Menu

user avatar

Super Rad! A Talk with Christian Jacobs About “The Aquabats! Super Show!”

Aquabats 1
Orange County ska rock superheroes The Aquabats were founded in 1994 and almost since their inception, front man Christian Jacobs (aka MC Bat Commander) has been attempting to bring the band’s blend of humor, mythology, and comic book antics to television. They finally did so with The Hub network’s The Aquabats! Super Show!, which premiered in March of 2012 and is out now on DVD, but it took many starts and stops in the process over the 19 years. “The Aquabats has always been a risky thing,” Jacobs says, “Here’s a ska band from Orange County with a ton of guys in it and, it’s got some elements that could be a kid’s show, but how could this work? We had a lot going against us as far as ever becoming a television show.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uD68plXoCg&w=615&h=346]

A major help to the process was Jacobs and creative partner Scott Schultz’s creation of the mondo-hit children’s program, Yo Gabba Gabba!, which premiered in 2007. It became a cultural phenomenon and featured celebrity cameos by the likes of Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and Tony Hawk. “It really helped our credibility in terms of being able to create something that resonated with people,” Jacobs explains, “not just YouTube hits but actual ratings on television.” The long gestation period of the series has helped the band members/cast members gain perspective on early-morning shoots or hurling themselves in the dirt. “If we’d have gotten the show back when we pitched it initially, I don’t think we’d appreciate it as much.” He also believes the false starts the show had over the years shaped it into what it became. “Having the vision of it failing so many times miserably definitely helped to shape our resolve. No matter what, we were going to make this happen.”

The Aquabats! Super Show! features the band members as their onstage personas roving the city looking for monsters to fight and wrongs to right. While their characters had been solidified for years (MC Bat Commander is joined by Crash McLarson, Ricky Fitness, Jimmy the Robot, and, possibly the best name ever, EagleBones Falconhawk), the transition to television was not quite as simple. “We always said, ‘We can do this; we can make this show,’ but then when it actually came down to it, there was so much detail and things that went into making the show, and none of us are professionally-trained actors or writers, we had to enlist a lot of help.”

JacobsAmong those the Bats enlisted were longtime SpongeBob SquarePants writer Dani Michaeli as script editor, Vandals guitarist Warren Fitzgerald as music supervisor, and Matt Chapman, one of the co-creators of Homestar Runner, who co-wrote and directed several episodes in season one. Because the members of the band weren’t actors, they also enlisted the help of an Upright Citizens Brigade founding member to help get them in tip-top acting shape. “Matt Walsh came in and trained us for a week. We had like a crash course in comedy acting,” Jacobs recalls. “Every day we’d wake up and go meet with Matt in our little studio office and we’d do these little improvisational exercises all day. It was incredible.”

Those familiar with the band will see that the energy and tone of The Aquabats! Super Show! holds true to many of the early music videos, particularly “Super Rad!,” from their second album, The Fury of the Aquabats. Says Jacobs, “[Our sense of humor] is the same, but I think it’s matured. There’s fewer inside jokes; I think we’re a little better about letting people in on the joke. It’s not just stupid humor; there’s a ton of reference points in every episode. There’s a ton of pop culture that if you just dig a little bit beneath the surface, you’ll see where it comes from.” The music videos were their attempt to show various studios that they could be appealing comedic characters in addition to a good band. “‘Super Rad!’ was one of those videos right around the time we were trying to get a deal with Disney to do the TV show. We were much more hands-on and worked with [the video’s director] Bobcat Goldthwait to create that look,” Jacobs says, “A lot of the reference and homage vibe in that video is the same as the show now. The influences on The Aquabats have stayed the same. I guess we just needed people to catch up with it.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIqLz6LqMsU&w=615&h=461]

The references he speaks about are to a great many kids shows of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the output of people like Sid & Marty Krofft, and anime, which features heavily in The Aquabats! Super Show! Indeed, the series, though intended for younger viewers, has a great many things for the media savvy adult to find funny as well. This will continue in the show’s second season, which begins Saturday, June 1st. Says Jacobs, “The first episode, the first scene, is right out of the movie Laserblast, which is this really obscure sci-fi movie that was on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I actually saw it at the drive-in when I was six years old and it messed my mind up. We kind of took pieces out of that and put it into the opening sequence of the new season.” On top of the movie and TV references, Jacobs says the show was also influenced by shows like Ricky Gervais’ Extras. “In season one of Extras, he’s an extra, he’s an underdog, he’s trying to get his script sold. Then, at the end of the season, he gets his script sold and gets the green light to make a show. That influenced the Aquabats seasons. In season one, we’re the underdogs and can’t get a break, and then at the end of the season we save the world and at the beginning of season two we’re heroes. We’ve saved the world, we return to Earth and people are at our feet. We’ve got all we want, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

Jacobs 2The first season featured a great many guest stars, like Paul Scheer, Samm Levine, and “Weird Al” Yankovic, but what can fans expect for the second season of The Aquabats! Super Show!? One difference is that the production moved from Southern California for the first season to Salt Lake City for the second. “Economically,” Jacobs says, “shooting in other states is cheaper. It was easier to get guests when you shoot it in California, but we had a lot of great guests come out to Salt Lake. Tony Hawk and Eric Koston came out for the first episode, Gerard Way and his brother Mikey for the last episode, we had Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo come out and play a big part. No spoilers, but he has a really big role in the season.” Having guests, even though more difficult in a different state, is still something Jacobs and the show hopes to continue. “In the tradition of the old school Batman and their stunt-casting, we hope to keep getting well-known people to play villains and bringing back some of the ones from season one. Even back in the ‘90s, the ‘60s Batman has always been a huge influence.”

So, for Christian Jacobs and the Aquabats, the ride from band to TV show heroes has been a dream come true, but they’ve been around long enough to know that this type of thing isn’t always forever. “I think it’s a new lease on life for the band. Every day is incredible and it’s been such a fun ride. Hopefully, it’s not temporary, but we’ve been doing this [as a band] for such a long time that we know it could go away at any moment. So, we’re just soaking it up.”

 

The first season of The Aquabats! Super Show! is available on DVD now from Shout Factory and the second season will premiere Saturday, June 1st at 1pm ET/10am PT on The Hub network.

Tags , , , , , ,

1 comment