An Interview w/ Cyanide & Happiness Co-Creator Dave McElfatrick

Since the mid-2000’s, the insanely popular web comic Cyanide & Happiness has delighted fans with its unparalleled dark sense of humor and irreverence. After transitioning from the comics into a mega-hit animated comedy show on Youtube, the next step on their world domination tour is the Cyanide & Happiness Emoji and Avatar Creator app for iOS and Android devices. FanboyNation recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dave McElfatrick, one of the creators of Cyanide & Happiness, to talk about the history and inspiration of C&H, the upcoming app, and what’s coming next for Cyanide & Happiness!

*Also, check out below the interview for a chance to win a Premium Code for the Cyanide & Happiness Emoji and Avatar Creator app!

AB: Cyanide & Happiness was originally a collaborative effort between you, Rob DenBleyker, Kris Wilson, and Matt Melvin; all of you were in separate geographical locations and you didn’t meet each other for a few years after the comics had launched. What was that kind of collaboration process like? What about the idea drew you into initially wanting to work with these other individuals?

DM: It was never a strongly planned collaboration process, it was a somewhat casual agreement at the time between four weird kids. Our great unifier was our rather ridiculous, specialist hobby and our sense of humour. We were all part of the same online community, that of amateur Flash animators who submitted darkly comedic stick figure animations to the same host website for critique, and, if I’m being honest, validation. I know I made them for the joy and the ego boost when one was well received. I think we all felt isolated in our own way. I don’t think most of us were having a good time at school. Kris comes from a town of around 100 people in the middle of Wyoming. Me, a small town in Ireland. We became fans of each other’s work, and ended up running our own website together to showcase our individual work.

The big question for me was when college came. Did I still wanna do this? Hell yeah, I was doing what I loved. Did I have time to do full animations? Hell no. Some of the other guys were feeling the same. Kris showed us some of his comics and we loved them, so we all agreed that making them daily could be a fun casual collaboration while we all studied. It grew from there.

With all that in mind, the collaboration between us never felt unnatural to me. We talked for hours most days over MSN already, and shared our progress in our individual work to each other for critique. This didn’t really feel like an evolution in the beginning, though the comics were certainly a more individual affair back then. We didn’t hear from each other quite as much due to our college lives, and were more hesitant to ask each other for help (probably something to do with those egos). We help refine each other’s stuff a lot more now, and discuss comics daily.

AB: What was it like meeting everyone for the first time face to face? Was there an initial awkwardness coming into that situation, or did it just feel like catching up with old friends you hadn’t seen in awhile?

DM: Honestly, for me, a bit of both. Rob and Matt came to visit me in Ireland ten years ago, and that was the first time we met face to face. I think we were all a little difficult. We hadn’t really even hung out via a webcam or anything very often before that, and we were these gawky, socially difficult, restrained people. I hadn’t really hosted anyone before. I didn’t have a car at the time, so I feel like I didn’t do a great job of taking people around! 

It was very strange to talk about all this stuff that was normally exclusive to the screen out loud. It felt very surreal. I remember referring to people’s online handles out loud as their name and finding that particularly strange. Going online was still considered a geeky, losery activity by most kids my age at the time, so it all felt like very weird, untreaded, awkward territory. We kinda dived in the deep end after that, though. I immediately flew back with them to the US to tour from Dallas to San Diego for the comic convention. I rarely left my hometown back then, so that was both a once in a lifetime opportunity and a huge, anxiety-ridden, insomnia nightmare at the same time. Truly an amazing, iconic time in my life, though.

AB: You’ve always been largely open to letting other users create and share within the community of Cyanide & Happiness, was that something you all agreed upon from the beginning, or were there any reservations about letting create using your particular format and style?

DM: That’s been there from the beginning! Nearly every other web comic artist at the time was extremely hesitant to let people share their work across other websites, forums, etc. They felt like it was stealing traffic from them, and to find their work, you’d have to go to their site exclusively. We put watermarks on our comics and actively encouraged people to use our comics as their forum signatures, on Myspace, wherever. I think we were one of, if not the first, comics to do that. 

I think the C&H style and tone, much like the stick animations it evolved from, lent itself to anyone giving it a try. It didn’t feel exclusive to artists. You didn’t have to draw fantastic to try producing something similar to C&H on your own. It was all about the idea. It’s always been very flattering seeing others, particularly younger folk, try their hand at making comics like ours. Inspiring people to try making comics for themselves is the best. If they like it, amazing! A potential new artist is born.

