After six years sharing the same newspaper space from which it draws most of its punch lines, The Boondocks comic strip will draw attention from an even more expanded audience when it converts Nov. 6 from a daily strip to a weekly half-hour animated series on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
"It's really difficult to tell stories in a daily strip," said Aaron McGruder, executive producer and creator of The Boondocks. "People don't necessarily read (the comic) every single day. This show allows us to actually tell just stories about the characters for a half hour. That's something I always wanted to do but I struggle with it in strip medium."
Premiering Sunday at 11 p.m. EST/PST, the cartoon will feature the voices of actors Regina King (Ray, Miss Congeniality 2), who plays both Huey and Riley Freeman, and John Witherspoon (Next Friday), who plays Granddad.
The Boondocks is a family-based comedy featuring two brothers, Huey and Riley Freeman, and their grandfather, Robert "Granddad" Freeman.
When Granddad Freeman becomes guardian of his prepubescent grandkids, Huey and Riley, he moves the family from the south side of Chicago to the quiet suburbs, known as "The Boondocks," where he plans to enjoy his golden years.
"I think there's enough pressure with trying to create a big show that's going to launch Adult Swim into the stratosphere," McGruder told reporters during an Oct. 25 conference call.
Squeezing into Adult Swim's Sunday night lineup, McGruder said he believes his "conventional" comedy will be an unexpected twist next to the zany humor of shows such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken, which already appear Sunday nights.
The Boondocks had its very first debut in 1997 in The Diamondback, a student newspaper at the University of Maryland. Since its nationwide syndication in 1999, the strip appeared in more than 300 newspapers around the nation.
As advancing American media heighten to the point of political and social ambiguity, allowing open-forum opinion from all points of view to stem from all classes of the mass audience, The Boondocks comic strip has been considered by many to be just satirical relief.
However, some believe the strip has, at times, gone too far, touching on sensitive subjects believed to be too racy for a humor page.
In recent years, the comic had a quizzical slant on everything newsworthy from post Sept. 11, when characters were replaced for a month with symbolic images in a time-appropriate series dubbed "The Adventures of Flagee and Ribbon," to R. Kelly's infamous sex scandal.
But for fans of McGruder's witty spin on reality, have no fear; the new show will be sure to shake up the world of televised comedy writing with statements like "Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government was lying about 9/11." (All of which can be heard and possibly gasped at on the show's upcoming premiere).
"I think you make the decision when you decide to become a satirist. You're deciding to be misunderstood by a lot of people. It's almost the price of entry," McGruder said. "I'd hate to not create out of the fear of being misunderstood or misinterpreted. It's not worth it."
Despite criticism for edgy humor and left spectrum social and political commentary, which often mocks public figures from around the globe, McGruder said he hopes audiences will take away from the new animated show what they will, keeping in mind the point of the show is to be purely entertainment.
"I try to do what I consider to be responsible entertainment, but clearly other people don't agree. Certainly I have done nothing to earn that title of being a spokesperson for anybody, other than tell some jokes and draw some pictures," McGruder said.
Even with all its societal rant, McGruder emphasizes his comic brainchild is just that: a cartoon meant to be seen as entertainment. In no way, McGruder said, does he want to be considered a great political voice there to hold strong in the absence of minority leadership.
"I personally don't want to mislead people into thinking I am a political leader or my show or my strip is a political movement. It's not. It's jokes and comedy and it's satire," McGruder said. "It used to be we had politicized entertainers and then actual political leaders. With the void in black political leadership, we're too quick to turn to entertainers to fill that void."