Cartoon Network's late-night comedy block launched on Sept. 2, 2001. "By all accounts, it was a minor miracle that Adult Swim ever made it off the drawing board 20 years ago," says The New York Times' Sarah Bahr. "Money was next to nonexistent. The editor of Cartoon Network’s first original series worked from a closet. A celebrity guest on that series, unaware of the weirdness he had signed up for, walked out mid-taping. In retrospect, it seems right that one of modern TV’s most consistent generators of bizarro humor — and cult followings — had origins that were, themselves, pretty freewheeling." As Mike Lazzo, who oversaw programming for Adult Swim before he retired in 2019, put it: "It was really just a labor of love. I think the audience could tell that and responded to it." Bahr adds: "Early on, the idea was to create a late-night programming block for Cartoon Network’s sizable adult audience. What resulted was a hit, and over the years, Adult Swim’s early lo-fi aesthetic — as much a necessity as a choice, Lazzo said — attracted ambitious, out-of-the-box ideas, including an animated show starring a talking wad of meat (Aqua Teen Hunger Force), a cheesy talk show hosted by a Hanna-Barbera superhero (Space Ghost Coast to Coast) and a surreal, live-action satire of clumsy public-access TV (Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!)." Tim Heidecker, who co-created Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! with Eric Wareheim, says of Adult Swim: "We wouldn’t have fit in anywhere else. There’s no other place on TV that made sense for us, and maybe that’s still the case.” ALSO: Why Adult Swim's strange early days can never be replaced.
TOPICS: Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Mike Lazzo, Tim Heidecker