<EM>Mr. Meaty</EM> Mr. Meaty

Nickelodeon might have their next Ren & Stimpy in Mr. Meaty (new episodes air Friday at 8:30 pm/ET). The show, which premiered in September, follows two teenage boys in puppet form who work their first job at a bizarre fast-food restaurant inside an even stranger mall. Bodily humor of all kinds inevitably ensues. We talked to cocreator Jason Hopley about fart jokes, bad customer service and living up to SpongeBob.

TV Guide: Have either you or cocreator Jaime Shannon worked at a fast-food restaurant quite like Mr. Meaty?
Jason Hopley:
We get asked that a lot and neither of us has worked in a fast-food restaurant per se. But many years ago I was a candy guy at a movie theater, so I do understand what it's like to be behind a counter and have witnessed some of the gross things that go on behind them.

TV Guide: Like what?
Hopley:
Let me just say this: When you're going to see a movie, make sure you go to a later movie because [earlier in the day] the popcorn is probably yesterday's popcorn heated up again.

TV Guide: Duly noted. So you would say that that world is known to you?
Hopley:
Yeah. Serving the public is a hard thing to do, and it's weird that we often leave it to teenagers to do. Generally the customer is always right, and consumers know it, so these teenagers end up getting flapped around a lot by people's greed for things.

TV Guide: Are those kids the ones you're trying to target with Mr. Meaty?
Hopley:
There's definitely a target audience, but I believe it's far-reaching. Six-year-olds are going to get the jokes as much as 45-year-olds are going to get them. It's inevitable that adults will find it hilarious as well.

TV Guide: Just like SpongeBob?
Hopley:
Yeah, exactly. SpongeBob does such a fantastic job at that, and Ren & Stimpy did, too. Ren & Stimpy was an important cartoon to us because it was enormously inspiring. All my friends, who were much older, would sit around laughing at it.

TV Guide: Where did the inspiration for some of the characters come from? Like, why does almost every girl on the show go by the name Ashley and have an affinity for the word "Ucccch!"?
Hopley:
There is no "one" Ashley. However, if you walk through a mall, you'll be able to see thousands of "Ashleys" everywhere, so they're an amalgam of that feeling. It's interesting.... If you look at the characters, you start seeing people in your own life and you can say, "Hey, that person looks like so-and-so" or "I know someone like that." That's what I love about the show  the enormous [number] of characters. Archetypes, very much. Classic characters.

TV Guide: Have you received any feedback? Letters from angry parents about the show's more "9-year-old boy"-ish humor?
Hopley:
I haven't heard anything yet. Parents might not think it's awesome, but there's nothing wrong about the show, either. It is sort of in that realm of bodily humor. But I happen to still think farts are very funny.

TV Guide: And a letter of outrage from a few school principals would probably certify your place in the zeitgeist, anyway.
Hopley:
Very true. Really, the minute parents said, "Don't watch South Park" was the moment it became enormously popular.

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