An Interview with 'We Bare Bears' Writer Mikey Heller
Into comics about snakes coming out of butts? We got your guy right here.
All images couresty the artist
Into cartoons about poop-obsessed characters? Perhaps men making out with pizzas, or snakes coming out of butts? Well look no further than the creations of comedian and cartoonist Mikey Heller. Heller has devoted years to his online comic Time Trabble, leading to a career in comedy writing for Cartoon Network’s We Bare Bears and animations for Comedy Central’s Instagram. We had the pleasure of digging into this “sick pervert’s” brain about working at Cartoon Network.
The Creators Project: How would you explain your style?
Mikey Heller: A friend once said my comics usually feature someone who is "really psyched to be depressed." I guess I like things to be cheery and fun on the surface while having an undercurrent of sadness and loneliness. I was really into Peanuts as a kid. Even though it's always a really cute comic, some of those strips can really bum you out. That dichotomy is really fun to play with!
You're currently a writer on Cartoon Network's We Bare Bears. How did this happen and what's it like going from cartoonist to writer?
My webcomic, Time Trabble, started getting a lot shares on all sorts on platforms like Stumbleupon, Reddit and especially Tumblr. The creator of We Bare Bears, Daniel Chong, knew my comic and he reached out asking if I'd like to take a shot at pitching a few ideas for the show. I did this from NYC a handful of times and several months later I was offered a full-time job writing for the show! I think being a cartoonist helps for writing because I can doodle ideas as I pitch them. There's a lot of drawing during the writing process. Visualizing the story is key to shaping it in the right direction.
Besides writing, you're also a comedian producing shows such as Goo House, Late Mic in New York, and more. Tell us about these projects.
In Rochester and Buffalo, NY, I would help produce and host Goo House, which were really wacky comedy and music shows. We would try to push it to showcase the kind of stuff that wasn't being performed in these cities. Once, we did a show that was inside a giant blanket fort. There were a lot of early-Conan-esque characters. Fellow Goo-er, Colin Burgess and I kicked the Conan influence into high gear with Late Mic, an open mic that was styled like a late night talk show. Comedians can sign up and perform a set or do a character, be interviewed, whatever they want!
What are you biggest inspirations for your comedy, writing, and art?
Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series was my obsession as a kid. I'd read them over and over and redraw all the drawings and comics in the books. My interests steered more toward comedy when I got really into Steve Martin's stand-up albums. I can practically recite them by heart now. Eventually I dove into stand up comedy and that sort of influenced my cartooning. There are a lot of great webcomics now that function as vessels for jokes and that's what I strive to do.
What's next for you?
I have no idea. I would never have predicted I would be where I am now so it's hard to guess where I'll be in the future. I'd like to do a lot more projects on my own. I made some quick cartoons for Joe Rumrill and Mary Houlihan's show, Cartoon Monsoon, and they were really fun to make. I want to make more of those. They're really haphazardly made but that's the kind of vibe I like in my work. Whether it's comics, performance, cartoons, or videos, I always want to give off the feeling of how fun it was to think of the initial silly idea. So I always try to follow through with a real capture-lightning-in-a-bottle approach.
Anyone's works you're inspired by recently?
As I get older, I find myself more engaged with the work of my peers rather than stuff I would see on TV or in a store. My good friend Lucas Gardner just published his own novel, Quietly, From Afar. It's outrageously funny and surprisingly deep. I'm really inspired that he wrote the whole thing but also published it on his own.