Koala Man Showrunners Flex Their Creative Muscles in Hulu’s New Animated Comedy


Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit are showing off their creative superpowers this week. The ambitious showrunners of Koala Man, their new animated comedy series from creator Michael Cusack (YOLO: Crystal Fantasy), just dropped on Hulu. Quirky and free-spirited, the show revolves around family man Kevin (voiced by Cusack), a middle-aged Aussie, who morphs into his own kind of superhero by sporting a koala mask and attempting to get his neighborhood in order. Mayhem and otherworldly calamity ensue Down Under.

Throughout its eight episodes, the series attempts to make mundane life—work, home, school, garbage day—fun if not grand via Kevin’s exploits, even though there’s deeper nuance lying beneath the character’s motivations. Joining Cusack in the voice talent pool are Sarah Snook (Succession), Demi Lardner, Jemaine Clement, and none other than Hugh Jackman (Wolverine, The Greatest Showman).


Fans of The Family Guy, The Simpsons, and Rick and Morty will undoubtedly appreciate the “out there” humor of Koala Man. But the showrunners, who were named one of Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch in 2019, have much more to celebrate lately. Along with the series launch, Variety reports that the creative duo has re-upped with 20th Television Animation, securing a new multi-year deal that now also includes developing live-action projects with ABC Signature.

That’s good news for the fellas behind the CBS workplace comedy Talk Nerdy to Me, currently in development, and Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion, the Disney endeavor in which they served as creators and executive producers.

“Our humor is very similar,” Samit told MovieWeb of his creative partnership with Henandez. “That’s what brought us together. With Koala Man, we wanted to do an animated comedy where, yes, things get big and broad—we’ve seen other shows do that before—but also wanted to keep it all grounded in real emotion and real characters. Kevin is a guy who loves his family and his town. And that’s sort of his defining life mission in the show. We wanted to tell a good superhero story, even in this insane world. That’s sort of what we set out to do, and I hope that it comes across to people.”

The Rise of Koala Man


Samit and Hernandez became more than a blip on the Hollywood radar after writing Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Addams Family 2. Other television credits include lending their talents to Super Fun Night, Central Park, 1600 Penn, and the reboots of One Day at a Time and The Tick. They have several other projects in development with Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm.

For Koala Man, the duo wanted to take Cusack’s original idea, which began as a short about a befuddled self-made Australian superhero and expand upon it. “The art that I respond to most is art with a glimmer of hope at the end of it,” Hernandez explained about the series. “It can get dark, it can get dire, crazy, and surreal, but the things I resonate with over time are when I can watch something and say, ‘My life is better for having watched it. I feel optimistic.’

Related: Exclusive: Koala Man Creator on How The Simpsons and Spider-Man Influenced His New Animated Series

“The secret of Koala Man is that it’s quite an optimistic show,” he added. “It’s not cynical at all. And that is hard to do. It’s hard to write and still be funny in that way.”

Samit noted that he drew upon previous influences to flush things out in Koala Man—everything from The Simpsons and South Park. “Some of the other comedic influences for me and Dan were classic Mel Brooks movies, and even for me, Mad Magazine,” he said, pointing out that he and Hernandez were “super fans” of Cusack’s work.

“It’s been an amazing collaboration since day one,” he went on. “We instantly fell in love with the character [of Koala Man] and his unique voice and point of view from Michael’s YouTube shorts he made years ago—just the quality of them. When we sat down with Michael, within the first 10 minutes of our meeting, the three of us knew we were going to do the show together.”

Expanding the Koala Man Universe

From the get-go, Cusack created the character of Kevin with a distinct point of view. Samit and Hernandez wanted to honor that. Doing anything to dictate or soften Cusack’s point of view would have been an absolute mistake.

“Our attitude was… how can we enhance what Michael was doing?” Samit said. “How can we position it in such a way that everybody understands it, and how can we adapt this to a longer format than he was used to working in, taking it into half-hour increments and telling a story over the course of an entire season.’”

To be sure, that was what Cusack wanted, too. As the troika merged onto the same creative superhighway together, Hernandez said it made collaborating “a dream.” And having Snook and Jackman lending their voices was a major plus—Jackman plays Big Greg, somebody Kevin/Koala Man must deal with.

“But I also think it’s often a misnomer when creatives are in partnership—basically that everybody needs to be good equally at everything. That’s not true at all,” he quickly added. “It’s more beneficial when you’re willing to say, ‘I can’t draw, my drawing looks like just a crazed serial killer.’ So, for me, having someone who actually could draw in the moment, like Michael, in the writers’ room, was great. We’d pitch a character and one second later, he’d say, ‘Here’s what it looks like!’ What a gift to us as storytellers because now we have a visual; we have characteristics that we can work off of. And that’s what Michael brings to the table. We’ve never worked with something like that before. And it’s really a special treasure, honestly.”

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Hernandez also debunked another myth: that writing comedy, especially for animation, is just fun and games. Well, yes and no.

“It’s important to have a real sense of the history of scripted comedy,” he noted. “Benji and I love the Marx Brothers. We love the Three Stooges and Looney Tunes—a huge influence on both of us. I think what you’ll find is common [in comedies] is that certain things just don’t change. There are just certain truisms. Daffy Duck is a megalomaniac and the more megalomaniac he is, the funnier it is when he gets his comeuppance.”

He added that one of the most interesting things about Koala Man for him and Samit was being able to tell an optimistic story within the confines of the “most surreal, crazy stuff that anybody could possibly imagine.”

“And that was challenging,” he quipped. “Because sometimes optimism isn’t funny, right? The more that someone insists upon trying to be cheery, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that is both tragic and funny. That informed the sort of scenarios we were trying to put Kevin/Koala Man into.”

Koala Man is streaming on Hulu.

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