Interview with Alyson Levy and Alissa Nutting of Teenage Euthanasia Before Season Finale

Teenage Euthansia. Image courtesy Adult Swim
Teenage Euthansia. Image courtesy Adult Swim /

Teenage Euthanasia follows the Fantasy family who owns a funeral home called Tender Endings in a near-future inland Florida. The Fantasy family consists of the immigrant matriarch Baba, her son Pete; who is a total mama’s boy, Pete’s sister Trophy; the wild child who was a teen mom and is now an undead corpse, and Euthanasia or Annie, the responsible nerdy teenager that is navigating her relationship with her mother while also figuring out herself in an environment she doesn’t seem to completely fit in. Each episode covers an adventure the Fantasy family must deal with in their fictitious Florida home. Read the interview below to get the inside scoop from the creators:  Alissa Nutting and Alyson Levy.

Culturess: Teenage Euthanasia has very specific details. You have a family that owns a funeral home in inland Florida in the future… and oh the daughter is also a corpse. So, I Just want to know what came first. How did you know what elements had to be in it to make it the show that it is today?

Alyson Levy: I think the first thing was, maybe, a family and the funeral home. I think we really wanted to try to make an animated [show]…we tried to make it normal – I know that’s not how it worked out. The goal was to try to make a half-hour animated family show. We knew we were weird so we thought if we tried to make it look normal maybe they would let us do it.  So that was the beginning. And Alissa is from Florida and she seems to weave it into all her outputs, so the Florida, I’m going to blame Alissa for that.

Culturess: Why specifically in the future? Why not in the present day?

Alissa Nutting: We didn’t want the one-to-one parallel. One thing that’s interesting about animation is we have about an 18-month calendar and the world is so wildly unpredictable. It’s really hard to be on top of the actual CNN, news headline of the day when you have an 18-month animation schedule that you’re locked into, but we definitely wanted to provide social commentary, and particularly social commentary on systemic ways.

For example, citizens find themselves abandoned by their government, without certain resources, or without support.  And also, the resourcefulness that happens in the ways where technology also permeates poverty.  Particularly in ways that are surveilling and controlling and advertising, we just sort of wanted to go into a slight future. And it’s not too far ahead, on any given day it’s not even in the future, it just sort of depends on what day it is in the real world or what episode you’re on.  A lot of things come true. We started the holographic teachers, for example, in Season 1 and then the pandemic happened, and it didn’t even seem like the future. It was just kind of like; ok we are all at home and our kids are watching teachers on the screen.  So, we just wanted that room and that freedom and it allows us to comment satirically on where things might be headed and also where they already are. It’s always really fun to see what turns out to be prophetic in reality by the time the season actually comes out. We would always joke that a lot of times things we add as dystopian feel utopian by the time the show actually lands on air, just because of the 18-month gap.

AL: And honestly when we first came up with this it was before even Trump was elected. And the idea of the future seemed much more interesting and the further we go into making the show the more the future part is also the most terrifying part. The whole idea of the future has changed since we started thinking about the show.

Culturess: Season 2 starts with Trophy kind of being a supportive mom. Teaching her daughter how to party, I could have used that in a mom. I still don’t know how to party! At the end of the season, she is not present [for reasons that would be a huge spoiler to share]. So I’m wondering was that on purpose and do you see any plans to have Trophy’s character development include being a better mom?

AL: I think she’s a bit unchangeable. That’s kind of her superpower, her inability to change or reflect or develop in some kind of way. Where we get excited is how Annie grows herself. Like Annie, this season really sort of grows her own kind of backbone and she has some wins in just the way she interacts with Trophy.  It’s more about Annie and her resilience, and that’s the whole thing about the partying, the resilience training. Both Alissa and I are mothers, that’s another rip of our world thing. Trying to make kids so resilient, meanwhile, every day is a lesson in reliance. I don’t know -I think Trophy has her glimpses. She’s one of those narcissists, they just attach just enough that you don’t wander away. Just enough –  threads that connect you to her.

AN: Yeah, it’s sort of like “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” I think that there are moments in this season when there is kind of a true heartwarming minute between Trophy and Annie. I think just because those are so sparse, they also mean a lot when they do manage to come.   Sometimes when I’m watching, and even though I clearly know what’s going to happen, I find myself getting hopeful the way that Annie might get hopeful.  “Oh, this time toxic mom is actually going to do a healthy thing.” It’s just sort of fun to remember that this is sort of what we all do in our own ways. Particularly with family members whose relationships aren’t what we necessarily want them to be. We all kind of fantasize and hope it’s going to change even though realistic evidence tells us differently.

