Live action cartoon: Cast of Childrens Hospital invades Alamo Ritz for ATXFestival marathon
Something happens to your mind after doing pretty much anything for eight hours.
So imagine if what you're doing for that eight hours is watching one of the most expertly absurd comedies on television — featuring horny, narcissitic doctors mangling underage patients' bodies as recklessly as one another's hearts — played on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse.
As a special addition to the ATX Television Festival this weekend, brave/crazy/stupid fans of the Adult Swim program Childrens Hospital were treated to all three seasons of the cult favorite, related footage of connected projects, and appearances by the show's creators and stars. Among them were series creator and star Rob Corddry, director and writer David Wain, stars Ken Marino, Rob Huebel and Erinn Hayes, producer Jonathan Stern and guest star Paul Scheer.
Every seat save those in the front row were filled in the largest theatre at the Alamo Ritz by hungry, passionate fans, many of whom came dressed as their favorite characters in blood-splattered scrubs.
Almost immediately upon sitting down for a TV marathon like this, the logic center of your brain retreats to a dark recess in your mind. As soon as the initial introductions of the stars are made and their banter with one another begins, your questions of endurance are quieted by the excitement of seeing your comedy idols on stage before they appear giant on the big screen.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Childrens Hospital, the devious brainchild of former Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry, you should know that it is a spot-on, unflinching parody of the "sexy hospital drama" that has remained a staple on network TV for decades. Shows like St. Elsewhere, ER, Grey's Anatomy and House, M.D. all have helped build the cultural capital needed to make Childrens Hospital so smart and so damn funny.
Corddry told the audience that the idea came to him while he was himself at a real children's hospital when his daughter needed treatment. Looking around the waiting room, he realized the setting was the perfect comic setting to juxtapose the innocence of childhood with the overly adult themes of these popular television shows. Turns out, his instincts were entirely correct.
Capitalizing on the downtime during the 2007 Writers' Guild of America strike, Corddry gathered a number of his favorite fellow comedy writers and stars to help him make a web series that soon got picked up and extended into a regular series on Adult Swim. Comedy Central also showed interest in the series, but Corddry chose to keep the freedom of the 15-minute time slot that Adult Swim could provide.
Network fans were originally confused about why the network (whose work primarily appears on Cartoon Network) would choose to produce a non-cartoon series; but anyone who has seen the show quickly realizes that it is basically a flesh-and-blood cartoon. Characters regularly incur and immediately recover from terrific amounts of bodily injury, relationship continuity is generally irrelevant from episode to episode, and moral dilemmas are even less binding than are the rules of physics, logic or human biology.
With a rotating line-up of some of the best comedy writers and directors in the business, the cast of regulars (which also includes Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Malin Akerman, Henry Winkler, Lake Bell and Michael Cera's voice) are able to knock joke after joke out of the ballpark with seemingly effortless ease. In each 11-minute episode, the sheer number of set-ups and pay-offs is astounding.
While most of the humor is indeed giggly, immature sex and potty humor — but so exquisitely executed and elevated by keen comic timing and on-target genre spoofing— it is balanced with the keen, unapologetic absurdist humor that evokes every impossible cartoon scenario the writers can imagine.
In one indelible scene of the episode "Run, Dr. Lola Spratt, Run," in order to save a boy from drowning in quicksand in an operating room, Bell brings her kitty litter-filled couch cushions from her office to absorb the additional moisture. Turns out the litter has already been heavily used by her cats, so the patient is now covered in life-threatening quicksand and soiled, clumping kitty litter. Ingenious.
During a few unfortunate technical glitches throughout the marathon, fans were treated to two episodes of Marino's upcoming Bachelor parody, Burning Love, and the the crime drama parody NTSF: SD: SUV, starring Paul Scheer.
The marathon wrapped up with two never-before-seen preview episodes of Childrens Hospital from the upcoming season which starts this summer. Corddry says he could not reveal the identities of the upcoming season's guest stars, but says there might be a pretty significant female pop star joining them that everyone will recognize. Regardless of the guests, the staff of Childrens Hospital will always be around to terrorize and neglect the children who need them.
I discovered it takes about thirty more minutes to come out of an eight-hour Childrens Hospital marathon haze. Heading out in to the noise and chaos of Sixth Street on a Saturday night will only exacerbate an already existing delirium. I recommend watching the first two seasons at home and avoiding driving any heavy machinery.