A Star Wars Family Guy Interview With Kirker Butler
GB: Thanks for stopping by Kirker. Okay, honestly, how much pressure do you feel to be funny in this interview? You realize the entire online Star Wars world is about to judge how funny “Something, Something, Something Darkside” is going to be based on your answers here, right?
KB: Yikes. Well, if that hilarious title doesn’t give you any insight as to how funny I am, I don’t know if anything will.
GB: Before we get to business, being the nosy group that we are, we noticed that kirkerbutler.com has been reserved. But it’s currently parked with no content. Do you indeed own the domain, and should we be checking back to see a website any time soon? Or did you just get hoodwinked into the domain purchase by the picture of Danica Patrick at GoDaddy.com?
KB: I do own the domain. I just wanted to get it before one of my a-hole friends bought it and put “lemon party” photos on there or something. It’ll probably stay empty for a while since I’m not internet savvy enough to actually build a website. Although I know it can’t be too difficult if people like Tila Tequila are doing it. Part of it, too is that I can’t imagine anyone would be remotely interested in anything I put up there. My Myspace and Facebook pages are also completely empty, but that just because I’m not a 14-year-old girl. I also own ihatedanecook.com. Seriously.
GB: Before coming to Family Guy, you were a writer and story editor on “What I Like About You”, and you made a short mockumentary titled “The Confetti Brothers”. Tell us a bit about those experiences and how you got hooked up with Seth and the gang.
KB: Wow, you really did your research. Creepy. I made “The Confetti Brothers” in 2000 with some friends of mine (Lance Barber and Mark Teich) who have both gone on to become successful actors, and it is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. We’re now trying to figure out how to turn it into a series. So, while shooting Confetti Brothers, I met a guy who was running the sitcom “Friends.” He read some stuff I’d written, liked it and a few years later hired me to write for “What I Like About You.” It was my first real job and I could not have been more grateful for the opportunity; however, after two seasons of writing jokes for 12-year-old girls, I was definitely ready for something a bit edgier. “Family Guy” had just gotten picked up again, so I wrote what’s called a “spec script” for “Family Guy” and my agents got it to Seth. Thankfully, he liked it. I went in and met with him and (Executive Producer) David Goodman and they hired me later that day. It was pretty incredible.
GB: You’ve written several episodes of Family Guy already including: “Barely Legal”, “Hell Comes to Quahog” and “The Courtship of Stewie’s Father”. In “Barely Legal” there’s a classic tangent with the Emperor that riffs he could make anything sound evil by adding “Darkside” or “complete” to the sentence. Was that bit what got you the nod to be Family Guy’s version of Lawrence Kasdan? Or did you get Seth drunk and forge his name on the contract?
KB: To be completely honest, one of the other writers is responsible for that Emperor gag, but I won’t give him credit here because this interview is about me. There are a few huge Star Wars nerds on staff: Seth, David Goodman, Alec Sulkin (who wrote “Blue Harvest”) and myself are easily the biggest. So, it was just a given that if “Blue Harvest” was successful, we’d do an “Empire” episode, and I just happened to be fortunate enough to get the gig. But because all of our shows are so collaborative I can in no way take full credit for the episode. That being said, all the good jokes are mine! “The Empire Strikes Back” is by far my favorite movie ever so to be able to have my name on this episode is without a doubt a career high.
GB: Okay so you’re a “huge” Star Wars nerd. But are there statues in the living room and action figures under the pillow? For instance, if I had referred to you as Leigh Brackett instead of Lawrence Kasdan in the last question, would you have had to Google the name?
KB: Thankfully, my wife is very cool, so I do have my Star Wars stuff displayed in my house, albeit in the guest room. I have all of my original Kenner 12” figures from my childhood (with their weapons) displayed on several shelves, and my small figures are in a couple of those Darth Vader head-thing carriers. My office walls are covered in Star Wars related posters and I have an original Early Bird kit, which I unfortunately opened when I was a kid to put the R2 and 3PO stickers on my Green Machine. So, I would probably be considered a total nerd. And I hope I’m more like Lawrence Kasdan because: a) I’m hoping to live long enough to see this episode air, and b) I’ve always wanted to make a movie like “The Big Chill”, where I cast Kevin Costner and then totally edit him out of the final cut. That would be awesome.
GB: How awesome was it to see the “Something, Something, Something Darkside” print at the ACME Archives booth at San Diego Comic-Con? Was that your first glimpse of it? And also, are you a Comic-Con regular?
