How Animator Brad Neely Does Breakfast: "One Thing That Should Not Happen Is Sogginess"
Brad Neely is something like a historian of the seamier sides of American life. His cartoons portray the absurd, grotesque, and bizarre parts of our culture, from the life of JFK to the simple joys of consuming a Whopper and a 40. Neely is a prolific artist: He created the Adult Swim series China, IL, the web series The Professor Brothers and I Am Baby Cakes, served as a consultant on South Park, and runs his own website, Creased Comics. Plus, he’s made countless other beloved YouTube videos, the kinds of things that make your friends commandeer your computer and force you to watch. His new series Brad Neely’s Harg Nallin’ Sclopio Peepio premieres Sunday, July 10 at 11:45 p.m. on Adult Swim. I spoke to him on the phone—he said he was “in Hollywood, like an asshole”—to ask if some foods are funnier than others, what he thinks Donald Trump has for breakfast, and if he has any thoughts on China, IL star Hulk Hogan and his recent legal victory.
Extra Crispy: So, what did you have for breakfast today?
Brad Neely: I don’t eat breakfast. It’s a problem: I never have eaten breakfast. I get up early, but I’m kind of a shit in the morning. I do the treadmill and I drink coffee—I guess that’s my breakfast. Then I shower and all that, take care of my five-year-old kid. She and I have the morning together, and I make her a breakfast, either turkey bacon or eggs. The only way I can get her to eat scrambled eggs is to put a little drop of food coloring in them, like pink or purple, and call it “Princess eggs.”
Then I get to work and I am a ravenous asshole and I have to eat right then. So I usually eat my lunch right at 10:30 or 11.
What kind of lunch do you eat at 10:30?
If I'm being bad, it's fast food. I like heavy stuff, I like meat. I like Chinese and Thai food. It's hard to find those open that early, but we make it happen.
So for breakfast meats, is turkey bacon your go-to?
That’s what we do in the house, the no-nitrates kind of stuff. If the label has the most writing on it, that’s what I’m supposed to buy. I gravitate to the stuff that just says “hot dogs” on it, which is probably going to be the one that tastes the best. It’s probably made completely in an illegal and horrifying fashion, but that’s what I go to. But I’m learning.
Your cartoons really focus on some of the more grotesque and comedically gross elements of our culture. What breakfast foods do you think represent that?
I kind of go two ways. There’s the over-corporatized version where you’re pretty much just eating a really cheap plastic toy made out of corn, that’s all about the marketing and the box. The cutesy named stuff that can sit in your pantry for a long time. Even the snack bar things are just for a more specialized juvenile mind, like “Trail Murderer” or whatever. It’s this role playing supplement. Like, OK, “I am going to be an athlete, my daughter is a princess, she’s going to have the princess eggs, I’m going to eat Trail Monster.”
But then there’s also just that people are animals and we have to kill to live and all this thinking about gross heads and body horror. Every night I go to bed innocent and sad that I eat animals and I’m like, “I’m going to wake up, I’m going to be vegan.” Every night. And then I don’t eat breakfast and I get to work and I’m crazy hungry and I’m like, “get me an entire dead pig and I’m going to eat it.” All of that sort of cognitive dissonance about eating meat that bothers me. I like to run right through that conflict with making jokes.
I’ve definitely seen a lot of gross things happening with food on your shows, but I’ve also seen you talk about being into Arby’s and chocolate vodka and pizza rolls. It seems like you recognize the debauchery of the food that we eat, but then also admit that debauchery sometimes feels awesome.
That conflict and that criticism is directly my psyche. That is me talking about me, and it’s cool if other people can see themselves in that, but those are my food issues. The thought of eating a hamburger made out of 100 different cows and pouring alcohol down after to make myself not think about it, it all goes together.
I take up so much time worrying about the ethics of food and being turned off by people sitting around a table just smacking. Some of my favorite parts of books are when they’re talking about people eating and you can tell the author is just ashamed that he has to eat. Somebody eats somebody’s asscheek in Candide and I think that is just like, the summary of my aesthetic.
I noticed doughnuts in a few clips of Brad Neely’s Harg Nallin’ Sclopio Peepio. Are doughnuts funny? Are some foods funnier than others?
I think a doughnut is just so sexual. It’s an orifice that you eat and you don’t know where the middle is. You can get a bag of the middle, and it comes in a sack. Just think about the two shapes of doughnuts. You’ve got a log and you’ve got a hole. And most of them are cream-filled. It’s disgusting. And if somebody brings them around, people gather around like a pack of wolves watching a sex show. It’s crazy.
Yeah, there’s the promotional bit from the new show, where someone brings a box of doughnuts to an office and everyone freaks out on him.
The bit is called “F*** Your Pink Box,” and no one picks it up, but I guarantee you, part of your brain does. A pink box is a euphemism for a vagina, you know? The metaphor just keeps going, where not only is this box of edible sex coming to your office, it’s in a pink box.
Are some foods serious?
I don’t know if water counts as food.
Water and coffee. The apple is very serious. Being the forbidden fruit, it caused all of these problems that we’ve found ourselves in. Any time you see an apple in a movie, people are usually walking with it like it’s a grenade or part of a Catholic ritual, and usually it’s in slow motion. There’s something about an apple that makes all of us get reverent.
And there’s Snow White.
Yeah. You think about Newton—there’s nothing more serious than Newton. Then you think about Steve Jobs, and how he’s like, the second coming of Christ. The apple is really, really serious.
If you had to guess, what do you think Donald Trump has for breakfast?
Kids. Poor kids. Just a stew of poor kids. People say that if you eat a bunch of carrots it’ll make you orange, so maybe he’s just eating a bunch of carrots and carrot juice. We were giving our kid carrot juice and somebody was like, “Your kid might have jaundice, she’s really orange.” Maybe that’s it.
What about Hillary Clinton?
She’s probably like me, “I’m going to skip breakfast and I’m just gonna be a dick as soon as I get there.” I bet she drinks a lot of coffee and she doesn’t eat during the day and as soon as the sun goes down she turns into a werewolf. That’s my bet.
What if JFK was transported here, so he had access to all of our breakfast foods?
Doughnuts. [In a JFK impersonation] “I don’t know why I have to eat these doughnuts, they just keep making sense to me.”
What about George Washington?
Apples, right? Even though he chopped down a cherry tree, I just cannot imagine him eating cherries. There’s something sexy about cherries, like I think Prince probably only ate cherries.
Do you have any other major thoughts on breakfast?
One thing that should not happen is sogginess. If I’m like on vacation and I’m doing a breakfast because me and my wife and kid are together, and hash browns that aren’t crispy, that sucks. Soggy anything is bad. Is there any good soggy food?
Some people swear by oatmeal.
Even that is ruined when it’s too liquid-y. It needs to have that firmness.
So on those rare days when you’re on vacation and you actually do eat breakfast, what do you have?
Bacon and eggs. If I go to a place and I’m going to do breakfast, I flip the menu open, look for where it usually says “American,” and that’s what I get.
Hulk Hogan voiced the Dean on China, IL. I realize this has nothing to do with breakfast, but I’ve never talked to anyone who’s worked with Hulk Hogan. Have you been following the Gawker sex tape lawsuit?
Do you have any thoughts?
You know, I feel like anything I say about Hulk Hogan will be taken that I have certain opinions about some of the issues, so I can’t comment.
That’s probably wise. Thanks!