Monday, February 16, 2009

"Now, that's Ranty!"

One of the things that made my cartoon sketch show Sheep in the Big City fun was the 30 second appearances of the Ranting Swede at the end of each episode.

I flatter myself to think that the Ranting Swede’s format was unique in TV cartoon production. We would give actor Kevin Seal a loose idea (“coffee tables”) and let him go off for as long as he could. We’d edit the track and give it to a local animator, always keeping Kevin’s insane “You know what…” openers (my favorite, “You know what shaves my cat in preparation for a veterinary procedure…?”)

Usually when you assign a segment to an animator you “direct the sheets” by marking poses and action for every couple of frames as a guide. For the Ranting Swede they were blank. The animators could do whatever they wanted. The resulting cartoons from a Who’s Who to a Who’s That? of NYC animators varied widely, but always achieved it’s main purpose: to be very weird.

Now it seems that someone has taken it upon him/herself to edit all of the rants together. I’d never seen them all at once and was unprepared for the mind numbing effect they create.

So, then, enjoy the mental nova cane of the Ranting Swede:


For those of you still coherent enough to be interested in the Ranting Swede’s background, it’s weirder than the segments themselves:

One of my first jobs back in 1992 or so was to take a Russian animated anti-drinking propaganda feature based on Treasure Island, rewrite it, and record the track with the new script (all in about a month). It mostly featured characters holding up skulls and bottles of booze, with me changing the lines to “You should drink more and perform in Shakespeare plays!

The experience was, to say the least, odd, but I gained two great things from it. 1) The guys I cast became buddies and became the cast for The Monotony Variety Show, a bi-weekly sketch show I wrote for a small Lower East Side theatre which no one ever saw, but which led me to becoming a writer on Sesame Street. 2) At the last recording session we improvised dialog for a battle sequence and Kevin started ranting in this hilarious faux-Swedish accent. The Ranting Swede was born!

We ended every performance of the Monotony Variety Show with the Ranting Swede, and one night I promised the guys that if I ever got a TV show of my own (at the time I had as much chance of becoming Miss America), it would end with a Ranting Swede.

For the record, I have only met nice Swedes in real life. But, who knows what anger burns beneath the surface?