anything goes and just making a free-for-all. Yeah, I think it ended up being much better than the ones that we had prepared more carefully for.

I think the one thing that we've improved a little bit over the coming season is that silences are not so good - silence is not golden. I think we got a little more better at it in each one, a little more question and answer to fill the gaps. Basically I would describe it as a reunion each time that we did one. We were winding down production at the time and we hadn't seen each other for a couple of months so it was fun to just see everyone. Everyone was always in a really good mood I think, and maybe that comes across in them.

Q4: So which FUTURAMA episode is your favorite on the second volume?

COHEN: The fifth one, it's called 'Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?'. It's the first episode to be really fully devoted to Dr. Zoidberg. I just have very fond feelings for that episode because early in the history of the series when the rough pencil animation came in for that episode, in the middle of that I started crying, I was laughing so hard. It was kind of the first moment in the series when I suddenly went wait a second, I love this show! I've been working so hard on it that I hadn't thought about it that much, am I a fan of this show? When the STAR TREK theme started playing as the national anthem of the Lobster people is when I began to cry with laughter. I don't care what anyone else thinks, I love FUTURAMA! It's got a fond place in my heart.

And also kind of a pivotal moment for the series (if I can phony up some serious reason for liking it) in that we started to develop the side characters more and show that Dr. Zoidberg could be more than just a bad doctor, that we could do some deeper stories.

Q5: Out of the entire gang of main and supporting characters, which FUTURAMA character is the one you most identify with?

COHEN: Most identify with? Not the most fun...?

You know, I might have to say the Professor, actually, just because I was a big nerd. I was a physics major, computer science fellow. I'm the guy that if we're at a restaurant people always make me divide up the check and stuff like that.

* * *

Tune back in for the remainder of my Q&A with FUTURAMA's David X. Cohen to find out the penultimate question that needed to be asked...just what does the X in his name stand for? The question will shock and amaze you!

FUTURAMA - VOLUME TWO is now out on DVD and available wherever shiny discs are sold.

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