Just how, exactly, do you describe Rick And Morty to someone who hasn’t seen it before? Sarah Chalke – who voices Beth Smith in the animated cult favourite – gave us at thesouthafrican.com her best shot, as five new episodes of the lewd laugh-riot came to Showmax this week.
“On the outside, it looks like a show about a young boy [Morty Smith] and his grandfather [Rick Sanchez] going on a wonderful series of adventures. Then pretty soon, we’re dealing with things like incest and cannibalism. So yeah, it’s different!”Sarah Chalke
This, just moments after she admitted to “not really knowing what day or time it was” because of lockdown. Join the club, Sarah… although, the whole premise of Adult Swim’s hit-comedy laughs in the face of the space-time continuum and our basic understanding of physics.
Sarah Chalke talks to us about Rick and Morty
Chalke, beaming with enthusiasm and warmth, says she is now used to the idea of “timelessness”, and describes the show as “one hell of a weird ride”.
We absolutely couldn’t agree more. In its seven-year existence, Rick And Morty has evolved from an online parody to become one of the most-watched adult animation shows on the circuit. This week, the second half of series four dropped in South Africa – and it’s been every bit as mind-blowing as advertised.
Time travel, inter-dimensional dilemmas and concepts that soar above our observable and understood universe dominate the narrative, which is punctuated by frequent flashpoints of relentlessly dark humour. If you’re just that little bit twisted, this show promises to satisfy your lust for the absurd.
And yet, in the middle of it all, is Sarah Chalke. The former Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother actress simply cannot pick a bad production to put her name to. Certainly, the aforementioned shows have established themselves as vital cornerstones of pop culture in the 21st century.
The ABC’s of Beth… explained by her voice actor
The same is happening with R&M. In the age of the meme, cutaway gags and contextually ambiguous scenes are king. This show does them by the barrel-full, while juggling ambitious plot-lines and far-out theories. But it is Beth – the mother amid the chaos – who functions as one of the show’s standout mysteries.
Morty’s father Jerry is the perennial loser, always at odds with his intellectual superior and father-in-law, Rick. Then there’s Summer, the teenage daughter trying to navigate both High School and the finer points of traversing the multiverse. Beth, as Chalke puts it, is an ‘existential lynchpin’ trying to learn more about herself:
“In terms of character development, we learn about what happens with Beth in real-time. As this goes on, we see a more complex side to her. She has to live with her own existential doubts, battling with the reality of her own existence and the relation with her father [Rick].”
“The most fascinating aspect of Beth is how she is always trying to please her dad, despite never-ending scepticism. In season three, we learn why these two are the way they are and it’s sort of rewarding, but also leaves us with a massive cliffhanger – Beth, like the rest of us, doesn’t even know what she is any more”.Sarah Chalke
Rick And Morty season four: Is Beth a clone?
Sarah isn’t kidding. In fact, we begin season four hoping to learn if Beth is actually real or merely a cloned version of herself – whatever these next five episodes bring us, they’ll have to go a long way to eclipse what we’ve seen so far. Our personal highlights include a cameo from Pretoria-born Elon Musk, and Rick’s secret bathroom located in a heavenly corner of the galaxy: We can only imagine the scrolling we’d get through in there…
Rick And Morty can also claim to have one of the most intense fanbases on the planet. There are superfans, then there are the devotees that storm McDonald’s outlets for access to discontinued sauces made popular by Rick Sanchez himself. Man, that sentence was a joy to type…
Sarah Chalke has been a part of this community from the start, and says that watching the growth of its popularity year-on-year has been her favourite thing about working on the show:
“The fans of Rick And Morty are just on a totally different planet – almost literally. When we first started going to Comic Con in 2014, we had a few people dressed up as Rick, which was pretty cool. We came back the next year and there are hundreds of fans dressed as obscure characters: The Meeseks, Mr Poopy Butthole, and the lot.”
“We’ve also been lucky enough to watch episodes with fans in huge outdoor theatres – with one screening hosting more than 4 000 people. I genuinely love watching these guys get together and have so much fun with our show!”Sarah Chalke
A visit to South Africa may be on the cards…
Comic Con, of course, has a firm footprint in South Africa. So we had to ask Sarah… will she ever visit? Well, whenever we are all able to break from the shackles of a global lockdown, Mzansi is at the top of her list – and the Chalke family have already left a charitable mark on our landscape:
“I am desperate to visit, South Africa is at the very top of my list and my whole family has gone before. I was scheduled to travel with them, but I had a baby at the time I was meant to go. I had to make do with just hearing the stories, but SA is truly an incredible place – and my parents have helped establish orphanages out there”.Sarah Chalke
Sarah Chalke’s tribute to Sam Lloyd
Finally, we allowed ourselves a moment to fangirl: Sarah’s work on Scrubs launched her to international stardom, and her eight-season run helped propel the show into genre-setting territory. But sadly, the phenomenal cast lost a beloved member of the show last week.
Sam Lloyd, who perfectly portrayed Ted, passed away on 30 April. Chalke’s tribute to the actor just about sums up the man who played such a tragically-helpless comic foil:
“He really was a fantastic and amazing person. But do you know what? He goes down as the kindest, nicest person I’ve ever worked with. Sam always had time for a conversation, and took a genuine interest in our lives and what we were doing. And don’t get me started on The Blanks…”
*We proceed to ask Sarah about The Blanks, Sam’s improv a capella group*…
“Man, they were so cool! They ended up on Scrubs because Sam just bought them along to filming one day. They had us all laughing instantly and from there, they ended up on the show… the rest is history!”Sarah Chalke
Answering the question: How do you explain Rick And Morty?
Chalke has seen her CV go from stellar to interstellar since choosing a winner with Rick And Morty. In fact, it’s tough to think of another actor who would have had as much fun on-set as Sarah over the past 20 years or so. In answering the question we posed at the start of the article, the f-word is probably the best response.
R&M explores infinite timelines, limitless possibilities and the big-picture questions that keep us up at night. But, if you need just one reason to tune in and start watching, this should do it: The show is fun. Bloody good, unapologetic fun. And couldn’t we all do with some of that during these testing times?
- ‘The Other Five’ episodes of Rick and Morty season 4 are available on the Adult Swim Corner on Showmax for South African fans to stream.
- Sarah’s family is also involved with two charities in Namibia. You can find out more about the Home of Good Hope and Sunrise Adoption here.