[Exclusive Interview] Digman! Creators Andy Samberg and Neil Campbell Talk About Their New Show and The Quest For Some Saturday Morning Cartoon Nostalgia
Sometimes the real treasures are the new shows we find along the way.
Set to premiere on March 22nd, Digman! takes place in a world where archeologists are regarded as celebrities and some of the most revered people on the planet, that is, except for Rip Digman (Andy Samberg). After a personal tragedy and professional blunder make Rip Digman a laughing stock, he spends the next decade in isolation. But when an energetic and clever archeology assistant (Mitra Jouhari) injects some much-needed excitement into Rip’s life, he begins a hilarious journey to redeem himself and restore his reputation.
In addition to lending his voice to the titular character, Samberg also created Digman! with fellow Brooklyn Nine-Nine alum, Neil Campbell. Together, the duo wrote the show and after shopping the script around, they found a home for it on Comedy Central. Headlining the cast of the treasure-hunting adventure cartoon are Tim Meadows, Tim Robinson, Melissa Fumero, and Dale Soules.
We sat down with Samberg and Campbell to discuss their inspiration for Digman!, the challenges they are prepared to face finding their audience, and the sheer amount of talent that has been brought on board to bring their show to life.
Matthew Swigonski: Could you talk about where the idea for the show came about and when you guys decided to pursue and develop it?
Neil Campbell: Andy and I have known each other for a long time. We were working together on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and we’d just sit on set and were like “It would be great to make a show as funny as possible and crammed full of jokes.” We each love comedies that are just full-on joke machines but if we could still retain some of what we learned on Brooklyn Nine-Nine about telling a narrative-led story. Trying to marry those two ideas together. So we talked about a lot of different ideas. We love animation, we wanted something where we weren’t limited by budget or production…there’s just something that we love about those types of things from our childhood like adventurers exploring the world, and felt like that could lead into a bunch of silly story ideas and not just be stuck in a house or an office. You’re able to go on these crazy adventures that go somewhere insane.
Matthew Swigonski: That’s really cool because watching a lot of this show took me back to my childhood and reminded me of those 90s-era cartoons. Was that something you had in mind while developing the show?
Andy Samberg: Yeah, I think we certainly felt like we wanted to infuse a little bit of nostalgia, animation wise into it. You know, there’s certainly a little bit of Duck Tales… (laughs) which we all know and love.
Neil Campbell: A little Pirates of Dark Water too (laughs). But yeah, we wanted a bit of an action adventure with a Saturday morning cartoon feel to it. But you know, where they also have these big eyes. You can tell it’s a comedy show. They are very expressive and we can do a lot with the expressions in the acting.
Matthew Swigonski: So how long has the idea of Digman! been germinating between you two?
Andy Samberg: What year did you say, Neil?
Neil Campbell: I think October 2018 was the first time we sat outside of work one day to talk about this specific idea, like this archeologist idea. It was just conversations for a while and then in 2020, we started buckling down more and basically wrote the script on spec in a way that we thought would be funny and a show we’d really want to watch.
Matthew Swigonski: You talked about working on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, do you feel like there’s any sort of comparison between working on an animated show versus live-action? Do you feel like you still have about the same amount of jokes you can throw out there?
Andy Samberg: I mean, there’s definitely more creativity in animation, as far as what you can do production-wise. I don’t think there would ever be a moment on Brooklyn Nine-Nine where somebody snowboards off of a cliff and hangs from a helicopter (laughs). As much as everyone would have loved that. The fun of this genre was being able to do things on the scale of a big-budget action-adventure movie but not having to actually eat the cost of that. We were just really lucky that our animation team and everyone in the production is so good, they could bring all of that to life. So that was a huge difference and obviously being on Comedy Central we can take it further, you know? We’re on later at night, so in terms of the jokes and the comedy, it can be…as Neil likes to say “edgier”.
Neil Campbell: (laughs) I don’t know what he’s talking about.
Andy Samberg: We’re just super proud of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it’s just a different animal.
Neil Campbell: Yeah, you don’t have a cold open where a volcano is exploding.
Matthew Swigonski: The first season of animated shows oftentimes have a hard time trying to get an immediate following. Do you feel like you have that unique hook to attract an audience right from the get-go?
Andy Samberg: Yeah, I mean, I’m just assuming no one will watch till season 3 and I’m just hoping that Comedy Central stays with us (laughs). It’s hard though, there’s so much being made now. We’re completely aware of the fact that there’s a crazy influx of adult animation. I don’t want to speak to any one project, but I will say this is one that we’re taking really seriously. We really want it to be good, and we stand behind it and want people to connect with it. So it’s not a lark, you know? We’re hoping that we get a chance to be out there long enough for people to find it because I feel like with animation and also with comedy shows, that’s often just the way it works. You kind of have to slow burn sometimes.
Neil Campbell: As someone who watches a lot [of shows] sometimes you hear “oh this person that I think is very funny or this actor is a voice in an animated show” and then you watch and think “Yeah, that was just another job for them. They showed up a couple of times, recorded a voice, and just did what they were hired to do.” I hope people know that Andy is involved in this. We wrote this together and he’s been involved in every part of this show. This is something that Andy has been putting passion into. Every moment and every edit, Andy is involved.
Andy Samberg: And by the way, it sucks, it’s super boring (laughs).
Neil Campbell: (laughs) But it pays off!
Andy Samberg: Oh yeah. I mean, hopefully, it does.
Matthew Swigonski: I think it does pay off. I feel like there is actual passion behind the voice acting in these episodes. You also have an impressive cast and I’ve also seen an incredible list of guest actors coming on board during this season. Can you talk about how exciting that is?
Andy Samberg: Super exciting. I mean when they started to put out these press releases for the show and we had to list all these guest actors and I was like “Holy shit! This is dope!”
Matthew Swigonski: I know! There were like 50 of them in the press release that I saw. It’s incredible.
Andy Samberg: The thing I think that Neil and I are so proud of is how many funny people are messing with us and coming and doing it. The intention really was to make something for people who truly love comedy. And I think it speaks well of the show that so many people on varying levels of comedy and from different corners of the comedy universe are all involved in bringing in what they do and making it special.
Neil Campbell: Yeah, And Daniel Radcliffe is super funny in [the show] and we were really hoping he’d do it because we thought he’d be really funny. And then there’s Kyle Mooney and Kirby Howell-Baptiste who are both so funny in the roles that they play. You could feel the animators getting excited about the performances they gave. Giving their characters just a little bit of special attention it felt like. Just watching it come together, it felt like it melded perfectly with the voices and the characterization, and animation of it. I’m just excited for people to see it!
Matthew Swigonski: Last question, if you could go on an adventure anywhere in the world to find a lost artifact of your choosing, what would it be and why?
Neil Campbell: Oh jeez.
Andy Samberg: Yeah, we don’t want to blow something we’re going to do an episode on (laughs).
Neil Campbell: This is going to be a boring answer but I’ve never been to Egypt or the pyramids. I’m sure they’d let me just dig in, you know?
Andy Samberg: For me, probably the necklace that Rose drops at the end of Titanic. I’d want to go snag that.
Digman! premiers Wednesday, March 22nd at 10:30 (EST) on Comedy Central.
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