With The Awesomes, Seth Meyers (Saturday Night Live) and Michael Shoemaker (Late Night With Jimmy Fallon) bring their vision of a ragtag band of animated superheroes to Hulu on August 1st. Inspired by life backstage at SNL, the titular team is led by the underqualified Professor Doctor Awesome, a.k.a. Prock (voiced by Meyers), who inherits his father’s famous (but now defunct) superhero team. Prock rebuilds the team with a band of similarly underqualified misfits voiced by SNL writers, cast and alums including Emily Spivey, Paula Pell, Kenan Thompson, Bill Hader, Taran Killam and Rachel Dratch. Rolling Stone spoke with Meyers and Shoemaker about the Justice League, getting Lorne Michael’s blessing and hosting the Oscars. (Meyers would love to.)
How are your misfit superheroes different than the misfit superheroes that have preceded you?
Seth Meyers: We didn’t really try to be inspired by misfit superheroes from the past, though I would say these are the misfit superheroes that were written by two people who were sort of inspired by working at SNL more than anything else.
What specific elements of SNL backstage inspired these characters and this narrative?
Meyers: I think part of it is about how SNL is. You have all these incredibly talented people that all have very disparate personalities. When the show works best, it’s all about getting them all to perform to their best abilities.
How did you end up casting the veteran SNL writers Paula Pell and Emily Spivey?
Meyers: For anyone who spends time with them, they are two of the funniest human beings you could ever meet. And they both have really funny voice rhythms. Concierge – who’s the character Emily Spivey plays – is just basically Emily Spivey.
Michael Shoemaker: Paula Pell as well. There’s a voice of an older lady that is a voice that Paula has been doing since I’ve known her for, I don’t know, 18 years. It’s one of her funniest moves. All of those people, all of the SNL people, when you record them, their first take is the take. All you have to do is explain, like, “Oh, there’s a monster chasing you,” and then they get it.
Why did development take seven years?
Shoemaker: We had other jobs at that time! It was always well-received, but each time, in the end, the [networks] weren’t quite as agreeable as Hulu was. Once we found Hulu, it fell into place, because all the things that we liked about it were the things that they liked about it, and every direction we wanted to go, they just urged us to go further.
What were your favorite comics as a kid?
Meyers: I’m a huge Justice League fan. I always just liked superhero teams like the Justice League or X-Men. I like interpersonal relationships.
Shoemaker: Yeah, I think we both like teams. The idea of people who shouldn’t be working together but have to be working together. That’s the most interesting thing for me.
I read that Prock is a combination of both of you guys. How so?
Meyers: Well, Mike and I are both crazy over-thinkers, and Prock has that affliction as well. We also believe ourselves to have very good ideas that sometimes are frustrated by the fact that other people do not see them as great ideas right away as well. And that’s one of Prock’s problems, is trying to convince people that he is in the right.
Is this the first time in your life you’ve based a superhero on yourself?
Meyers: Yes. It would be such a depressing answer if this was my 12th superhero.
How did you get this cast on board?
Shoemaker: I think that we treated it the way you treat SNL read-through, which is you run into someone and say, “Hey, you’re in this . . . I’ll show it to you later. It’s good.” And they’re like, “OK!” We didn’t ask, or call their agents. We said, “Hey, we’ve got this thing and you’re going do it.” And they’re like, “Great!”
Meyers: And we sort of set up a makeshift recording studio in the building. You know, obviously everybody who’s a voice in the show has a million things going on – we knew their time was at a premium. So you would grab Taran by the arm and be like, “Come with me for five minutes.” And thankfully, because as Mike says, they’re such great voice performers, you don’t really need more than two takes per line.
Did Lorne Michaels get involved at any point?
Shoemaker: He’s involved in the sense that he allowed us to work on this for seven years. And Broadway Video [his production company] supported it, and kept it alive, really, thanks to Lorne. And gave us the freedom to do it and the time to do it, and allowed us to steal the cast when we needed to. Like, he would want to have meetings with people and then he’d say, “Oh, they’re recording things.” And he did not get mad.
Meyers: Lorne appreciates it every time you have a project that has a title that can allow him to be very sarcastic. So when Lorne’s like, “How’s The Awesomes?,” he really enjoys being able to say that.
What’s the biggest difference between writing for people and cartoons?
Meyers: Well, when you write for cartoons, you have to have people who are more talented than you, who are then going to go draw it. When you write an SNL sketch, and all of a sudden a line doesn’t work when you see it, you just cut the line. When you write something for animation and they animate it, then you have to go, “Hey, that line I wrote is terrible. I’m sorry you drew it.”
Shoemaker: We also had people talking and fighting and arguing, or, you know, chatting. And that’s not what you want out of a superhero thing. So we had to put in fights – actual superhero battles.
Any last-minute preparations going into getting ready for Late Night?
Shoemaker: Nothing last-minute, because we still have so many minutes ahead of us. It’s not till February 24th. I think we’ll panic come January 1st.
Seth, does this mean that you can host the Oscars now?
Meyers: Oh my God, I didn’t even think of that. But yeah, definitely can. You’re officially asking, right? That’s so strange that they let you ask me.
Exactly. I’m the one who’s asking. Would you like to host the Oscars?
Meyers: Thank you, and please let them know I’m honored. Two Seths in a row – that’d be great.