Rick and Morty: We Speak to Showrunner Scott Marder and Writer James Siciliano

Dept. of Chats and Confabs


Rick and Morty is the smartest thing on television. The zany sitcom about a sociopathic genius scientist who drags his inherently timid grandson on insanely dangerous adventures across time and space is one of the most narratively experimental shows currently on our screens. From sending up heist movies, to taking on issues like memory and trauma, to transplanting your lead character into a pickle (yes, an actual gherkin!), this is a series that is completely unafraid to challenge itself.

It is rude, it is irreverent, and by any sane logic, it shouldn’t work. But it does. Almost too well. Because Rick and Morty is, above everything else, a show about family, and it never loses sight of that. This is a series that wears its heart on its sleeve, and doesn’t shrink away from emotion. It isn’t crazy for the sake of it. It is, instead, so meticulously crafted that it earns every joke and pop culture reference; even the moment when Jesus shows up as a literal deus ex machina in Season 4.


Last week, we caught up with Rick and Morty showrunner, Scott Marder, and writer, James Siciliano, for a conversation about what it takes to put all of this insanity together.

Rick and Morty

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: Tell me what it’s like in that writers room. Is anything that’s off the table. I ask this because when you get to the point of telling a story about Rick actually fucking a planet, I figure that nothing is off limits and that everything is a go. 

James Siciliano: Yeah. Certainly in the writers room where we explore anything. What actually makes it on screen goes through much more vetting and rewrites. But there is nothing that you can’t pitch. There are no topics that are off limits. And we enjoy trying to push the limits of what the best ideas are. The ones we haven’t talked about and thought about. So it’s fun when we are like: “Oh, shit, that would be crazy!” Those are the best and the funnest ones to chase down. 

Scott Marder: I would say in some cases, the off the table stuff is what is attractive at first and finding a way to make it like serviceable is kind of like a fun challenge. 

JS: Yeah, those are usually the shiny objects to be like, “how can we get away with this?” and “is there an emotional core to it?” Usually we start with the fun stuff and then we’re like, “okay, but can we give it some sort of emotional engine?” And if the answer is yes, then everybody wins. 


UA: So there is this line in Never Ricking Morty… you know the one: “It’s not a real train. It’s a story device, literally. A literal literary device, quite literally metaphorically containing us.” It broke my brain. Is your challenge in the writers room to keep topping yourselves to come up with more amazing nonsense. And has being renewed for 70 episodes changes that in any way because now you have such a long runway to tell these stories.

JS: The answer is yes. We are constantly trying to challenge ourselves to make better content, to tell stories that are fun and new, and in a way that’s different, or something you haven’t seen before visually. It’s a challenge, but that’s what makes the show so fun and sometimes take so long to make. It’s definitely a huge challenge across the board, and especially when we’re trying to break new stories. 

Like I said earlier, trying to find emotional stories too, that don’t just top it visually, that that build out from what we’ve seen, or at the least connect with the audience in a way that you could be like: “Oh, I’ve been there, I’m rooting for Rick, I’m rooting for Morty, or Jerry. I understand where these characters are coming from, because I’m a human too.”

SM: As a guy who got to be a fan before he got to write for it, I just love that these episodes are all shapes and sizes, but that this show just absolutely breaks your brain. And it was certainly my goal to maintain that moving forward with with episodes that just really bang it hard against the wall with just how absolutely complex they are. 

UA: I don’t know guys. I don’t think I’m ever rooting for Jerry. I’m not sure what that says about me.

JS: Oh man, I love Jerry. I love Jerry. 

Rick and Morty

UA: Are there any breakout characters that really surprised you. Are there any that kind of captured everyone’s imagination, that had you guys going: “I didn’t think that would happen.”

JS: I think it happens a lot. I think there certainly are characters that surprise us. Sometimes they don’t always live through the episode. And sometimes they were different in our heads. And when we see how they catch on, we like, “that’s really cool.”

Mr. Nimbus, who you’ll meet in Season 5, is a character I love. We were trying to get him into Season 4, and I’m so happy he’ll be this one. Typically we don’t break stories by saying, “oh, what if we bring this character back?” But usually, if it falls into place, we’re like, “that would be a great, great thing.” 

Obviously Mr. Poopybutthole is another character that I just I personally adore. And I think people just connect because they’re funny, and goofy, and dumb, or the opposite of that. I think sometimes I am surprised by things that I see on the page and what works for everyone out there.


UA: The cat!

SM: The cat! The talking cat from the dragon episode is like a fan favourite. I feel like that would surprise a lot of people. They probably wouldn’t get that it would be up there with Mr. Meeseeks.

JS: I am surprised by that. Like I’m a huge fan of the show and there are certain episodes that I love more than others. And that’s not always the fan eaction to them, and vice versa. So it’s subjective, but it’s fun. We’ve been working on this for so long. So it’s just exciting to see what people will connect with. 

SM: There are one hundred percent some new characters coming down the pipe that people are going to flip out over.

Rick and Morty

UA: Being fans of the show yourself, I was wondering if there were any lines that you guys quote on a daily basis?

JS: I don’t know if I quote it because I live it every single day of my life. It quotes me. But I certainly love it. Scott, are you are you constantly quoting the show?

SM: No, because I’m like drowning in words in the show. But I certainly I certainly appreciate that you’re quoting it.

JS: I do love it. I’m happy to hear when people do. But I just have to shut my brain off sometimes.

The first episode of Season 5 of Rick and Morty is now available to stream on HBO GO. New episodes drop every Monday.

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