12 Fascinating Facts About Rick and Morty

Adult Swim
Adult Swim

In 2013, Rick and Morty premiered on Adult Swim, and quickly amassed a huge following of fans who became obsessed with the show’s dark humor and sci-fi plots. Created by Dan Harmon (Community) and Justin Roiland, the show focuses on the outlandish adventures of crazy super-genius Rick Sanchez and his timid grandson Morty Smith, both of whom are voiced by Roiland. Here are 12 facts about the Adult Swim animated series, which is set to air the remainder of its third season in summer 2017.

1. DAN HARMON’S FILM FESTIVAL SPURRED HIS COLLABORATION WITH CO-CREATOR JUSTIN ROILAND.

The creative duo behind Rick and Morty—Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland—became acquainted through Channel 101, Harmon’s nonprofit short film festival. Roiland would submit pieces for the festival that were “intended to just shock people” but that Harmon found hilarious.

When Adult Swim contacted Harmon to create a 30-minute animated series for the network, he thought Roiland’s sensibilities would be a perfect fit for the network because, as Harmon put it, “He is the target for a lot of their stuff. And he’s also, like me, really passionate about story and franchise.”

2. THE SHOW WAS INSPIRED BY ROILAND’S VULGAR TAKE ON BACK TO THE FUTURE.

The basic foundation of Rick and Morty spun out of one of Roiland’s earlier Channel 101 ideas called The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti. The relationship between Rick and Morty has always taken cues from Doc Brown and Marty McFly from Back to the Future, but Roiland’s earlier stab at the idea really drove this point home with a lurid twist. At this point in his career, Roiland was simply daring lawyers to come after him, and nothing exemplified his mindset more than his X-rated Doc and Marty:

"I actually made this as a way to poke fun at the idea of getting cease and desist letters. At the time (October 2006) I had nothing to lose and my original intention was to call this 'back to the future: the new official universal studios cartoon featuring the new Doc Brown and Marty McFly' and then I'd just sit back and wait for a letter from their lawyers to arrive. That's actually why it's so filthy. I was just looking to 'troll' a big studio."

Though Rick and Morty’s final form is safely removed from the litigious (and public relations) nightmare that Roiland’s original cartoon was, he says, “some of the raw energy behind the voice performances is sort of still intact, especially for Rick. That’s the beginning of it.”

3. HARMON VIEWS RICK AS “THE SEAM BETWEEN GOD AND MAN.”

Though you can enjoy Rick and Morty simply as a zany cartoon with some crude humor, you can also dive deeper into the human condition and wrestle with the existence of god itself through these characters. Harmon, in a video promoting the show’s second season, talked about how the series is constantly searching for some sort of meaning in the meaninglessness of life.

One of the main conflicts, according to Harmon, is the idea of the creator against the created. This is seen in Rick's apathy toward his own creations throughout the show, like Abradolf Lincler, Rick's half-Lincoln, half-Hitler experiment that's hell-bent on revenge. Harmon calls Rick “The seam between god and man,” and his nihilistic apathy toward his own creations is echoed in Joseph Campbell’s belief that god is an impersonal cosmic force.

On a more cheerful note, Harmon disagrees with Rick’s sentiment that nothing really matters, saying that type of philosophy “gets you nowhere.”

4. THE SHOW’S THEME SONG OWES A LOT TO DOCTOR WHO AND FARSCAPE.

Rick and Morty’s opening theme song is quintessential sci-fi, and to achieve the familiar, otherworldly synth vibe of the genre, the creators looked to both Doctor Who and Farscape for inspiration. When asked about the show’s music in an interview with TVOvermind, Roiland said:

“The theme song is written by the guy who wrote the Wizards of Waverly Place theme song, who is a very good friend of mine. I told him I was a big fan of Farscape and that I wanted to combine Farscape’s theme with Doctor Who’s theme, and that’s basically what our theme song is. It’s this amazing original piece that takes the best aspects of those two themes and mashes them together. Super Sci-Fi.”

An earlier version of the theme can be heard in Roiland's first stab at an Adult Swim cartoon called Dog World.

