Take a walk around the Wesleyan campus, and you’ll likely pass by gender-neutral bathrooms, queer jargon pamphlets and posters for student-of-color art shows, reaffirming the University’s trademark political correctness and multiculturalism. But a peek inside the new Center for Film Studies screening room last Monday night revealed a montage of overt sexism, gratuitous violence and cultural parodies—all to the delight of a cackling room of student viewers. Such a scene can only be described by the event’s title: “Robot Chicken Takes Wesleyan.”
Sponsored by the Career Resource Center, Matt Senreich ’96, executive producer and co-creator of the hit stop-motin animation series “Robot Chicken,” screened new and classic episodes of the show and spoke to a packed lecture hall about how he translated his Wesleyan experience into a Hollywood career.
Though he describes himself as shy (“I’m a terrible public speaker,” he conceded), Senreich’s talk was at once candid and eloquent.
“When I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Senreich, a history major, said. “So I sent out a lot of resumes and made a lot of phone calls [to the entertainment industry]. I was persistent. I learned that you are as confident as you allow yourself to be.”
Senreich, who spent the hours before the talk in one-on-one career counseling sessions with University students, also waxed large on the importance of humility when heading into the real world. Amassing around 300 rejection letters in the years after his graduation, Senreich opted to embrace the situation rather than wallow in it: he arranged the letters on the wall of his bedroom.
“I just had to smile about it and keep going,” he said. “Because you know what? Now I had names and contacts in each of these companies. And I still use those contacts today.”
Senreich also fielded questions from the student audience regarding the demands of a job that requires, as he describes it, “playing with toys for a living.” While parodying cultural staples like “Star Wars” and Kool-Aid may seem like your run-of-the-mill dorm room hijinks, it’s actually work Senreich loses sleep over. In addition to working nearly twelve-hour days, he has had to juggle censoring conflicts, Standards and Practices regulations and the whims of Cartoon Network higher-ups.
“I’ll spend an hour and a half discussing whether or not Superman can fart the national anthem,” said an exasperated Senreich said. “I just don’t want to waste half a day doing that.”
Call it splitting hairs, but such battles for immaturity are well worth it. In between bits of sage advice, Senreich screened montages of “Robot Chicken” skits that had the audience laughing, hooting and clapping. One collection featured never-before-seen sketches that were debuted especially for this Wesleyan audience, including one uproarious parody of the cinematic stylings of fellow University alum Michael Bay.
“I thought his personality was exactly what you need to make a show like that,” said Diego Glusberg ’11. “You need the geeky side to understand and be aware of enough pop culture in a deep enough way to parody it, and you need the cool side to actually put it together, make it work, and make the references funny.”
Answering questions from fans and film students for nearly an hour after the presentation, Senreich appeared to be in his element and eager to share his experiences with those aspiring towards his success.
“When you’re young, you’re invincible. He said, “everything is exciting. Just remember—the worst thing people can do is say no.”