It is another night of bright lights in the big city when a tall dapper gentleman strides into Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood’s legendary restaurant, frequented by stars of today and ghosts of yesteryear. This is Martin Olson: comedy writer, TV producer, bestselling author, playwright, stage director, composer and poet. Here I am, with a reservation at the Three Stooges booth, across from the Charlie Chaplin booth and the Marilyn Monroe booth. I wave Martin over to join me and Jennifer. We’re in town for a bit and honored at the chance to get together for this interview. Mr. Olson is a very busy, very talented, and very nice guy. If you see a publicity photo of him frowning (see above), that’s part of an act. He is really nice. I don’t know if I should be telling you this, but I’m putting it out there just so you know.
By the way, among the various credits that Mr. Olson can point to, he will forever enjoy a place in pop culture history as the voice of Hunson Abadeer (aka the Lord of Evil), ruler of the Nightosphere, and father of Marceline the Vampire Queen (Olson’s daughter, Olivia, is voice talent) on the legendary animated series, “Adventure Time” on Cartoon Network.
“Rocko’s Modern Life”
“Encyclopedia of Hell,” Olson’s popular and critically-acclaimed satirical book will continue in a new book in 2018. We chat about that. We discuss the Boston Comedy Scene which Olson helped form. And another fun item is a reunion of the original cast of the landmark animated series, “Rocko’s Modern Life.” Olson was part of the writing team behind a new one-hour TV special that will run in 2018.
“Encyclopedia of Hell” by Martin Olson
When the subject of writing, or any form of creativity comes up, people usually seek some insights and tips. We tackle that sort of stuff here too. So, sit back and enjoy this podcast. Given the nature of our talk, more in tune with a conversation over a meal, it is split into two sections: one before dinner and the other after dinner. Oh, dinner was great, if you were wondering.
Click the two links below to go to Part One and Part Two:
Olivia Olson has much to celebrate and share with fans. She is in the unique position of getting to do a lot of cool and creative stuff with her dad, comedy writer Martin Olson. For starters, both are voice talent on the animated series “Adventure Time” on Cartoon Network. This is one of the most creative, quirky, and strangest shows on television. If you know the show, all I need to say is: Marceline the Vampire Queen and, her dad, the Lord of Evil, Hunson Abadeer! It was Adventure Time’s very own creator, Pendleton Ward, who recruited Olivia Olson, and later on Martin Olson, to become part of the show and the rest is history.
Marceline Vampire Queen and, her dad, Hunson Abadeer stealing her french fries
As Olivia describes in this interview, it was just a natural progression that led her to follow in her father’s footsteps into show business. Sure, it can be a harsh business but, with the right guidance, special things can result.
In the case of this father and daughter, it has led to not only performing together but also writing together. The first Adventure Time book was “The Adventure Time Encyclopedia,” written by Martin Olson. And that sparked an interest in Olivia to join in.
Olivia Olson and Marceline the Vampire Queen
Now comes a new book that goes even further, “Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” You can read my review here. This one is a collaboration between the two. Martin Olson focuses on the Enchiridion. And Olivia Olson focuses on Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook. But there’s more to it than that and we cover it in the interview.
One thing that Olivia wanted to point out is that this book is not only two books in one. When you think about it, it’s actually four books in one! You see, the Enchiridion covers two separate books: one for Heroes; and one for Wizards. And Marcy’s Scrapbook is actually two books: a journal by Simon Petrikov, aka The Ice King, the man who raised Marceline; and a journal by Marceline.
The full interview with Olivia Olson follows and includes the podcast at the end.
Henry Chamberlain: I read that the idea for this book began on a subway ride in New York City with you, your dad, and editor Eric Klopfer. Would you tell us about that, what you were anticipating doing on the book?
Olivia Olson: It’s a funny story since originally I wasn’t going to be part of the writing process. I helped a little bit for our first book, the encyclopedia for Adventure Time. That was mostly my dad writing it and I had so many notes to give him because, at the time, he didn’t know too much about the show. He said, “How about if I keep the wrong information and you keep correcting me throughout the book.” That was my first little snippet of writing. We were at New York Comic Con, with the first book being so well received, and we just thought we needed to do another book. The first book had been successful. And we knew how much my dad wanted to tackle writing the Enchiridion.
At the time, we didn’t know how we were going to fuse the Enchiridion with Marcy’s Scrapbook. That came about way later. We sort of tricked our publisher, Abrams, into having me be a co-author on the book. I wrote my segments and submitted them and then, after they provided feedback, we revealed that the writing was mine.
HC: There’s such a literary quality to Adventure Time stemming from the original creators, your dad. And now you, part of the next generation. Would you describe to us growing up in that world, being exposed to all that creativity, getting to write with your dad.
OO: It’s so funny because, when I was a little girl, I always wanted to act and sing, all that kind of stuff. My dad, being in the business, did not want me to have anything to do with it since, you know, it’s hard on children being part of that. So, he frowned upon it. But here I was growing up among all these comedians and writers and actors so it was kind of impossible for him not to expose me to the world.