5. RICK’S BURPING HABIT HAS ITS ORIGIN IN A RECORDING ROOM BLOOPER.

Burping is a big part of Rick’s shtick, but Roiland told Entertainment Weekly that the inspiration for it was a complete accident:

"In 2006, or something, I was recording the voices for this short The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti. I was having fun doing these really crappy Doc Brown and Marty McFly impressions. During the middle of a line a burp came out naturally. It was just so funny and gross. I was like, ‘Well, let’s see if I can do that again for a couple more lines.’ Then, with Rick and Morty, Dan [Harmon, the show’s co-creator] was like, ‘Hey, Adult Swim wants to do a show, do you have any ideas?’ I said, ‘Well, what about these two voices?’ Right out of the gate, the burping was part of it."

Though Rick punctuates many a conversation with a trademark burp, Roiland actually has a tough time getting quite so gassy. He basically tells the audio engineer to keep the tapes rolling as he drinks “a low-calorie beer and a bottle of water” to get the effect right.

6. DAN HARMON HAS A THEORY ON WHAT’S IN RICK’S FLASK, BUT WE’LL NEVER KNOW WHY HE DRINKS.

There are plenty of fan theories regarding what Rick’s drink of choice is (including some otherworldly cocktails), but Harmon has a much simpler theory: “I tend to assume vodka,” he said during a Reddit AMA. Though he understands that Rick’s intellect could lead him to have virtually any sort of intergalactic concoction in his flask, he believes Rick’s old-fashioned booze of choice “anchors his identity.”

So that’s the what in Rick’s alcohol, but what about the why? Well that’s something Harmon and the team are never going to delve into. In an interview with The A.V. Club, Harmon explained his reasoning:

“Justin was really smart about that, saying, ‘No, we don’t want to reveal that Rick started drinking when blah blah blah,’ because then there’s something very shark-jump-y about that, like where you learn that the Fonz didn’t always wear leather jackets. Because people aren’t like that.”

7. THE SHOW’S PILOT WAS WRITTEN IN SIX HOURS.

The first episode of Rick and Morty was written by Harmon and Roiland just moments after their pitch got sold to Nick Weidenfeld, the head of program development for Adult Swim. With Harmon still on Community, schedules would be tight once production on the show ramped back up, so it was important to get working on Rick and Morty as soon as possible. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Harmon said:

"We were sitting on the floor, cross-legged with laptops and I was about to get up and go home and he said, 'Wait, if you go home, it might take us three months to write this thing. Stay here right now and we can write it in six hours.'"

The pilot was written that day, which Roiland described as “kind of lightning in a bottle.”

8. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER INSPIRED ONE OF THE SERIES’ MOST BELOVED EPISODES.

Though the episode “Total Rickall” would have you believe the show was going to do an adaptation of Total Recall, the creators had something much different in mind. In the Blu-ray commentary track for the episode, the creators revealed that the initial inspiration for the episode came from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show.

In the show’s fifth season, it’s suddenly revealed that Buffy had a sister named Dawn, and the show’s characters blindly accept her into the fold as if she has existed the entire time. One of Rick and Morty's writers, Ryan Ridley, elaborated on this in the Y Combinator podcast, saying “Everyone’s pretending—I mean, they’re not pretending—they’re treating her like she’s always been there. But you know that, as a viewer, [Buffy] hasn’t had a sister for the first four seasons. So you find out the supernatural explanation for why that is.”

Shades of this can be seen in the “Total Rickall” opening, when viewers are introduced to “Uncle Steve,” who the family believes has been living with them for years. Without much hesitation, Rick shoots Uncle Steve through the head, revealing it to be a parasite that infected the family’s mind to artificially implant memories.

9. THE SEEDS FOR “TOTAL RICKALL” WERE PLANTED IN AN EARLIER EPISODE.

Unlike a series like Archer, Rick and Morty doesn’t have too many instances where episodes connect to larger story arcs for entire seasons. That doesn’t mean every episode isn’t related, though. Plenty of episodes call back to characters, plots, or gags from previous ones, but the show is at its most interesting when episodes slyly hint at the future.

In the episode “Mortynight Run,” Rick is seen loading a bunch of green space rocks into his ship toward the end. If you look carefully at the rocks, you can see a small pink blob on one of them. Fast-forward to “Total Rickall” and Rick is seen throwing those same rocks into the garbage, pink blob and all. Those blobs turn out to be the same parasites that infest the family in the episode.

