Dr. God comedy troupe member and series showrunner Neil Garguilo talks about the ‘fun’ trouble he and his creative partners get into in Season 2 of their uniquely warped show.
With tomorrow’s Season 2 premiere of SYFY’s TZGZ original animated sketch comedy series, Hell Den, the Dr. God comedy troupe’s zany antics return in force, with more elaborate sketches and some special guest stars sure to bring wry smiles, followed by belly laughs, to viewers.
If you’re not familiar with the show, after an “Uber-Apocalypse” wipes out civilization, one person miraculously survives: 12-year-old Andrew. Hosting the last working TV and VCR in existence, he invites a motley crew of apocalyptic creatures to his house to watch weird cartoons and old movies. Airing as part of SYFY’s TZGZ late-night adult animation programming block, Hell Den mixes original animation of the characters with old live-action and animated clips re-dubbed by Dr. God in a unique twist, and rather warped take, on sketch comedy.
Produced by Shout! Studios and Rafael Raffaele Entertainment, Hell Den was created by Dr. God - Sean Cowhig, Neil Garguilo, Brian James O’Connell, David Park, and Justin Ware. Garguilo serves as showrunner, with all five executive producing, writing, and starring in the series. Season 2 guest stars include Maria Bamford, Kevin Heffernan, Katie Leclerc, and Matthew Lillard. The Webby Award-nominated first season was acquired by TZGZ; Season 2 was greenlit and produced in conjunction with the network. We recently caught up with Garguilo, who shared some background on the show and thoughts on the new season, including the pandemic’s effect on the production.
But first, have a sneak peek of Hell Den Season 2:
Dan Sarto: The very definition of “comedy troupe” spells trouble. What’s it like working with the other members of Dr. God and did that dynamic change at all for Season 2?
Neil Garguilo: I like to think that we are “fun” trouble. Jail not prison, ya know? We’ve been doing comedy together for 15 years so there’s a built-in level of trust that is comforting in a writer’s room. It makes the riffing and the sketch development a much more pleasant process. So far, there hasn’t been any hair pulling, which is nice. I’m trying to keep this receding hairline intact.
DS: How is this show different from other projects you’ve worked on? Your creative history is so varied, so diverse - writing, acting, directing, song writing… I’m sure I’m missing things. What itch does it scratch creatively?
NG: Sketch comedy is my first love. SNL and sketches on Conan informed my childhood. Getting to write, direct, produce, and star in a sketch comedy show with my best buds is a dream come true. I have always admired the Broken Lizard guys because they make great comedy, and they get to do it with their friends of many years. Getting to do that in our own way is wonderful.
DS: How is this show, and the TZGZ block, different from other new adult animated programming blocks?
NG: TZGZ has really encouraged us to go as far as we’d like in terms of the comedy. I think they’re really letting creators, showrunners, and comedic talent make what they’ve been wanting to make for years and that’s exciting to us all.
DS: What were the biggest challenges on Season 2, for you personally, and for the production in general?
NG: The biggest challenge was… COVID-19! Am I saying that right? We had to move to fully remote production in the first week of our writer’s room. Everything moved smoothly - we just had to change the process a bit. But everyone stepped up and once we got settled, it ran great all the way through to delivery.
DS: How did you handle production in the pandemic?
NG: Everyone worked from home. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Dropbox.
DS: Do you run into any network pushback on anything they consider off-limits or out of bounds? More and more, it seems adult animation producers for the most part work with little network interference these days, self-censoring if at all. Is there anything you can’t do on an adult animated show?
NG: There was nothing that we got pushback on for going too far. In terms of what people can’t do in animation, that depends so much on the home. But if I had to guess, I would say that there is sometimes pause when religious deities come into play.
DS: What’s new in Season 2? Highlights? Fun guest stars?
NG: The show has really evolved from Season 1. Season 2 has a mixture of different types of source material, the sketches are longer, and it feels much more satisfying. We also had Maria Bamford, Matthew Lillard, Kevin Heffernan, and a bunch of other funny friends on the show. We’re very excited for the world to see it.
Season 2 of Hell Den premieres tomorrow, November 7, during the midnight ET/PT TZGZ animation block, with the episode, “My Sister, The Demon,” where Andrew's sister (Maria Bamford) returns, but she's head-stunningly different. OH, BOY!
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.