Rick and Morty returns soon for the last five episodes of season 4. To get everyone back into the show we’ve had the opportunity to interview Chris Parnell, who is the voice behind Jerry Smith.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic our interview was responsibly distant and conducted over the phone. Speaking of: we ask Parnell about how Jerry would react to the coronavirus, as well as an Archer crossover, depression and much more all below.
Thanks to Showmax for organising this interview. The South African streaming service has all seasons of Rick and Morty available to watch right now, and will be airing season four just 24 hours after it appears in the US.
Hypertext: You’re not supposed to have a favourite child, but which episode is your favourite?
Chris Parnell: It’s probably the episode where Rick and Jerry go to the planet with the stasis bubble where no one died [S3E5, The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy]. We got to see Rick and Jerry bond a little bit in a way that they hadn’t before and that was kind of sweet. We also got to see Jerry participate in the attempted assassination of Rick before he walked that back because he didn’t want it to happen. That was probably my favourite but there were a lot of fun ones.
Hypertext: Were there any scenes or episodes that were uncomfortable to record?
CP: It wasn’t uncomfortable, but the episode where Jerry shows up at Beth’s door with this emotional plea… that was challenging, acting wise, as well as exciting to do. Any time Jerry has to be emotional or real, those are sort of extra challenging as well as fun to do, but I don’t think anything we’ve done has made me uncomfortable.
Hypertext: Jerry obviously takes a lot of punishment, that’s kind of why he’s in the show, but do you ever finish a scene and think “wow, I kind of feel bad for him”?
CP: Yeah, you know, I feel it a little bit because I have a connection to him. It’s fun when we see Jerry have his little victories. There’s also a lot of satisfaction in playing the character that is always put upon and being ridden so hard by pretty much everyone in the show. It’s hard to not feel bad for the guy though.
Hypertext: If it isn’t covered in the rest of season four, what would Jerry be up to during the COVID-19 pandemic?
CP: Well that’s a good question. Whatever the most ridiculous and ill thought out cause out there is probably what Jerry would be part of. [On the other hand] I don’t think he would have a problem with being in quarantine and staying at home, kind of puttering around doing his own thing. I don’t think that would be a great challenge for Jerry. Also the fact that he has Rick Sanchez as has father-in-law means that he has, more or less, gotten used to living with insanity. I don’t know that he would be phased by it but, he could also be terrified because Jerry is so scared of everything. He could just slip away to another dimension where there is no pandemic.
Hypertext: Lots of people have pointed out that the genius Rick is depressed and suicidal while the dumber Jerry is generally happier overall. What do you think of that comparison?
CP: I don’t know what it’s called, but there’s a certain kind of depression that comes with certain intelligent people like Rick. They’re so aware of the existential dread and having someone like Rick is the ultimate manifestation of that intelligence and awareness of what life is and isn’t. [Rick] gets a lot of his relationship with his little family, his adventures with Morty and all that, even if he doesn’t show it.
And then Jerry… you know… he’s not that sharp. The result is that he’s not that aware (generally), so he’s blissfully ignorant about a lot of things and I think there’s some truth in that. The more you know the harder it can be to live in that world and obviously Rick knows just about everything.
Hypertext: Rick and Morty is just so popular that it pops up constantly on the internet. How do you feel when it pops up randomly while you’re online? What do you think when you see your character in a meme, for example?
CP: It’s pretty gratifying and awesome to feel like you’re part of something that is affecting so many people. The fact that they’re seeing the show, responding to it, loving it, putting their own spin on it, being creative with it. I’m not on any social media so a lot of the time my awareness of it comes from reading a Variety story or doing interviews like this or going to Comic-Con. Then I’m aware of someone who is more aware of the phenomenon of the show than I am. In a way it exists in the abstract for me until it’s brought up [by someone else].
Hypertext: Do you have a favourite character outside of the main family?
CP: It might be Mr. Meeseeks or Mr. Poopybutthole, they’re two favourites. I just love the voice that Justin [Roiland] does for Mr. Poopybutthole. It’s just so ridiculous.
Hypertext: You also voice Cyril Figgis in Archer. What do you think Cyril and Jerry would be up to in a crossover?
CP: It would be awkward for them to meet. For one they sound a lot like each other. They have some qualities in common – Cyril, on the whole, is a fair bit more competent than Jerry (when he’s at his best anyway). Jerry has the capacity to be very pathetic so if they encountered Jerry may try and connect with Cyril and buddy up to him. If Cyril saw Jerry he may see that as a partial mirror into himself and not want to connect with him haha. It’s hard to say.
Hypertext: Lastly, have you ever been to South Africa?
CP: I have not. I’m not a super well travelled person. I’ve only been to Europe a few times and I did go to Thailand.