Rick’s Narration is a Meta-Commentary
Rick’s narration at the beginning of the long-anticipated season 6 premiere of Rick and Morty does a lot more than poke light-hearted fun at a Marvel movie. It sets the tone for the episode itself and acts as a manifestation of the overarching theme.
If you’ve never seen Rick and Morty, all you need to know is that the fanbase is built on speculation and fan theories that sometimes divide them into toxic ways.
The truth is, Rick’s narration in the premiere is just the tip of a very convoluted narrative iceberg.
As great as the bit is on the surface, Rick’s narration acts more like a meta-commentary from the show’s writers than a parody. While Rick did reference Robert Downey Jr.’s well-known narration in Iron Man, he objectively denied having any knowledge of it and even used the first lines of his narration to express just how much he hates the artistic device of narration.
“So this is what it’s come to…” – Rick’s Hatred of Narration
When Rick calls narration “the death of creativity,” it’s not a jab at the production technique so much as it is a preemptive joke made at the expense of fans who are going to be upset over nearly a decade of intrigue explained away in a 22-minute episode.
True to form – it’s a pretty Rick move.
The writers love to mess with Rick and Morty fans, and it shows. They wrote narration into the episode as a metaphor for the explanations given in the episode that undoes every single fan theory ever written. It’s all about explanations and revelations; the writers’ intentions are to subvert expectations and confirm storylines that will perpetuate new fan theories.
The Writers Used Narration to Send a Message to Fans
In the same way the Citadel of Ricks was destroyed – so was every preconceived notion fans held about the narrative. A lot of fans weren’t expecting to have their theories confirmed or denied with the season six premiere, but they got answers all the same.
But it wouldn’t be Rick and Morty if there wasn’t a deeper message hidden in plain sight – and it’s no secret that the writers love to mess with fans.
That being said, Rick’s narration seems only fitting given the episode’s theme – explanations.
Rick’s Narration is an Allegory for the Theme of the Episode
Given Rick and Morty’s pop-culture status for having a famously convoluted storyline, fans would always be looking deeper. The series is writhe with meta-narratives and hidden storylines that the creators love to tease fans with by leaving the answers open-ended.
This has led to people spending more time investigating the show’s aging mysteries instead of appreciating the episodes for what they are – or having the attention span to anticipate new secrets hidden in plain sight.
By giving fans an outright explanation to every question they’ve ever held about the series, it’s almost as if the episode was written as a meta-narration to the series itself – hence Rick’s half-cocked narration at the beginning of the episode.
‘Wubba Lubba Dub Dub’ – Rick’s Ad Libbed Catchphrase
To a lot of Rick and Morty fans, it’s no secret that a huge part of Roiland’s early creative process involved drinking in the sound booth – a lot.
Like a lot a lot. Honestly, it like a scary amount. But it led to creative gold forged in the heat of the moment (and accounts for most of Rick’s mid-sentence burps). For the most part, Roiland ad-libs anything that isn’t the main character… or actively in the series.
That being said, there are a few iconic exceptions to the rule, like Rick’s most quoted catchphrase ever: wubba lubba dub dub. Shirts, merchandise, and everything in between, the phrase went viral almost immediately but was improvised in the middle of recording.
From the perspective of anybody outside the voice-over industry, it might seem like a random jumbling of nonsense words – and that wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But as a voice-over artist, it’s a fun nod to what he’s in the process of doing in the sound booth. The phrase plays like an inside joke or easter egg for industry pros to pick up on because he’s talking about dubbing.
He was just incredibly drunk and recorded his voiceover as a constant stream of consciousness – as he’s been known to do.
Roiland and his co-creator, Dan Harmon, love to have fun with the series – and it shows.
This isn’t Roiland’s First Rick and Morty Narration
The season 6 premiere gave us Rick’s first true narration, but it’s not the first time Roiland has narrated for the series.
