‘If you like it normal, why bother coming to New York?” asked set-upon social worker Mark Lilly in the first season of Comedy Central’s animated Ugly Americans, which returns for seven new episodes October 6. In the supernatural melting pot that is the New York of creator Devin Clark’s imagination, humans are a distinct minority amid demons, zombies, blobs, and ever-crapping pigeon-headed birdmen.
Animator Clark dreamed up the idea while waiting for the F train to take him to his gigs creating network interstitials. A series of animated shorts became a Comedy Central pitch starring everyman Mark and his job at the Washington, D.C., Department of Immigration (later changed to the Department of Integration), where he struggles to acclimate immigrants from other countries, planets, and dimensions into American life. But the genius concept of Ugly Americans didn’t click into place until Clark hooked up with Simpsons vet David Stern, the nascent series’ show-runner. “First thing,” Stern told Clark at lunch, “this shouldn’t be in D.C. This idea is New York. You could walk by a werewolf right now on this city’s streets, and you wouldn’t bat an eye.” From there, Clark and Stern hashed out their vision of a ghoulish Gotham, in which the ethnic enclaves of the city’s neighborhoods get a horror-movie makeover. “We didn’t want to be like, ‘Okay, all Cubans are werewolves,’ ” says Clark, “but we wanted the neighborhoods to be sort of insular. You know, the demons live in Hell’s Kitchen. And the vampires live in Williamsburg, so we have some Hasidic Jewish vampires and some hipster vampires.” Starry-eyed Mark tries to do the right thing, even as his zombie roommate, hot demon girlfriend, and lazy wizard co-worker make it tough to get through the day uneaten. The result is a very funny love letter to the everyday excitement of city living—and the way that in New York, it doesn’t take long for the bizarro to become commonplace. “New Yorkers can deal with everything and anything,” Stern says. “They see it all on the street and just kind of adjust. And anyways, even if you have werewolves walking around ripping people’s arms off, it’s still no more dangerous than New York in the seventies.”