Onion Talking: Hayden Black

24 Mar

© Hayden Black

As promised a couple of days ago, we now have an exclusive interview with the lovely Hayden Black of Goodnight Burbank and Abigail’s Teen Diary fame.

To find out more about working with the likes of Rich Fulcher and Nichelle Nichols, where he would go in his own personal space cab, and what the future holds for his new project The Cabonauts, read on…


When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?

I think I was 14 or so – and at first, I thought I’d be a novelist. I’d read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and thought “I’d like a pop at that” and wrote what became the first version of The Cabonauts – although it wasn’t set in a space cab at the time and had characters like Rupert, the gay robot. Rupert, by the way, will be resurrected one way or another because he was such a great, strong character. He was, for me, the logical extension of Marvin the Paranoid Android. It was about the same time that I thought I’d like to be a keyboard player in a band. I ultimately opted for writer because at the time I was terribly self-conscious and thought that writing was a behind-the-scenes enough creative job so went in that direction instead. I remember making the decision too; how “adult” of me! Had I only thought at the time to make The Cabonauts a musical I could have combined both talents. But life has a funny way of making things happen.

What sort of comedy did you enjoy when you were growing up, and what do you enjoy now?

I remember laughing hysterically at Monty Python’s Holy Grail; my Dad wouldn’t let us watch it on TV when I was a kid as he “didn’t believe in it”. That was his stock response for anything he didn’t care for. We never got to have fireworks either because he “didn’t believe in it”. I wonder how Tinkerbell would have fared if he was the one responsible for making her come alive. I’m getting off the point. Hitchhiker’s Guide made me laugh. Jasper Carrot made my cry laughing. Not The 9 O’Clock News. Young Ones. The Goodies. That was my childhood.

Now I enjoy The Daily Show, 30 Rock (unbelievably brilliant), Phoenix Nights, Spaced, Alan Partridge, TV Burp, Roman’s Empire…I could go on. There’s a lot of funny stuff on TV at the moment. I only need a couple shows per week because I don’t have the time to sit and watch for hours on end so I’m happy with a handful. I like stuff that has a slightly absurdist tone; Graham Linehan and all he does is rather excellent. But he won’t add me on twitter. What the fuck, @Linehan?

What made you decide to write comedy, and why did you decide to make web comedies?

As a kid, when I started writing, I didn’t make a conscious decision to write “comedy” – I just did it instinctively because I knew I made people laugh in real life so assumed I could do it in print. I went through a period in my 20’s where I wrote a few screenplays that were thrillers and at some point, someone in development read one and asked for something else. I sent her a comedy and she was blown away. She said “Why aren’t you writing comedies? That’s so much harder and you can do it”. So I sort of moved back into comedy. I do have a couple of high-concept thriller/drama thingies that we’re pitching at the moment; one’s about Zombies and the other’s not. We’ll see if they go anywhere.

I came upon web comedies by accident – which is often the best way of finding anything that changes your life. I was taking an improv class at Upright Citizen’s Brigade here in LA and someone said they had access to a green screen and we could shoot something for the web. This was the heady days of Jan, 2006 when no one was really doing it. I had the idea for a half-hour TV comedy called Goodnight Burbank and I wrote a 5 minute version. My grand plan was that someone in development would see it and commission a show. But despite that not happening, I saw there was a business buried somewhere in there so I continued in that vein. I love the freedom of writing for the web – where no one else is really involved with the creative process. It forces you to be the best editor (of scripts) there is.

Where did you meet Rich Fulcher and what was it like working with him?

Rich is good friends with Shulie Cowen who plays Kelly Jones on Goodnight Burbank. She said he was interested in being a part of the show so who was I to say no! Working with him is great; he’s very focused and throws himself into it. We shot a series of segments with him for Goodnight Burbank over two days so he had a LOT of lines to learn. When I worked with him later on Abigail’s Teen Diary, it was a very different process as it was completely improvised. We would talk about what we were going to shoot immediately before turning the camera on, sort of string out an idea, then I’d turn the camera on and we’d grab it – mostly in one take. When you’re having fun everything else takes care of itself.

Would you like to work with other members of ‘The Mighty Boosh’?

Hells yeah! Every last one of them. Except the gorilla. He might look out of place.

Do you prefer writing or acting?

For now, writing because I’m most comfortable with it. I’d never acted prior to the 2006 debut of Goodnight Burbank so I’m still playing with that. Besides, when I’ve acted in my own stuff, I’ve been hugely distracted because I’m also constantly rewriting it, directing it, producing it, etc. But I’d like to do more acting.

How did you persuade Nichelle Nichols to star in ‘The Cabonauts’?

All I did was send her 1) a pitch, 2) the script and 3) a character breakdown. No persuasion involved. She looked at the material and, bless her, said yes. A month or two later, we were sitting in the bar at the Chicago Comic Con when she grabbed my face, told me I was a mad fucker, that I reminded her of Gene Roddenberry and couldn’t wait for The Cabonauts to be the biggest thing in the world. I said “I’ll have what she’s having”.

Can you tell us any of the special guest stars that will take a ride in Cyril and Harry’s cab?

John Barrowman said yes, so schedules permitting he’ll be on board. We also have people from all iterations of Star Trek, Buck Rogers, Dr Who, Lost, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, etc etc, who’ve all said they’d like to take a ride. And why not? It’s a fun show with lots of sillyness and music fabulosity.

Was it hard to write the music for ‘The Cabonauts’?

So far it hasn’t been. The great thing about Garageband is that I find a beat that sounds cool then pick a sound – a bass guitar or a synth – and slowly start to add to it, layering as I go. Lyrically, it’s all informed by the show so it’s just like writing more dialog – it just has to rhyme.

What have you got planned for the future? Will you do more acting or writing or both?

My production company Evil Global Corp has TONS planned. Lots of shows on our development slate and my involvement in them includes writing or acting or directing and producing – depending on the project. I’m on the verge of signing a big development deal with a global production company so that might change some things too.

What would be your dream project and cast?

I think I’m already assembling one for The Cabonauts. One where I get to work with all kinds of people on a rockin’ bit of awesome sillyness.

If you had a space cab, where would you go and who would you like to be your passengers?

I’d like to go to Metebelis 3 with Sarah Jane Smith, Rose Tyler and Madame Pompadour for two weeks of blue sun, blue sea and hot sex. Ooft, missus.

The Velvet Onion would like to thank Hayden for taking the time and trouble to answer our questions. If you’d like to know more about him please visit his website, facebook page or  follow him on Twitter.

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2 Responses to “Onion Talking: Hayden Black”

  1. Aoibhgreine March 24, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    He seems fantastic. I must go and look at his web comedies :D

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  1. Interview with Hayden on The Velvet Onion « The Velvet Onion - March 24, 2010

    [...] Interview with Hayden on The Velvet Onion March 24, 2010 by afroharold © Hayden BlackInterview by me [...]

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