Several months ago, Adult Swim’s Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace came under fire as much for its controversial humor as for the type of crowd it attracted. The comedy trio’s frontman Sam Hyde aggressively trolled a BuzzFeed (BZFD) reporter when being interviewed, and dutifully uploaded the whole exchange to YouTube. Tensions mounted until the network cancelled the show last week. Over the weekend, several bands who performed on the series dutifully performed their acts of contrition and sought absolution for daring to appear on a show that pushed boundaries. Hyde spoke with Observer about what happened and what happens next for the much-maligned trio.
How did you end up getting the show to begin with? We got the show based on our heat as independent creators (as opposed to people who have like a Jewish uncle or something who works for the creative agency), based on what we were doing on YouTube, and based on [Million Dollar Extreme member] Nick [Rochefort] very passionately harassing Adult Swim until they cracked.
That TED Talk you did, which went viral, must have been very key in getting them to sit down and talk with you guys. I think what they noticed more was the loyalty or the seriousness of our fan base. We only have 70,000 YouTube subscribers, but I can get a thousand of those people to go somewhere and do something. So it’s a committed, loyal fan base which I think impressed them more than the sheer numbers did. We were given a sort of trial period, and we were given a small budget to do some web stuff with and we pulled that off pretty good.
A lot of Adult Swim’s series have big cult followings, so it’s about intensity as opposed to numbers. I think that’s part of why the BuzzFeed crew views it as such an important network to exert influence over, because the kids who watch Adult Swim really do drink up all of it. By exerting influence over that audience you may not have the widespread influence that you get through Disney or Nickelodeon, but you’re molding minds in a very serious way.
Were they uncomfortable with you from the beginning? Our development executive, Walter Newman, is a black guy and he’s as normal as they get. If you hacked into his phone you’d probably see a bunch of crap about the NBA and Beyonce. Every step along the way he was approving stuff and laughing about it. My suspicion is that he’s pretty bummed out about the show getting the ax. The executives weren’t worried until the articles started coming out and the heat started getting turned on to Turner corporate. They had agreed to pick up a season two. [Senior executive vice president] Mike Lazzo said he wanted to shoot a hundred episodes. We were in talks to have season two be ten episodes instead of six. Everyone was on board until the pressure turned up and the marketing people started getting pissed off, so Turner gave it the ax.
So was this something that came out of nowhere or did you see it coming? We knew there was going to be some sort of trouble, which is why we called the show World Peace—so that people are getting pissed off about world peace. We probably didn’t even expect to have season one done and shown on the air. So when the sixth episode aired and it went all the way through without getting nixed, I think we were pretty surprised by that. Once they started talking about buying season two we were back on edge, worrying about the various ways it could end up getting taken off the air.
‘They’re going to smell blood and I think they’re going to go in for Adult Swim for being anti-woman and you’re going to hear a whole lot more about that soon.’
Do you think that the big target for the left was Trump, and the fact that they couldn’t take him out meant that they had to find someone else to pay the price for his victory? I don’t think it’s necessarily a Trump-centric attack. I think that Trump getting elected has caused people to double down instead of taking a step back and looking at the general hysteria and hypnosis. This is the lesson that cuckservatives refused to learn for decades. Even if I were to say that Hitler salutes are terrible and you should never do them, they would still want to ruin me and crush my head in. There’s no way to appease them or keep them at bay while you have any sort of ideology that’s right of center. It’s all the same to them.
At the same time, nobody to the left of center has disavowed, say, the Weather Underground. I don’t blame them for not disavowing the people who say that we should kill cops. What they’re doing is presenting a unified front. They’re not fracturing their attack power by disavowing bad apples. They’re saying, “Oh, you have a problem with our extreme leftists? Fuck you, that’s not for us to explain.”
Had you guys started filming season two already? No, we wrote a bunch of stuff and were just about to submit before we got the news.
Is there tension with you three due to you personally getting a disproportionate amount of press compared to the other guys? No. Nick and Charls [not a typo] go back to middle school and me and Nick go back eight years.