Not in a million years would I have thought that I’d be performing and writing right alongside him. It is such a funny coincidence as I grew up in animation. I grew up with all these people who worked in cartoons. But I never really thought that was to be my path. I always thought it would be more like Beyonce or Mariah Carey. It’s just so weird. People like Tom Kenny and his wife used to babysit me and my brother. Now I get to play a character with Tom Kenny. And I get to write with my dad.
HC: From what I observe, it looks like it’s all coming together naturally. For instance, your dad never considered himself an actor, even though he has that performing background.
OO: We joke about it. We’ve been doing this all our lives and now we have a job where we’re getting paid for it. Adventure Time has provided all these amazing outlets. I started off as an actor. My dad started off as a writer. Now, five years later, he’s an actor on the show and I’m a writer. It’s really amazing that Pen Ward, the creator of Adventure Time, gave us these opportunities to not only work as father and daughter but explore the range of our talents.
HC: You have a very distinctive voice and style for Marceline the Vampire Queen. And you bring her to life so well in this book. This is quite a unique two-books-in-one. Could you describe your take on your writing process–and how your songwriting background comes into play. I can think of some lyrics that you include in the book.
OO: There’s definitely a lot of poetry and lyrics spread throughout the Scrapbook part. It’s funny that we pitch it as a two part book because, if you really delve into it, you see that it’s a four part book. The Enchiridion side has two parts, one for Heroes and one for Wizards. And the Scrapbook has a journal by Simon Petrikov followed by a journal by Marceline.
The Scrapbook was originally going to be something completely different. I wrote summaries for every episode I’d ever done. I was following along with each episode and wrote a diary entry for what Marceline might write on that particular day. That’s what we originally submitted and then we end up scrapping all of that. We wanted to dive deeper into the backstory since Marceline is such a mysterious character. We really wanted to cover the Mushroom War and how tragic her story really is.
It was when I added the poetry that it kicked in. I had never written a work like this before. It was something new. I definitely started off by writing a lot of poetry for it. And that made me feel more connected to my character.
Marceline in “Stakes” from Adventure Time on Cartoon Network
HC: What do you hope readers will get out of the Scrapbook? I am thinking that, for young readers, they will get a fuller appreciation of how a character is depicted in a different medium. You see Marceline one way in an animated format and you see her in a different way in a literary format. Can you speak to how the character can do different things in different media?
OO: I think all the work outside of the actual series, and that includes the video games, comics, anything like that, is technically not canon to the show. We worked extremely hard with everyone involved to have our contributions match as closely to what is happening on the show. And that was a huge help in having us align with “Stakes,” the new mini-series that’s just come out. It gave us a platform to jumpstart where Marceline was going next and learn more about her.
I was so excited about this since Adventure Time fans really get down and dirty with everything. That’s what is so great about the show. It sparks the imagination. Fans have all these theories about what’s going on in the show. We went through so many drafts to stay true and do justice to the show. I was really impressed with what we ended up with, being able to go deeper into the characters, taking a different approach from the random humor the show is known for. When the show began to dig deeper into the characters, we wanted to do the same.
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
HC: What are you reading now or what sort of books do you like?
OO: Right now, I’m reading a zombie apocalypse book. It’s called, “The Girl with All the Gifts.” It’s 20 years after a zombie outbreak. You start with all these children at a playground. You don’t know why they’re being treated so poorly. They’re half-human and half-zombie. They’re hybrids. I was drawn to it since Marceline is a demon hybrid.
I like all kinds of books. I’m definitely not someone who judges a book by its cover. I’ll be at the airport and give anything a try.
HC: What sort of music are you currently listening to?
OO: Well, I like how Apple iTunes organizes your music and makes suggestions. It has me now listening to Justin Bieber. My boyfriend wasn’t a fan but now he is. I’m also enjoying the oldies, like The Doors.
HC: Any new writing projects brewing?
OO: I don’t want to jinx it but we’re in talks with my publisher, Abrams, about a new book. And I’m working on new music. I’d say, right now, I’m not reaching a quarter-life crisis but more of a quarter-life reprocessing of what path I want to take. I’ve been so fortunate to be so successful at such a young age. So, if there are any young listeners out there, don’t worry about having to know what you’re doing since I don’t always feel that I do.
HC: I think you’re on a great path. I foresee more of the same with new discoveries along the way.
OO: Yeah, I’ve been extremely fortunate. I’m a lucky girl but I always want to top myself and find what’s new.
HC: Well, great. Thanks so much, Olivia.
OO: Thank you, Henry. This has been a great chat. Really great questions.
The podcast is below:
“Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” is published by Abrams. Visit them right here. And be sure to catch Marceline the Vampire Queen on Cartoon Network right here.
