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How Colbert's 'Tooning Out the News' Ensnared Rudy Giuliani

Published on April 10, 2020 12:13 PM
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When youâ??re being interviewed by someone on Zoom, does it really matter if theyâ??re a cartoon?

Tooning Out the News, a delightfully weird and hilarious new animated series that counts Stephen Colbert as one of its producers, was originally supposed to premiere on March 16. Then the coronavirus crisis hit. Like so many others, the show was forced to halt production and delay its premiere. And yet the version that started airing this week on CBS All Access feels somehow perfect for these times.

The premise is simple enough. Fictional cartoon news anchors interview real-life figures. Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman are among those who have appeared in the first handful of episodes. Itâ??s how theyâ??ve managed to pull it off during a pandemicâ??and how consistently funny it has beenâ??that is truly remarkable.

At the helm is R.J. Fried, a veteran comedy writer and news producer who co-created the similarly absurd Our Cartoon President for Showtime. As he tells me duringâ??what else?â??a Zoom meeting from his home in Calabasas, California, he was already trying to achieve something â??unlike anything thatâ??s ever been done beforeâ?? with Tooning Out the News before the pandemic made it that much harder.

â??The whole thing was completely new,â?? Fried says. â??It felt like someone said, â??Go get a Christmas tree in Siberiaâ?? and now weâ??ve been hauling it back for months and months.â??

In order to achieve the vision they had in mind, the team built a state-of-the-art studio with special cameras that would motion-capture actors to allow for same-day animation based on the latest news developments. â??It was so gorgeous and beautiful,â?? Fried says wistfully. â??And then the virus decides that we canâ??t be ...

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