Comedians Casper Kelly and Nick Gibbons have a way of twisting popular culture into a nightmare version of itself for the express purpose of making you laugh uncomfortably. It’s been four years since the duo’s “Too Many Cooks” had people convincing friends to “just watch until the end.”
Their latest, “Final Deployment 4: Queen Battle Walkthrough” does for video games what “Too Many Cooks” did for 80s sitcom nostalgia. It begins with a mundane, stereotypical frat boy streamer taking players through the final boss fight of the fictional game, “Final Deployment 4.” From there, it spins rapidly out of control for nearly twice the length of 2014’s “Too Many Cooks, ”delivering commentary dipped in existentialism.
Kelly and Gibbons are no strangers to gaming. Gibbons is a diehard PlayStation 4 fan, having just finished the new “God of War.” He cites “Uncharted” and “The Last of Us” as two of his favorite games.
Kelly has taken a step back from gaming as he works on a movie. He hasn’t been away from the medium for too long though, naming “BioShock” and “Portal” as his go-to games. “Final Deployment 4” draws its inspiration from another of his favorites.
“I did play a lot of ‘Gears of War,’” he says. “There’s a lot of ‘Gears of War’ in this piece.”
Kelly and Gibbons did their research. The pair watched more than 30 different YouTube creators and streamers to get the cadence and pacing right. The pair especially wanted to get the juxtaposition between the serious gamer that kicks off the video with the one that takes over after a while.
“That was influenced by one my daughter watched when she was six and barely played games,” Kelly explains. “There were people just having fun, playing a game badly, and just being humorous about it.”
The project ballooned as the pair tackled more game genres and crammed in more jokes. Adult Swim loved it so much that they allowed the final video to take up twice as much time on the schedule in its 4 a.m. timeslot.
“We told them it needed to be 20 minutes long,” Gibbons tells Variety. “It was supposed to be 11 minutes long. We wrote a really long script on purpose. It’s cheap to shoot live action, which is what we did first. We thought we’d edit it down. We’d show people the long version, and they loved everything. That tricked our brains into thinking we’d done something really good. We asked them if we could, and they agreed to it.”
It wasn’t just “Too Many Cooks’” viral success that paved the way for “Final Deployment 4.” The pitch came across senior executive vice president in charge of Adult Swim Mike Lazzo’s desk at the right time.
“Nick Gibbons and I were at an Indian buffet,” Kelly says. “I was sorta sweating the next thing to do and the fear of a sophomore slump. We just started about talking about stuff we like, including video games and walkthroughs. Mike Lazzo had just become a gamer and had been playing ‘Fallout’ heavily. He was heavily watching walkthroughs. He hadn’t gamed in a long time. He had done something [in the game] that shut down a whole portion of the campaign to him. He was unbelievably depressed. He hadn’t done multiple game saves, so his only option would have been to start over.”
Lazzo greenlit the project immediately. That was a year and a half ago.
“A lot of times we’d be making this and I would think, ‘Is this going to be relevant?’” Gibbons says. “We need to hurry up and finish.’”
The duo kept adding more, even as the animation companies delivered what should have been the final footage. Turner Studios handled the 3D segments, including the bits with “Final Deployment 4” hero Scourge and the “Minecraft” spoof, “Moonshaft.” Awesome Inc., which animates Adult Swim show “Squidbillies,” worked on the 2D fake games, including “Unicorn Bust” and “Boobfart Jumpflop.” Both rolled with the punches, even amidst a number of strange and hard to explain requests that became the end of the video.
Casper and Gibbons play off “Too Many Cooks” and “Final Deployment 4” as comedic works. The two love to make people laugh. But there’s a deeper message buried amidst the absurdity.
“Are we in control of anything?” Gibbons asks. “These days, it seems like media is in control of us, instead of us being in control of it. I’m a comedian at the end of the day, so I just want people to come away laughing. I’m just gonna kick you in the crotch and run off and see if anyone’s giggling.”