10. ONE OF THE SHOW’S MOST ACCLAIMED EPISODES ALMOST “BROKE” THE CREATORS.

The success of Rick and Morty’s first season surprised everyone, so when it came time for more episodes, there was plenty of pressure to deliver. When the second season premiered, it did so with an experimental episode that was a direct continuation of the first season finale.

When the debut season ended, Rick had just frozen time in an attempt to help Morty and Summer clean up the mess from the high school/intergalactic alien house party they just threw. While shades of The Cat in the Hat abound, the cleanup does not go well, as the effects of stopping time has split reality into near-countless distinct timelines in the season two premiere, “A Rickle in Time.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Roiland said the episode "was just brutal and it broke us to a certain extent. We were so close to something amazing and we never really got there from a structural standpoint." Harmon agreed, saying "It went off the deep end conceptually and got really over-complicated."

In the Blu-ray commentary, it's explained that the main issues came from the writers and directors figuring out what the actual effects of freezing time would be, in addition to animating all of the different timelines and how they interact. Cracking the difficult premise and redoing the opening multiple times even put the entire second season behind schedule. Though Harmon and Roiland were convinced the episode was their worst, “A Rickle in Time” is highly regarded by fans as one of the best of the series.

11. ADULT SWIM PREMIERED AN EPISODE IN 109 15-SECOND CHUNKS ON INSTAGRAM.

Rick and Morty doesn’t just subvert expectations on the screen; the show’s creators do everything in their power to go against the grain when it comes to marketing and distribution as well. The most recent example came on April 1, 2017, when the show held its season three premiere without any advertising or promotion—leaving fans to scramble to watch it before it disappeared.

The most interesting exercise in offbeat marketing happened during the show’s first season, though. Instead of debuting the episode “Rixty Minutes” in its normal timeslot, Adult Swim surprised everyone by releasing the episode three days early. On Instagram. In reverse.

The official Rock and Morty Instagram page uploaded 109, 15-second clips of the episode in reverse order, causing fans to scroll and click and scroll some more in order to get the whole story. In typical Adult Swim fashion, they responded to the publicity stunt by saying, "It’s our latest frustrating exercise in audience engagement.”

12. RICK’S CATCHPHRASE WAS A COMPLETE ACCIDENT.

Though Roiland and Harmon are quick to point out that they hate catchphrases, Rick’s fairly ironic “wubba lubba dub dub” has become a staple of the show, especially during the first season. It’s used by Rick to punctuate a joke, and though he believes it comes from Arsenio Hall, it’s later revealed in the episode “Ricksy Business” that the phrase translates to "I am in great pain, please help me” in the language of the Bird People.

The phrase was actually a complete accident on the part of Roiland. In an interview with Noisey, he explained how the line read was originally supposed to be a reference to an old Three Stooges gag:

”We never really intended that to be a catchphrase, but we originally wrote that scene and it was scripted as parenthetical Larry or Moe from the Three Stooges, ‘wub wub wub wub wub.’ And Rick was gonna fall on the ground and do that circle thing they do. And in the recording, that was a last minute rewrite that I didn’t read, and I just didn’t know what the f*ck I was looking at, and I just did it wrong."

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

17 Facts About Airplane! On Its 40th Anniversary

Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays (with Otto) in Airplane! (1980).
Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays (with Otto) in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Shot on a budget of $3.5 million, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker wrote and directed Airplane!, a movie intended to parody the onslaught of disaster movies that graced movie theater screens in the 1970s. The comedy classic, which arrived in theaters on July 2, 1980, ended up making more than $83.4 million in theaters in the United States alone, and resurrecting a few acting careers in the process. Here are some things you might not have known about the comedy classic on its 40th anniversary.

1. Airplane! was almost a direct parody of the 1957 movie Zero Hour!

Shorewood, Wisconsin childhood friends Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker grew up and moved to Los Angeles, where they were responsible for the sketch comedy troupe Kentucky Fried Theater. The trio made a habit of recording late-night television, looking for commercials to make fun of for their video and film parodies, which is how they discovered Zero Hour!, which also featured a protagonist named Ted Stryker (in Airplane! it's Ted Striker). In order to make sure the camera angles and lighting on Airplane! were matching those of Zero Hour!, the trio always had the movie queued up on set. Yes, the three filmmakers did buy the rights to their semi source material.

