On April Fools Day the US cable channel Adult Swim played an elaborate prank on fans of Rick and Morty. Instead of showing Rick and Morty, they played an 11-minute parody. The short was made by Aussie animator Michael Cusack, and it followed two characters named Reek and Mordi as they visited a town in regional Victorian called Bendigo. And of course, Bendigo was depicted as a kind of bogan hellhole.
So I went to Bendigo to see what it's really like, which included meeting former mayor Rod Fyffe. But the thing is that Rod looked so much like Rick that I started to wonder whether Bendigo's inclusion in the ep was more than just coincidence.
Rod had never heard of Rick and Morty, let alone the spoof episode, but he was happy to watch it with me on his front porch.
VICE: So Rod, what do you think of the episode?
Rod Fyffe: Well, I have this philosophy that any news is good news. And thanks to this episode there will be people who now go online and find out what Bendigo really is. At least people now know that Bendigo exists.
You’ve never seen Rick and Morty, but did you enjoy the parody?
I love cartoons, and satire, and everything like that. What I saw was entertaining. Some people might be offended but when you stop and think about it it’s just a cartoon. Plus, I kind of look like him.
You do. Now tell me, what’s the best part about living in Bendigo?
It’s a compact city and it’s a confident city, even though you look at some of the shops in Bendigo and see they’re closed. That’s true. And then there’s the Chinese component. The Chinese have made a significant contribution to Bendigo and certainly we have the longest imperial dragon in the world, and will have forever and ever.
Later, I genuinely wanted to know why the cartoonist, Michael Cusack, creator of the Rick and Morty parody ep had chosen Bendigo. So I called him to ask about the connection between Rod Fyffe and Rick. At first he denied the connected, until I sent him a photo, at which point he said he was “shocked”.
VICE: Don’t act surprised. I know you’re in on this.
Michael Cusack: No there is no—I’m sorry to tell you—but there’s no conspiracy. I just chose Bendigo because it sounded funny. Although wow, what the hell? It really does look like him.
That’s because it is him.
That’s hilarious, has he even seen Rick and Morty?
No he says he’s never seen Rick and Morty, but you know what? I feel like he’s trying to throw me off the trail.
I mean, if you want to believe this, all I can say is Bendigo just felt right. And I’ll leave it there.
So you’ve never seen this man in your life?
Well what do you think is going on here, is it just a crazy weird coincidence or is there something more?
Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe there was some sort of Bendigo aura telling me that I should set it there and this guy is behind it all… who knows.
A lot of the themes in Rick and Morty have to do with simulations and things like that. Do you think this could be one of those signs, like a glitch—
Oh yeah I think we’re probably in a simulation, I think this is just evidence for it.
Definitely. Now let’s talk about the episode itself, what inspired you to make it?
It was commissioned by Adult Swim, they’ve seen my other stuff like Damo and Darren. Justin, the co-creator of Rick and Morty, just asked me to do it and I was like yeah sure I’ll do that. It was out of the blue. And the aftermath of it has been pretty much confusion across the board. It's been fun to watch the reactions even if they’re negative—it just makes it funnier. It's been enjoyable.
You’ve really put Bendigo on the map. Google searches for Bendigo skyrocketed after the episode was released, especially in the US.
Yeah it’s so funny, I just like the idea of little Australian town names being known in America. It’s hilarious because it’s just so local.
So you live in Wollongong. Did you take any of the character inspiration from the people that you see around you in Wollongong? And why then set the episode in Bendigo?
I suppose the character inspiration was more of an unconscious thing that seeps into my cartoons. Well, it actually is set in Wollongong at the start, in the episode Rick is like “12 hours 12 hours to Bendigo Morty!” and that’s because I looked it up and that’s how far Bendigo is from Wollongong. And if you look in the background before they start the trip there’s some mountains, and those mountains are in Wollongong.
Interesting. Prove to me that Bendigo Rick is not the real Rick.
Umm… he looks like a Walter to me. He looks like his name would be Walter and not Rick. He looks like he’d be down at the TAB on a Friday betting, thinking about his life and his retired job as a bricklayer.