KB: It was great. To be honest, there’s nothing quite as cool as seeing your name on something you’re proud of. I’d seen a very small mock-up of the poster in the “Family Guy” office, but Comic-con was the first time I’d seen a finished version of it, and I thought it looked fantastic. It’s even cooler because I am a Comic-con regular. This was my seventh year, I think, and my relationship with it has changed a lot. I started going just because I was a fan and it was fun. Then two years ago I was on my first “Family Guy” panel. This year I had the “Something…” poster and next year I’ll have my first graphic novel debuting there (look for “Blue Agave and Worm” from Viper Comics (next summer!). So, it’s always been a very cool experience for me. Plus, I love the costumes people come up with and every year I’m blown away by their inventiveness and artistry; however, there were way too many Heath Ledger Jokers this year and they were just kind of sloppy. Most of them just looked like guys who’d been playing in their mom’s makeup and step-dad’s old leisure suit. Also, if you’re one of those people who dress up like Jack Sparrow and stay in character all day, you really need to rethink some things.
GB: Will Ollie Williams be playing Lando Calrissian? Please tell me you wrote Tom Tucker into this script as Lobot or something. After all, Lando needs his posse!
KB: Actually, Lando will be played by Mort Goldman. We toyed with Ollie for a while, then even did a draft where Magic Johnson was Lando, but they didn’t work like we wanted them to, so we went with an old standby, Mort. And really, Jewish guy/black guy, what’s the difference? Lando will have his Lobot, but it won’t be Tom. Both he and Diane survived the attack on the Death Star and are now working happily for Channel 5, Cloud City.
GB: We’ve heard that Ernie the Giant Chicken will play Boba Fett. Oh man, tell us it’s true!
KB: That is true. Our animators even designed the Slave 1 to have chicken wings. Brilliant. Our animators, by the way, are some of the best in the business and most of them are also huge Star Wars fans, so their contributions have been invaluable. They deserve as much credit for the success of these shows as the writers do.
GB: Our favorite character in “Blue Harvest” was the couch from the trash compactor sequence. Any way he’ll be making a repeat appearance in “Darkside”?
KB: No. Unfortunately, months later, Chewie/Brian traded the couch for a handful of psychedelic mushrooms in the Mos Eisley cantina. You can read that scene in Family Guy’s upcoming novelization spoof, "Splinter of the Fart's Eye".
GB: Carrie Fisher has voiced Angela in about half a dozen episodes. Is Seth having any thoughts about asking her to do a cameo here, or is that all too early at this point?
KB: It’s been discussed. I don’t know what the final decision was, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she made a cameo.
GB: How about one tiny non sequitur for us to ponder. You know, something that’s in “Something, Something, Something Darkside” that will make us all wonder how the heck it fits in the episode. Maybe just one word.
KB: Hmm. I’ll just say, Cookie!
GB: We know you’re not the head of programming for FOX, but is there any early word on when the episode might air? We’re hearing that we might have to wait all the way until spring 2009.
KB: There’s still some debate as to how it’s going to be released. It may go out on DVD first, but that’s a decision the Fox people will have to make. I’ve also heard an airdate of spring 2009, but I honestly have no idea. In no way do I speak for Fox, or any of its subsidiary companies.
GB: Before we let you go, tell us what life’s like in the Family Guy studio these days? Is it all nose to the grindstone work, or are you guys long on shenanigans and practical jokes?
KB: It’s nothing but hookers and blow 24/7 around here. We do have a really good time, but there’s always a lot of work to get done, that is if you consider sitting around all day making each other laugh, work. There’s not a lot of practical jokes but there is a lot of ball busting. Usually it’s pretty good-natured. I love working at “Family Guy”, but I’ve recently moved down the hall to work on our spinoff, “The Cleveland Show.” Seth asked me if I’d be interested in working on it, and I really liked the concept of the show, so I agreed. We’ve been working on it for a couple of months now and I really think the fans of “Family Guy” are going to like what we’re doing. Or they’ll totally hate it and I’ll be begging Seth for my “Family Guy” job back.
GB: Finally, here's a question we're asking to everyone we interview at GalacticBinder: If you were transported into the Star Wars universe... what era, location and/or setting/situation would you want to end up in, and what's the first thing you'd do and with whom? (We’d tell you to keep it clean, but we know we have no chance here…!)
KB: Wow. I’ve actually thought about that a lot over the course of my life and I’ve probably imagined myself in every Star Wars situation imaginable. I always liked Luke more than any other character. I know everyone thinks Han is the coolest, but Luke was always the badass to me. He’s the one who went from working on a moisture farm to saving the whole galaxy. Pretty cool stuff. So, I think I’d probably want to be Luke’s padawan. Learn the ways of the force from the best and become a great Jedi. Or maybe I’d just hang out in Jabba’s palace and try to nail Oola.
Thanks again for taking time out to join us, Kirker. We can’t wait to see the episode, and we wish you all the success in your future with Family Guy and beyond!
KB: Are you kidding? Thank you! This was a lot of fun.
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