Matthew Lillard Talks About the Most Powerful Being in Existence: Shaggy
"I have no comment about his origins because obviously that would literally blow your mind, and I don't want to hurt you because you seem like a nice guy."
Shaggy in Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Photo via Warner Brothers
Every so often, the internet surprises us all with an out-of-left-field meme that is not only devoid of problematic elements, but also quite wholesome. This perfect storm is currently upon us in the form of an ongoing bit that has internet denizens worshiping Norville "Shaggy" Rogers, the slouchy layabout of Scooby-Doo fame, as the most powerful entity in the universe.
As the meme has grown from obscure 4chan greentext joke to getting its own subreddit, we’ve come to learn that the sleepy detective could effortlessly trounce Thanos or kill God by merely thinking about them, but is mostly a benevolent, timeless being who quietly uses his powers to prevent us from killing ourselves.
To gain further insight into the deity, I spoke with actor Matthew Lillard, who portrayed Shaggy on screen in two live-action Scooby-Doo films and has been voicing the character for games and cartoons ever since.
VICE: Tell me how you first learned of this meme and what your reaction to it was like.
Matthew Lillard: It's so funny. The whole thing is so bananas. I'm not really sure what the hell to say about it other than the internet is sometimes a weird, magical place.
I'm not a big Twitter guy, being a man that's almost 50. It just was not in my DNA growing up. But I'll pop on every now and then and check it out. There were a couple memes in my feed going through, and one in particular came through with Shaggy having blacked-out eyes and power beyond compare, and I just made a joke where I think I said, “This is wrong.” But two days later my kids are like, “Dad, you're retweeted a million times” or something crazy. And that's when I started. I’m a Reddit fan and once it rose to the front page, you knew it was something kind of crazy. It’s hilarious cause every now and then you can add kindling to that fire and it goes a long way, so it was fun to stoke it for a few days.
Have any of the jokes particularly resonated with you? Do you have any favorites?
I think the most impressive thing around all of it is the art is incredible. I mean there's one, Raiko, I think her name is. [Her painting] has been used a bunch to show Shaggy as this omnipotent power.
If you don’t know, I’m also an avid [Dungeons & Dragons] player. I even started a company this year called Beadle & Grimms, which is D&D-based gaming company. And there’s this company called Wyrmwood that does incredible work in the space, and they created the stat block of Shaggy as an omnipotent creature. So, for me, that was sort of a mic drop.
How do you prepare yourself for inhabiting the character of Shaggy? Is there any truth to the rumor that you screamed a lot to fry your voice into the Shaggy sound?
Yeah, when I had first started doing the voice, I would scream myself hoarse so that I would sound like I had a broken voice. It's not like I'm the guy walking around parties doing impressions and I was the first guy they saw to audition for the part, so I figured I’d better do a good job and the only way I could figure out how to do the voice at first was like, get hoarse so I sounded crazy. But, after I got the job, I quickly realized I couldn't do that every single day of work. Early on, you figure out that everything he does takes place right on that break. And now I do [the voice] twice a week.
But there's no doubt that whatever I was screaming was in tongues, and the powers that be found me a vessel acceptable to host the god whenever he went to work.
There’s a petition going around to add Shaggy as a Mortal Kombat character. What sort of moves would Shaggy have and are there any other games, fighting or otherwise, that you’d like to see him in?
Obviously his best move is that he can eat anything. He just swallows an opponent in one bite. That’d be the super move of all super moves.
But I'll take Shaggy in anything. You can have Shaggy in FIFA. You can have Shaggy in Madden. You can even have Shaggy in Red Dawn Redemption, or whatever the hell that is. As far as I'm concerned, when you're a god as Shaggy is, he can appear anywhere he so chooses.
Where does Shaggy come from and what’s the source of his power?
I have no comment about his origins because obviously that would literally blow your mind, and I don't want to hurt you because you seem like a nice guy. But the wealth of his power is borne from the ancient gods of fast food and pickles.
What is something that Shaggy would never use his powers to do?
Well, he would never make someone fast, that’s for sure. If there was ever a battle between like God-like figures, he and Gandhi would be arch enemies. The idea that Gandhi goes non-violent, he respects, but fasting and hunger strikes are never the way.
It's actually interesting, because Casey Kasem, who originally was the host entity to the great being, he was a vegetarian. So, back in the 70s, he made the animators draw Shaggy as a vegetarian. Little known fact.
What would happen if Shaggy used 100 percent of his power?
You can't do that. It's impossible. The universe cannot contain it. But if he used like, 50 percent, world peace would be a thing. He'd probably resurrect Michael Jackson to have him perform at birthday parties because he was the greatest.
That’s a controversial position to take right now after that movie just dropped at Sundance.
I take it back. I take it back! But world peace is definitely on the docket. I mean he can do things like make alligators fly. He can do anything he wants.
Why does he then choose not to grant us world peace?
Ok, then why does this god-like figure choose to spend all his time with the mortals of the Scooby Gang?
He got jumped into that gang before he recognized his own powers. And once you're in a gang, you're in that gang for life. So even though he’s an omnipotent being, he still lives by the code of the streets.
Is there anyone or thing more powerful than Shaggy?
The power of love and a chocolate-covered eggplant burger. Those are the two most defined powers in the unknown universe.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time playing Shaggy?
Yeah. There’s no doubt. I was in London, for the premiere of Scooby-Doo 2, and we took a tour of the Children's Hospital in London, and there was a little girl there who was about to go in for her third open heart surgery. As I was walking around the ward, her family introduced me to her, and they were trying to get her to take the pre-surgery medicine so that she would become sedated enough so that they could start putting IVs in her. And in that moment, they said, “If Shaggy does his voice, will you take your medicine?” [Lillard begins to sniffle] I’m sorry. It just makes me cry. So, I did it, and she took the medicine, and then had open heart surgery for the third time. So, it’s funny and it’s fun to—Oh, God, that’s a weird memory.
In a life of uncertainty as an actor—you're trying to raise your kids and you have good moments and bad moments—there's something really profound about playing a character that is bigger than you. The reality is that I'm a caretaker for a part that will be somebody else's someday, but there's no doubt that—not to sound too hokey—as long as I have it, I’ll respect it and think it's really awesome. And the little moments like that where you can help kids and you can effect change, it's really pretty amazing.
Interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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