As if it weren’t impressive enough that Justin Roiland single-handedly voices both title characters, he somehow manages the feat of lending his voice to 60 extra and background characters – and the list keeps growing. If you caught either of the interdimensional cable episodes, then you’ve heard some of the hilarious spoof narrations he’s done for them.
While listing all of them out here in this column would defeat the purpose of actually watching the episodes, which you should, here are my top five picks from Justin Roiland’s hilariously improv’d Interdimensional Cable narrations.
Justin Roiland’s Top 5 Interdimensional Cable Narrations
What’s great about the Interdimensional Cable episodes of Rick and Morty is that they’re completely improvised. You can even hear Roiland cracking up mid-sentence as he tries to come up with material and finish his narrations.
Rick and Morty even casually shoulder-nudge the audience by commenting on how interdimensional cable has an “almost improvisational feel” to it.
Interdimensional Cable has gone down with fans as some of the most believed episodes throughout the entire series, but for this column, they’re an untapped wealth of comedically improvised narrations. Most of what we see out of the Interdimensional Cable bits parody a seemingly endless stream of daytime television, and likewise, there are more than a few standouts capable of holding up a mirror to the different types of narration we hear every day in the media.
5. Plumbus: How They Do It
What’s a plumbus – and what is it used for?
To this day, there isn’t a person in the fan community (or the writer’s room) who actually understands what a Plumbus is. But we do know how one is made.
That’s why this bit works so well; it’s meant to be a spoof of How It’s Made. As we hear Roiland narrating the entire production process of an interdimensional household essential that we know nothing about, you can’t help but appreciate the sense of irony at a narrative explainer leaving the audience with more questions than answers.
4. Sneezy XL Commercial
In yet another great example of everyday narration being put to comedic use, the Sneezy XL ad has everything any great car commercial should – and then some.
It not only informs consumers about the nifty specs, like a high-performance 45 horsepower engine and horn that sneezes, but lets them know where the vehicle gets its name and fame from. While this is one of Roiland’s more tame narrations for Interdimensional Cable, it plays like a real commercial and pokes fun at how eccentric cars have become.
3. Trunk People PSAs
The Trunk People PSAs that we hear in Interdimensional Cable is more than a narrative parody. They’re a picture of how dry (and sometimes outlandish) a lot of public service announcements are intended to sound.
As an audience, when we listen to the narrations that Roiland gives us for the opposing Trunk People PSA, they echo the same-sex marriage debates that raged on for years in the American media. If you pay close attention to the tone of Roiland’s voice over, you’ll notice how tame the narration is in contrast to some of the other Interdimensional Cable commercials he’s done.
2. Jan Quadrant Vincent 16
Usually, when people go to see an action movie, it’s because the project is driven by an actor that people know and love.
The same way Roiland leaves fans absolutely dumbfounded over what a Plumbus is, the Jan Quadrant Vincent 16 trailer does nothing to tell its audience who Jan Michael Vincent is but throws him at us all the same. It’s a fun jab at the entertainment industry’s love-hate relationship with big-name actors and a social commentary on how movie-goers can be hyped up by a dramatic narrator with an aire of conviction.
1. Two Brothers
Last, but most certainly not least, we have Justin Roiland’s unhinged narration for the Two Brothers trailer.
Of all the narrations he’s improvised for the Interdimensional Cable specials, this one takes Roiland’s unabridged dramatic narrations to a new extreme by not even trying to hide its ad-libbed nature. He stutters and pauses mid-sentence; quickly ramps up from half-formed idea to half-formed idea as they pop into his head mid-narration.
And it just works.
Even the name of the movie was changed and added to nearly a dozen times by the end of the fake trailer. Roiland kept adding arbitrary plotlines and phrases to the name of the movie before finally capping off his narration with a laugh, dubbing it Two Brothers.
Kim Handysides is an award-winning voice artist, and coach. Among her 20K+ narrations you have heard her on Discovery, Netflix, and the major networks, in iMax, the White House and the Smithsonian.