When life handed Liz Miele some lemons, she decided to make lemonade. It’s what pushed her into stand-up comedy 11 years ago and what motivated her to conceive Damaged, a webseries about Emily and TJ, two broken robots who have been adopted by humans.
After successfully funding the project on Kickstarter earlier this year, Miele (pictured right) is taking advantage of the webseries format as a means to build a wider fan-base and turn her concept ‘pitch-ready.’ The result is a project fueled by big ideas and an admiration for cartoons like Adventure Time, South Park and Invader Zim.
She took a moment from wrapping up her 8th episode to chat with Cartoon Brew about her own personal growth, being an industry outsider working with animators and, most importantly, assembling a dream team of cartoon robots.
Cartoon Brew: Why adopted robots?
Liz Miele: Damaged focuses on how it feels to not only be physically broken but the mental and emotional turmoil one might feel from being abandoned or given away. I think I used robots adopted by human parents to exaggerate the feeling of being “given up” by the people in our lives that are supposed to appreciate us. A big inspiration for this show came from a really bad break-up with a boyfriend that made me really come to terms with some of my emotional issues and the pain I caused to the people around me and myself. A little sad, but it was the beginning of some important self-awareness that I needed to feel better if not hopefully become better.
Cartoon Brew: What has exploring that self-awareness taught you about yourself?
Liz Miele: That I am emotionally exhausting! (Laughs) It is something that I desperately want not to be, but have a hard time overcoming. I’m incredibly insecure about my intelligence, probably because I’m dyslexic, which makes me a slower reader and horrible speller – yet I write for a living! I’m not proud of my insecurities or what drives me to create but I’m honest with myself about them. I’m starting to understand that this is me and I might not be able to 100% change myself to fit this mold of acceptable behavior but I can accept myself and learn to work with what I have.
Cartoon Brew: Is this approach different from how you approach your stand-up comedy?
Liz Miele: My stand-up is deliberate, truthful and incredibly self-refective. I take my time and I invite you into my head and not everyone likes being there. (Laughs) What I like about writing for Damaged is I can be sillier and weirder than when I’m onstage. As a cartoon writer, who I am comes through but there isn’t a spotlight on me. I get to express another side of myself; I like being annoying and random, I like having a different world that my imagination wanders to during the day and having this God-like power to decide, “Yeah, robotic birds poop oil here!”
Cartoon Brew: What’s it been like for you, someone outside the animation industry, to work with animators?
Liz Miele: I started this project very naive and I am still learning something new everyday. Because of stand-up I come from a “telling” background, and I’m learning to get better at “showing.” At first, because I had a small budget, I tried to keep my episode ideas simple because I felt guilty giving the animators so much work. After a few months, we ended up having a heart-to-heart and I learned that they actually wanted to go bigger because that was fun for them to animate. That was a big realization for me—just like people can tell when I’m having fun onstage, they can tell when the animators are having fun animating something!
Cartoon Brew: Name 4 favorite cartoon robots and why they would (or wouldn’t) enjoy Damaged.
1. Gir (Invader Zim) – Damaged is pretty colorful so maybe we could get his attention but I don’t know if we could keep it.
2. Conky (Pee-Wee’s Play House) – He’s made of old electronics and is always breaking. I think he would totally relate!
3. Wall-E (Wall-E) – …but I don’t know if he’s the type to look for new content on the Internet? He’s too much of a busybody.
4. Awesome-O (South Park) – I know he’s not a real robot and he would publicly say our show was stupid… but he would secretly love it!