The Twisted Genius Behind Sterling Archer
DS: There have been a few things you’ve done that I couldn’t believe you got past S&P. For example, references to “cooch chili” and “the Pele of anal” that are so funny but so nasty. I can’t imagine how those ever got through.
AR: For better or worse, I think I’ll be forever known as the person who came up with “the Pele of anal.”
DS: It’s one of the greatest lines in entertainment history. Has there been a point yet where you’ve said to yourself, “I’ve created something that has made its way into pop culture. This is pretty good.” Has that ever hit you?
AR: I guess, at the start of Season 2, when we got renewed after not having stellar ratings the first season, and the ratings came back and they were decent, then reading on the Internet that we actually made Metacritic. But I’m always, “Knock on wood.” Working in TV is weird. Every show I’ve ever worked on has been canceled. I hate to jinx it so I always knock on wood when I feel myself saying, “Yah, this is good!”
DS: Well as a fan of the show, I can say that by most objective standards, the show is very good. Of all the things involving the show’s production, is there any one things that gives you the most sense of satisfaction?
AR: One of my favorite things is the writing process though it’s very solitary and can often be frustrating. But my favorite thing to do is direct the voice over sessions because it’s so collaborative. I think it was Harold Ramis who said, “Think of the script as the worst case scenario.” When these actors are in the booth, and we laugh, the sessions are really fun, they’re very organic. We don’t do takes to time, nothing is slated. They just turn on the machine and let it roll. We just talk back and forth. It’s very laid back and we have a great time. Hearing the actors make something really good out of something I’ve written is the most rewarding thing.
DS: How much adlibbing goes on? Do you sit back and watch them turn your work into something even better than you had imagined when you wrote it?
AR: They always do that. A lot of times, now that we’ve done something like 30 episodes, I have an idea in my head when I write a line for somebody, what it sounds like. Often, it’s the first take that they do that sounds exactly like what I thought it was going to sound like. I don’t know how many takes other people do, but we only do 3 or 4 takes of each line normally. The sessions go pretty fast. But everyone is so comfortable working together that is goes really smoothly.
DS: I understand this season we’re going to see some Burt Reynolds.
AR: We are!
DS: It’s funny Archer is such a fan of Burt Reynolds. I’m older than most fans of the show, so I remember Burt’s heyday and how huge a star he was. Is there anything else you can share with us we can look forward to this season?
AR: The final 2 episodes, a 2-parter, the ISIS gang goes to outer space to try and help solve a problem on the international space station, although things don’t go as planned. The guy who plays the commander of the space station is Bryan Cranston, another huge coup for us.
Dan Sarto is Publisher of AWN and an unabashed fan of all things Archer.