My Favorite Scene: ‘Archer’ Creator Adam Reed on the 4-Word Joke That Inspired ‘Scooby-Doo’-Themed Episode

by Stacy Lambe 6:05 AM PDT, March 31, 2016
Playing My Favorite Scene: ‘Archer’ Creator Adam Reed on the 4-Word Joke That Inspired ‘Scooby-Doo’-Themed Episode

No one loves a great scene more than the person who first dreamed it up -- the writer. We're asking iconic shows' creators and writers to tell ETonline all about the moment on their series that they most cherished getting to see make it from script to screen.

For Adam Reed, the creator of FX’s animated spy series, Archer, it’s a four-word joke -- well, punchline -- that served as the nexus of an entire episode. In the season one episode, “Skytanic,” Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) and his ISIS crew (the name of which has since been changed due to the real-life terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL) find themselves aboard the maiden voyage of the luxury airship, Excelsior, investigating a bomb threat. 

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The episode grew out of a punchline that we tossed out while sitting around the office, throwing a Nerf football. Somebody said, “M is for Mancy,” and we all laughed. I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I wrote a whole episode just to get to that one joke, which is not the world’s best joke -- and it was a very long walk for a very short drink of water -- but it just really cracked me up.

The scene where the punchline finally lands is also the first time we make fun of Lana’s big hands. [It’s one of the series’ many long-running gags to come out of the first season.] I don’t know where that joke came from. It’s certainly not Aisha Tyler’s hands, which are slender and lovely.

Another rip-off of this scene is from M*A*S*H, when a bomb landed in the middle of the compound and Trapper and Hawkeye had to defuse it and Henry Blake is talking them through it. He’s like, “OK, cut the green wire.” Snip. “But first…” And they stop and just look at Henry. It just killed me as a kid.

The other thing about this episode is that it’s basically an episode of Scooby-Doo. You know, where Archer and the gang are the meddling kids, then there’s the sort of misdirection with the person you think is going to be the villain, and then it turns out to be “the other guy,” who gives his reasons at the end. I guess the difference is this guy gets away on Archer.

A lot of time scripts are easier to write than others. This one was a breeze because the structure was so well laid out. I knew going in: “OK, we’re going to do Scooby-Doo.”

The episode was also written about the time that we got picked up for season two. Up until then, we didn’t think we were going to get picked up, so I might have been a little more relaxed as a writer and had a bit more fun with it. Like, we see Cheryl (Judy Greer) getting into choking and Pam (Amber Nash) is using the bathroom while somebody else is having sex in it. Everyone started stepping into the roles that they would really become down the road. For a lot of the characters, this was the first time you got to that sort of weirdness.

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Archer returns with a Magnum, P.I.-themed season seven on Thursday, March 31 at 10 p.m. ET only on FX.