AB: How involved were you guys in the development of the Cyanide & Happiness Emoji and Avatar Creator app? Was this an idea you guys came up with amongst yourselves, or was it pitched to you?

DM: The avatar creator, along with a few other new features that’ll be appearing in a new update very soon, was something I pitched to the other guys a few years ago. It seemed like another step in what I was talking about earlier, letting fans try out making C&H stuff on their own. I got busy with our animated content, and kinda sat on it until we were presented with the opportunity to create Emojis. This seemed like the perfect time to combine that with my own ideas, and produce a neat app that lets you workshop your own C&H stuff. The app is there to allow fans to dick around with C&H stuff and share with their best friends/worst enemies. It offers a lot of potential for goofing around with other people, and like I said, there’s more features coming!

AB: Cyanide & Happiness has branched out into several different mediums; from The Cyanide and Happiness Show animated series, to the incredibly successful Joking Hazard board game, as well as the mobile app; is there any other form of media you guys have your eyes set on dominating?

DM: Oh yes! We’re all currently batting back and forth all sorts of ideas for video games. I just got back from PAX East today. It was a blast and I think we’re all feeling hugely inspired. We’re all big video game nerds and we’re ready to try our hand at our own. Aside from that, we’re dipping into our toes into a sitcom world a little at the moment. I can’t give anything away right now, but I’m pretty excited about a project that’s currently in the works with our buddy Joel Watson.

AB: What is the darkest Cyanide & Happiness comic you can recall? Does anything particularly messed up instantly spring to mind?

DM: Gosh, off the top of my head, Baby Osama? (http://explosm.net/comics/1018/) This one’s an oldie. Heck, it may not be shocking to the world anymore at all. Maybe everyone’s moved on! Maybe we’re currently dealing with a huge pile of terrifying bullshit of our own in this day and age! I remember going “oooooooooh” at this one myself, so kudos to Kris, hahaha.

Fan Nick Nordgren wants to ask:
“I just wanna know how you guys reached your insane levels of nihilism? I’m basically striving to be as dead on the inside as you all seem to be.”


DM: Hi Nick! Hope you’re having a good day, cause that’s about to change! Drink hearty, go and get your heart-broken. Go outside and instead of smelling those lovely roses, go smell that dead, flattened pigeon on the road instead. Take a big ol sniff. Now that you’ve got that honk up your nose, it’s time to draw some comics! Turn on the news. Get your pen and paper ready. Go outside and sniff the pigeon one more time for good luck. Now have a friend scratch some polystyrene at your ear as you try and doodle. Play some sad James Horner music. Hey presto! You’ve made a comic. Now repeat ad infinitum. This is my morning routine. Now brush your teeth.

Fan Lisa Ann wants to ask:
Are any of your loved ones or teachers shocked that you’re not incarcerated, and that you’re a resounding success beloved by millions worldwide?

DM: Hello Lisa! Truth be told my parents have suggested nastier things than I could ever hope to think about ever since they’ve seen that the comic has been playing the bills. Their minds are filthy. They thought it was a bit of a waste of a time before, but now they’re excited and gross. I think a few people I dared share it to considered it a waste of time, but you gotta keep going. If you love it, do it. If you love it, it’s not a waste of time by any stretch. It can be the time of your life.

Thanks Dave!

From the press release:

“Cyanide & Happiness, the #1 animated comedy show on YouTube has debuted their much-anticipated custom Emoji and Avatar Creator app on iOS and Android.  Packed with the same dark and offensive humor, this is your chance to win a fully unlocked premium version of the newly released free application.

The Cyanide & Happiness Emoji and Avatar Creator will let you insert Cyanide & Happiness emoji’s right into your conversations! It’s the perfect way to let your friends know that you’ve got cyanide on the brain (in a good way?). 

The Avatar creator is for all of those that suck at drawing stick figures, but think it looks easy. Good news– turning yourself into a C&H character IS easy! You can choose between a wide range of skin tones, cool outfits, hairstyles and some crude hand gestures! You can even put that avatar into a fancy picture, or a picture of your fancy head on your new fancy stick-body.

Want to try your hand at creating your own custom Cyanide & Happiness character?  Enter our Cyanide & Happiness Emojis Giveaway Contest, and you could win a fully unlocked premium version of the app. Cyanide & Happiness will even share your custom creation with the world on Twitter and more.

Cyanide & Happiness Emojis is available for iOS and Android. To download the app, please visit: http://onelink.to/cyanideemojis

Here’s how to enter:
Send an email with the Subject “Cyanide & Happiness” to [email protected]
Winners will be picked at random.

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