Culturess: In some interviews I saw, you guys talk a lot about dysfunction and kind of celebrating it. It’s kind of refreshing, especially for women, who are told to always be better and change. Did you guys set up to celebrate that from the beginning? “You know what I’m going to have a lousy mom [character] and we’re going to be okay with it.”  Is that something you guys thought of?

AL: I think so because I’m a big fan of like … when I talk to kids, “It’s okay to not talk to your parent. Some things are too messed up to deal with. And you kind of have to make do with yourself. Maybe that is my own kind of resilience from my own life. I don’t know if it was set out, but we consciously don’t need to make everything okay for everyone on the show. That is conscience, some things wrap up in a nice way that makes sense in the confines of the show. You’re sort of stuck with the family you have, you can’t change that, but how you relate to that family is kind of your choice. You don’t have to make it better.

Culturess: One character I’m curious about is Baba. I know she is from the old country but specifically where do you see she is from?

AN: The old country! She’s just a woman of mystery… The way it is parallel to Florida as opposed to the Florida in our world. I think Baba is from the old country, in a parallel old country. There is kind of something lost in her mythology if we give her a location in our reality. I think all these characters are from a slightly different reality, but we can definitely see these elements of countries that are realistic.

Adult Swim, Teenage Euthansia
Teenage Euthansia. Image courtesy Adult Swim /

Culturess: So is she there to reflect a simpler time or just like a different way of thinking?

AL: I think it’s like, A: She’s an immigrant. It kind of deals with some of those issues. Like her kind of being new to Florid in her way and how she embraces America.  It’s a little bit of that, and also just for her to have this background that was sort of more intense than the one they’re currently in.  We do shed some light this season – she sort of gets out  [of the old country] because she is a really good gymnast. Cleary wherever she is from is some sort of forme  Soviet bloc kind of place.  Alissa once saw a documentary about, kind of like,  if you weren’t an Olympic gold medalist you were absolute garbage in this society.

This idea was always kind of there. Baba is someone who grew up thinking if she didn’t get a gold medal she was absolute garbage. That is the underlying backbone of the voice in her head. We do have one line kind of like that in the show this season and I do think that, for me, it helps me ground who she is and how she thinks about being a mother. And you know, I have grandparents who were immigrants and came from a former Soviet bloc place … to me, it’s sort of their approach to life in America as opposed to the people currently growing up in Florida.

Culturess: When I thought that this show was going to make fun of Florida, I pictured a very specific place. I didn’t expect to see her there, that was kind of refreshing. I didn’t expect that!

AL:  Yeah, it’s a counterbalance to the bimbo-core of somebody like Trophy, which is also something that interests us very much.  The humanity of that kind of woman, like an Anna Nicole Smith kind of woman, is a  very transactional kind of way of going through life. Baba [is transactional]  too, but it just takes a very different form.

Culturess: Can you tell me more about bimbo-core?

AN: You know it’s really leaning into the capitalist value of sexuality, particularly femme sexuality, and not trying to define or enrich your value outside of those misogynist, patriarchal structures, but really trying to amplify your value within those structures. Trying to be as sexually appealing to wealthy powerful men as possible.

Culturess: The cast is filled with well-known comedians: Maria Bamford, Tim Robinson, and Jo Firestone. Was there any improv with lines or if there wasn’t any improv, when new characters came in did they influence the characters that you guys created?

AL: Yeah, I mean there is a real collaboration with the characters and the main characters as they come back. They really feel their parts from the first season to the second. Someone like Maria is really into improving and Bebe Neuwrith is pretty into it. She sort of gets into character and does the things she wants to do. But even when people come in for one-offs, when we have time, it is fun to sort of like let people who are funny to kind of do their thing, like Rachel Sennott is in the show this season. She did a lot of messing around when she was there. It was really fun and came up with a bunch of lines that are actually in the show. It sort of depends on who it is. We try to cast a large, diverse group of people. Some people are more comfortable than others, but we try to make it very fun, the records.

Culturess: Love the show, I’m a new fan. I am going to keep watching more. Thank you so much for spending time and talking to us about the show.

AL: Thank you so much.

AN: Yes, thank you for watching the show.

You can watch Teenage Euthanasia on Adult Swim and the finale episode airs on Wednesday, 9/27.

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