2. Universal thought Airplane! was too similar to their Airport franchise.

Universal released four plane disaster movies in the seventies: Airport in 1970; Airport 1975 (confusingly in 1974); Airport ‘77; and The Concorde ... Airport ‘79. Helen Reddy portrayed Sister Ruth in Airport 1975 and was game to play Sister Angelina in Airplane! before Universal stepped in and threatened to sue. Instead, the role went to Maureen McGovern, who sang the Oscar-winning theme songs to The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno—two movies that were also “disaster” movies, albeit ones not involving a plane.

3. David Letterman, Sigourney Weaver, and other future stars auditioned for Airplane!

In early conversations regarding Airplane!, Paramount Studios suggested Dom DeLuise for what would eventually become Leslie Nielsen’s role, and Barry Manilow for the role of Ted Striker, but they were never asked to audition.

4. Chevy Chase was mistakenly announced as the star of Airplane!.

Chevy Chase was erroneously announced as the star of Airplane! in a 1979 news item in The Hollywood Reporter.

5. The role of Roger Murdock was written with Pete Rose in mind.

Pete Rose was busy playing baseball when Airplane! was shot in August, so they cast Kareem Abdul-Jabbar instead.

6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got a pretty swanky carpet out of his Airplane! gig.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Peter Graves, and Rossie Harris in Airplane! (1980)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rossie Harris, and Peter Graves in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s agent insisted on an extra $5000 to the original offer of a $30,000 salary so that the basketball legend could purchase an oriental rug he'd had his eye on.

7. Peter Graves thought the Airplane! script was "tasteless trash."

Peter Graves eventually found the humor in the film, including the pedophilia jokes, and agreed to play Captain Oveur. Graves's wife was glad he took the role; she laughed throughout the premiere screening.

8. No, the child actor playing young Joey didn't know what Peter Graves was actually saying.

Rossie Harris was only 9 years old when he played the role of Joey, so did not understand the humor in Turkish prisons, gladiator movies, or any of Oveur’s other comments. But by the time he turned 10 and saw the movie, Harris had apparently figured it out.

9. Airplane! marked Ethel Merman's final film appearance.

"The undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage” played a disturbed soldier who believed he was Ethel Merman. Merman passed away in 1984.

10. Michael Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul was in Airplane!.

Jonathan Banks plays air traffic controller Gunderson.

11. Airplane!'s three-director setup caused legal problems.

The Directors Guild of America ruled that Abrahams and the two Zuckers couldn’t all be credited for directing a movie, nor be credited under the single “fictitious name of Abrahams N. Zuckers.” A DGA rep was on set to make sure that only Jerry Zucker spoke to the actors. What he saw was Jerry Zucker next to the camera, who would then go to a nearby trailer where the other two were watching the takes on a video feed, and come back to give notes to the actors after conferring with his partners. A DGA executive board eventually gave the three one-time rights to all share the credit.

12. A BIT ABOUT BLIND POLISH AIRLINE PILOTS WAS WRITTEN AND FILMED.

Blind singer José Feliciano, and lookalikes of blind singers Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, played Polish airline co-pilots. The Polish-American League protested, and it was determined by the writer-directors that the idea wasn’t funny enough to stay in the movie.

13. Robert Hays was starring in a TV show at the same time he was filming Airplane!

Robert Hays, the actor who played Ted Striker, had to race back and forth between the sets of Angie and Airplane! for two very busy weeks. The theme song to Angie was performed by the one and only Maureen McGovern.

14. Robert Hays was—and is—a licensed pilot.

He can even fly the ones with four engines.

15. Leslie Nielsen had a lot of fun with his fart machine.

Leslie Nielsen sold portable fart machines for $7 apiece on set, causing a brief epidemic of fart noises emanating from most of the cast and crew and delaying production. When they were shooting Hays’s close-up, Nielsen used the machine after every other word of his line, “Mr. Striker, can you land this plane?”

16. Stephen Stucker came up with all of Johnny's lines.

Lloyd Bridges and Stephen Stucker in Airplane! (1980)
Stephen Stucker and Lloyd Bridges in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Stephen Stucker was a member of the Kentucky Fried Theater. His line “Me John, Big Tree” was part of an old riff he used to do, which continued with him going down on his knees and putting an ear to the ground to hear when a wagon train was arriving.

17. The original rough cut of Airplane! was 115 minutes long.

After screenings at three college campuses and two theaters, the film was cut down to 88 minutes.