You once tweeted, “do not forget that these people want you broke, dead, your kids raped and brainwashed, and they think it’s funny.” For many of your critics, they want to hear not just that you’re cancelled but that you’re personally suffering. Well, it remains to be seen how much of a victory this is for them, because the book we just published, How to Bomb the U.S Government, is sold out. We’ve only got the e-book left. It’s been four years of work and as you can see on the cover, it’s a “100% Safe” book and “100% legal.” If you’re self-publishing, it’s certainly much more money than you’d get with a book deal with a publisher nowadays. It went pretty well and I think we’re going to do another print run as soon as these finish shipping. So I don’t think any of us are going to be committing suicide anytime soon.
What’s next for you three? Charls is probably going to do more web stuff. Nick has two antique stores and some other writing he’s going to be working on. I’m going to be doing some publishing and my long-term goal is a video game that’s a sci-fi universe like Star Wars but non-pozzed, so there won’t be any communist messages like George Lucas had. It’ll be the opposite.
When you’re doing your stand-up, which is very transgressive, and you know that audience wants to kill you, what’s your mindset like? Is your adrenaline through the roof? I just think it’s funny. I had good training. My mom for decades would incessantly badger me. I developed the ability to enjoy kvetching to a great degree. So it’s not a problem for me anymore.
Comedy, at its best, is about pushing boundaries. When Brett Gelman does his specials, he has actors joke about pedophilia (“I was molested as a child. It was my uncle. Although at the time, I sort of thought of him as my boyfriend, too.”) and incest (“I’ve been having an affair with a married man. He’s my brother.”). Yet he’s been very public about his issues with you. Has he been instrumental in getting the show cancelled? He’s definitely played a part. I don’t know how much influence a character actor has, but to be honest, what’s the difference between [what] he says and what I say? I have a hint. I wonder, what would be the one difference? [At this point Sam draws a Star of David and holds it up. He later DMed me, “Can you please mention that I did the Jewish star joke? I think that’s classic.”] I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s not like I hate Jewish people but it is what it is. I don’t know if he was instrumental but he gave it a little bit of extra steam publicly.
He also said the network had a problem hiring women in general. They’re trying to make it a thing. First of all, he didn’t make some incredible stand for justice here. His shit was not funny. Adult Swim did not have any interest in pursuing more projects with him. He didn’t get cancelled, but he also didn’t get picked up for more shit—so on his way out the door he decides, You know what? Fuck it. I’m going to get a little boost of this personally. I’m going to be the social hero here and say I’m falling on my sword so that women can have a chance.
When Adult Swim asked him to find more funny women, he just brought in his lady to pitch a project—and that’s it. He didn’t bring in anybody else. So that’s what a moral hero he is. The anti-woman thing, I honestly think the cancellation of our show is part of a larger, longer-term attack on Adult Swim. Because they’re important, because they’re this niche cultural thing that has this sway with young people to a large degree, it’s important to the BuzzFeed crew to have some sort of influence over it. The angle they were taking a year back or more is that the network was anti-woman because it didn’t have enough female creators. Our show, even though it is not anti-woman, is kind of masculine, I was in tan-face for a sketch, not even blackface, so we became the easiest way for them to drive a wedge in. Now that that’s done, they’re going to smell blood and I think they’re going to go in for Adult Swim for being anti-woman and you’re going to hear a whole lot more about that soon.
You also got into it with Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric last week. My information that he helped get the show cancelled is only rumor. But the idea that he doesn’t have influence with the network is bullshit because his production company and him personally are making many shows for them right now, putting aside the fact that he is one of the guys that put them on the map. He did tell his fans to call advertisers and complain about our show if they didn’t like it [at 10:23] so this idea that he’s neutral or something like Switzerland is bullshit. So I don’t know that he went to Mike Lazzo and said we should be cancelled, but he most certainly did publicly campaign against us. He also endorsed his buddy Brett Gelman in the midst of this thing when it was getting really heated.
By the way, why are there holes in your bedroom door? I threw a chair because I was pissed off at my roommate. All the other doors are punched up too, I smashed one for a video for comedic purposes.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.
Michael Malice is the author of Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il. He is also the subject of Harvey Pekar’s graphic novel Ego & Hubris and the co-author of five other books. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmalice.