As a part of the Mike Tyson Mysteries roundtable interview sessions at San Diego Comic-Con last week, I had the chance to sit down with one of the writers of the show who also happens to be the voice of Yung Hee Tyson, Rachel Ramras. In this roundtable, Ramras discusses writing for the show, future guest and what it’s like being a woman in comedy.
Q: Were you always into making comedy a career?
Rachel Ramras: I was…I was one of those kids who was obsessed with comedy my whole life, Saturday Night Live and stand-up comedy and so when I went and saw a show, I thought ‘this is my home. This is where I’m meant to be.’
Q: Have you ever tried out for Saturday Night Live?
Ramras: No…thanks for bringing up a really sore subject [sarcastically joking]. No one ever asked me to…mhmm okay, yeah..[laughs].
Q: Do you ever get to do improve for Mike Tyson Mysteries?
Ramras: The show is fully scripted. Everyone sticks to the script but unlike a lot of voiceover records that are very technical, like you say your line and you say your line, and we will overlap it in post, Hugh [Davidson] doesn’t like that. He thinks, and I agree with him, that if you’re going to have Norm MacDonald in a booth and Jim Rash, that you just sort of want everyone to overlap and do whatever, so there’s enough that sort of feels unscripted but we do follow the script to a T. We now know how to write for everyone so hopefully it feels a little improvised.
Q: What are some of your favorite episodes, especially with your character Yung Hee?
Ramras: I think we started to have more fun with Yung and letting her give it back to Pigeon a little bit more. I think we had more fun that we had more fun with the Marquees character this season. He’s so funny and he is so funny when he’s emotional and so we let Jim [Rash] get very emotional this season.
Q: Now that you’ve done this series, have you gone back and got some inspiration from Hannah-Barbara things?
Ramras: I watched Hannah-Barbara as a kid, but I’m sure that the artists are inspired by them. It doesn’t come into play really for us as writers. We don’t write towards the style or anything like that, we just write what we think is funny.
Q: What are some of the challenges of being a woman working in comedy?
Ramras: I personally haven’t had any challenges. The Groundlings is funny is funny, gender doesn’t matter and also, you try not to worry about looks, [laughs] it’s almost like worrying about your looks hurts you in comedy in general and I’ve been working in writers rooms my whole adult life where I’ve been the only woman on staff, which is sad but I felt very respected and now I get to work with my friends, so it hasn’t been an issue for me.
Q: Who’s someone you’d like to see as a guest spot in a season of Mike Tyson Mysteries?
Ramras: Well I’m not allowed to say but we do have some very exciting guest coming in season two. I know Mike [Tyson] has talked about some of his friends, which will be a trip to meet like Snoop Dogg or Eddie Griffin. I hope that the more popular the show gets, the more people get to see it ’cause I still don’t think enough people have seen it and maybe some people will want to come on but at the end of the day as writers, you only have eleven minutes and you really want to focus on our characters ’cause when you have Norm [MacDonald], Jim and Mike, you don’t need to be giving dialogue to that many other people you know?
Chris Salce: How do you cram all of that in the amount that you’re allowed to?
Ramras: Well fortunately, I think they all work together so well that one person’s line usually leads to the next person’s line. Pigeon says something mean to Jim’s character, I have a response to that, so everything just sort of flows because everyone is just serving a really vital role to the show, so no one overlaps, which is helpful. I’m the voice of reason [on the show], I don’t always get the funny lines but the show doesn’t need that per-say. I think we are going to see more from Yung as the series develops and as we become more comfortable writing for the characters. I think she’s finding her voice more when it comes to season two.
Q: What has it been like to watch the fanbase grow?
Ramras: It’s so cool! It’s Mike. It’s unreal just walking around with Mike to see peoples reaction, it’s crazy. At NY Comic-Con, he was just walking through the floor and he’s so friendly and so if someone is like ‘Can I get a picture?’ he stops for a picture. He’s a genuine person and happy to be doing what he’s doing. It’s a pleasure to work with him.
Q: Did you have any misconceptions about Mike before you started working with him?
Ramras: What I knew about Mike is the person that he is now and that he is constantly trying and seeking to be a better human being, so I had respect for that, tons of respect for it. What surprised me was how funny he is and how real and authentic he is.
Q: What comedians inspired you to get into comedy?
Ramras: I was obsessed, of course, with Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres’ stand-up, Paul Reiser, everybody on SNL, Norm MacDonald, I was truly, truly such a fan of, and Dana Carvey and Nora Dunn. Now, some of our friends, Kristen Wiig and Melissa Melissa McCarthy, these are women that we performed with but I’m a huge fan of their work.
Chris Salce: Is there a favorite episode coming up that you’re really excited about?
Ramras: There is a really funny one with Alan Thicke coming up…it involves beastiality and a wedding is going to be broken up, so I mean…those three things can’t not be funny.
Q: Has there ever been a moment where it’s been too much and you were just like ‘Oh my God, they are never going to let us do this’?
Ramras: Yes and we’ve been told we can’t do it and it usually relates to Pigeon but it’s funny, we don’t like gross out humor, we don’t like profanity and filth for the sake of it, when we write things like that, it’s really because we think they’re funny and authentic to the character. So it’s not for shock value. If we put it in there, we think it’s funny and for me, nothing can go too far but we have been told to pull back on Pigeon. Norm is so funny, I wish we could record the records that are not the dialogue because Norm just goes on these tangents that are so funny. To me, comedy, you can’t be precious, you can’t worry about stuff like that, you just have to be funny.
Q: Does it help being on Adult Swim?
Ramras: Yeah, that’s a huge relief for us just because we come from writing ‘The Looney Tunes Show,’ which I thought was super funny and fun to work on but there’s only so much that you can do, only as far as you can go so now we really feel like we have no limitations and it’s liberating as a writer. It’s a totally different world.
Q: Would you like to have a crossover episode with like some of the old Hannah-Barbara shows?
Ramras: Uh…no. [Laughs]. The show’s so not gimmicky even though hearing the premise, it seems like it could be. It’s just not gimmicky at all so we wouldn’t do it but I’m a fan of those cartoons.
Q: But what about that House Hunter episode?
Ramras: Well with that, that’s because my husband and I are obsessed with ‘House Hunters.’ That was one of my favorite episodes too because you have Mike talking about floor plans, it was pretty great. We like to play with timing for us…I feel assaulted when I watch comedies that’s just joke after joke after joke. It’s not appealing to me. We want the comedy to come from an authentic place between the characters. For us, there’s long stretches of the script that just has nothing to do with the mystery and is just a really slow pace and we have to remember to put a mystery in there. Sometimes we are just like ‘Oh! we have to put a mystery in.
Chris Salce: Would you say that writing the mystery would be the hardest about writing the whole thing?
Ramras:Totally! And I get the most bored. Hugh will pinch an idea for the episode and I’m just like…[snoring]. I don’t get into it until we start writing the dialogue [laughs] because I’m not interested in mysteries [laughs], I don’t care about a mystery but I care about these characters and I care about making it funny, so that’s where I get involved.
Mike Tyson Mysteries return on July 20 at 12:45 am, only on Adult Swim.