I love good stuff that is for all ages because you can easily share it with family and friends and it’s hitting universal chords. That brings me to a book you will want to get for yourself and anyone you know looking for something odd and compelling: “Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” Yes, that’s a mouthful but for very good reason. I am guessing that you’re familiar with the celebrated animated series, Adventure Time, on Cartoon Network. Am I right? If not, think of it as offbeat humor of a rare kind like such classics as Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bugs Bunny.
The world of Adventure Time invovles some very funny misadventures along with a very colorful cast of characters. Lots of magic. Lots of weird humor. And a heck of a lot of style and whipsmart goings-on. Set in a post-apolalyptic world, there is nary a zombie to be found here but loads of other curious creatures. The authors of this two-books-in-one are, among other things, voice talent on the show. Olivia Olson is Marceline the Vampire Queen and Martin Olson is her father, Hunson Abadeer.
Okay, this is what happened. The creator of Adventure Time, Pendleton Ward, was so impressed with the work of Martin Olson that he brought him on board to write about Adventure Time. Now, fast forward to this year, Martin Olson is taking things further and has enlisted his daughter, Olivia Olson, to help make this latest Adventure Time book a reality. And, yes, you read correctly, this is literally two books in one! You get the fabled Enchiridion, the infamous book found in the animated series. Plus, you get an in depth look into the inner world of Marceline The Vampire Queen, one of the most intriguing characters on the show.
From Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!! by Olivia Olson
Allow me one digression: there actually is another Enchiridion! It is a book filled with advice for gentleman originally published in 125 AD. It was written by Arrian, a 2nd-century disciple of the Greek philosopher Epictetus. And it offers bits of wisdom that you can boil down to one main theme: recognize what you’re in control of and you’ll lead a happy life. Ah, there is beauty in the spinning of universal truth. It sounds like something that Jake, the philosopher/party animal magical dog on the show would say. Some things never change.
The universal truth of the matter is that both Martin Olson and Olivia Olson offer you quite a special treat with this book. It is remarkable how well it all lives up to its ambition. It is the equivalent of handing to a fan of the show something snatched right off the screen that actually lives and breathes. Martin Olson turns in a virtuoso work of humor. And Olivia Olson proves to be an insightful and heartfelt author as well.
“Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” is a 224-page hardcover in full color, published by Abrams, with illustrations by some of the leading cartoonists working today.
Martin Olson is a great comedy writer. And Olivia Olson is an accomplished singer, songwriter, and actress. It was a lot of fun to get to interview them both in a casual conversational style. I had a good idea about what I wanted to ask them. I had notes about the dynamics of a father and daughter working together. I had notes on Martin’s career going back to his founding of the legendary “Boston Comedy Scene.” I had notes about Martin’s writing for, and Olivia’s acting in, “Phineas and Ferb.” And, of course, I had notes upon notes on “Adventure Time.”
Vanessa in “Phineas and Ferb”
The new book by Martin Olson, “The Adventure Time Encyclopedia,” is a nod to his impressive “Encyclopedia of Hell,” from 2010, and is the ultimate source of knowledge on all things “Adventure Time.”
Now, wait for a moment here, and let’s back it up. “Encyclopedia of Hell” is a whole world to itself. This book is a manual for demons to prepare for Hell’s invasion of Earth. It’s a wonderful vehicle. As Martin Olson points out, “This is working from Mark Twain’s version of Satan. This is the most beautiful satirical platform to work from since all bets are off and you can satirize everything.” Check it out here.
Olivia Olson is well known for his musical talent but there’s no getting around the fact that she also has tons of fans of her role as Marceline the Vampire Queen. And that’s very cool. It’s an honor, really, and Olivia wears it well. At one point in the interview, I posed a question to Olivia from my own daughter, Emma, who was curious about how Olivia channels her vampire character and Olivia provided an inspired response. It lead to an interesting discussion on the power of fiction.
Getting back to “The Adventure Time Encyclopedia,” it does a remarkable job of describing the narrative underbelly of the show and all the activities on the postapocalyptic land of Ooo. Primarily, you have profiles that go into heavy detail on all the main characters, followed by smaller profiles on the wide assortment of minor characters. There are also a number of other features, including maps and descriptions on the many kingdoms and various miscellaneous treats. But, the great thing about this book is how it takes everything that may appear chaotic and gives it a more orderly form. No doubt, there is much to keep up with on a show that is far more than just about a boy and his dog, as you can see from a look at Season 5 here.
It sure looks like there’s room for a whole other book on this subject and maybe that will happen. For now, you’ll be glad you got yourself a copy of “The Adventure Time Encyclopedia,” published by Abrams Books, which you can purchase here.
And to add to all the fun, Martin Olson and Olivia Olson have a new album they have just released. It is an eclectic collection that rings true in its wide range of songs. You can check out “The Father-Daughter Album of Unspeakable Beauty” on iTunes here.
And, of course, you will want to check out Olivia’s EP, “Beauty is Chaos,” on iTunes here.
Just click the link below to listen to the whole podcast interview:
And keep up with “Phineas and Ferb,” on the Disney Channel, here and “Adventure Time,” on Cartoon Network, here.