16 Things We Learned From Mitch Hurwitz’s Reddit AMA

Mitch Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development, dropped in on Reddit yesterday to participate in an Ask Me Anything session. Unsurprisingly, that show — and its recently unleashed fourth season — was the primary topic of conversation, with Hurwitz shedding light on his favorite characters, his writing process, where the show goes from here, and the symbolic importance of the ostrich. We’ve sifted through the questions and comments to dig out Hurwitz’s most intriguing nuggets.

1. Given the choice of all the Bluths, he’d choose to be Tobias. “He’s the most oblivious and the happiest,” Hurwitz explains. “And he’s the dreamer. And he doesn’t know how unrealistic his dreams are, so he’s happy.”

2. His favorite non-Bluth characters are surprising. “My favorite non-Bluth characters are the 3 guys in the 1920’s Mexican film where we saw the origin of the Chicken Dance. Their names are Gustavo, Enrique, and Paco (*whose name is also actually Gustavo). And they were played by Jason, Will and Tony.”

3. He’s open for anything, plot-wise. “Every time I think of something that’s too outlandish, I end up trying to find a way to use it. I remember pitching Buster loses his hand as a bad example to motivate the writers to think outside the box… and then a moment later, I thought ‘Hey, why don’t we have Buster lose his hand?’”

4. He forgot that George Michael and Maeby were married, for real, for those senior citizens in the hospital. “I guess they are! Who knew? I wonder if they’ve forgotten? Thanks to you, now I’ve remembered!”

5. Make your own Cornballer! In response to a question about the famously dangerous Bluth-invented device, Hurwitz shared this bit of behind-the-scenes trivia: “Ours was made out of a deep-fryer and parts of an aquarium.”

6. Why the ostrich in Season 4? “There are a few things going on there,” Hurwitz explained, “and I never think it’s appropriate for an author to comment on the symbolism in his work. But one of the things I liked, truly on a superficial level, is that it’s a truly funny bird. It’s a mean chicken the size of a man, and it’s an ungainly creature that can’t seem to gain flight. So there’s a lot in there.”

7. He’s a time traveler, among other skills. “That has nothing to do with how the 4th season was written. It’s just why I’m able to get some great deals on sunglasses and things like that. I try not to use it for any GIANT personal gain. I did use some of my shape-shifting ability when it came time to do some of the green screen stuff in the show.”

8. He’s not bothered by criticism of Season 4. “In an interview recently, someone asked me ‘Hey, what did you think of that New York Times review?’ A guy at the NY Times watched 5 shows at 3 in the morning and then said ‘I don’t like this’ on day 1 – it was a bad way to start. And I don’t blame him – try watching something in the middle of the night and see how you like it, especially if it means skipping brunch with your daughter on Memorial Day weekend. And in response, I said – ‘It sounds like he really didn’t like it. But you know who did like it?’ And the interviewer said ‘Who?’ And I said ‘People who really liked it!’ (which is true – it’s NOT for him, it’s for them!)”

9. He never knows what jokes people are going to “get.” “My older brother was over yesterday, and he was pointing out all these really subtle things that I didn’t think anybody would notice,” Hurwitz explained, while noting that his favorite joke of the season is who the real George Maharis is, “ because that’s a punchline we didn’t finish.” But he does note that the Internet seems to have caught “all the jokes that we’ve layered in – except for the ones we haven’t finished yet, which are setting up for a future story.”

10. The “Never-Nude,” explained. “We had this joke that just put us out, that was Tobias keeps crying in the shower,” Hurwitz recalls. “And then I had pitched – I was thinking about production, and the way they shoot those things, they always put people in flesh colored bathing suits, and I said, what if we show part of the flesh colored bathing suits for 3-4 weeks – and then in the 4th week we reveal that he showers in a flesh-colored bathing suit because he doesn’t like showering naked.” Hurwitz says writer Richie Rosenstock immediately coined the phrase: “Oh, he’s a Never Nude.” And there they were, Hurwitz says. “It wasn’t a funny idea until Richie called him a Never Nude, which took the joke from being just a sight gag, to a psychological affliction that really elevated it in such a brilliant way. And then I remember looking up to see online if there was such a thing as a Never Nude – and guess what you can’t search for besides finding pornography?”

11. The purpose of Season 4, revealed. From a narrative standpoint, Hurwitz says Season 4 “was intended to set up (among other things) a murder-mystery and a family that really now has to come together to save one of their own at a moment when their tensions are the highest.”

12. Because of that, if there’s a fifth season, it won’t have the same split-story structure. “For the 5th season, it would DEFINITELY be about the family all together. That was always the design. The idea was originally to have them even together LESS for Season 4 – it really was going to be basically nine stories (like the Salinger collection) that had nothing to do with one another, and just showed everybody’s life, so that everybody’s life could get to a point of peril, and then the family could truly have no choice but to get back together for the next iteration.”

13. He doesn’t know if more TV or a movie comes next. When will there be a movie is the eternal question among AD fans, but Hurwitz is still working that stuff through. “I’m more interested in telling the ongoing saga of this family than working out a particular strategy for how to do it,” he says. “I kind of feel like the form will emerge in a way that I wouldn’t have anticipated – like Netflix a few years ago – so it’s possible that a film studio says ‘There’s a lot of AD out there. Do we want to invest in more’ or it’s possible that a film studio says ‘Wow, we had no idea there was this kind of a following.’ And I think the latter scenario is possible. Just because I didn’t think there was that kind of a following!”

14. He thinks Internet shows could be a whole new form. “If you look at the transition from radio to television, the first 15-20 years were basically just radio shows on TV. I didn’t want to just do a series on Netflix, I wanted to see what the form would allow. And they dug that idea.”

15. His advice for writers, part one: Be flexible. “I think all of being creative is about being flexible, and not getting into any fixed ideas,” he tells up-and-coming scribes. “I’d watch (as I came up) how the writer’s room worked – it would be 6 people pitching on a variation of ‘We’re not open all night’ and one person saying ‘What if a car drives through the front of the building’ – it’s really trying to stay flexible and not get trapped into one way of thinking.”

16. His advice for writers, part two. Jump off the cliff. “You have to choose something to write that you really want to write, and you have to make mistakes,” he warns. “You have to take the pressure off yourself that you have to be good from the start, and just start the process. Keep pushing yourself, and remember that nobody writes great stuff on the first draft. But you have to do a first draft to get past it.” Furthermore, he finds that there’s “an audacity that comes with any creative enterprise. I mean, I don’t think I would have written my first spec script if I had known how unlikely it was to get a writing job. And I don’t think I would have tried creating ARRESTED if I really thought ‘look at the data of what’s already been developed. they won’t make this’ but I should have – that was the evidence that existed. I don’t think I would have included all the stuff about Saddam Hussein in Season 1 if I’d done the math on the likelihood of getting through an entire season to reveal the punchline. And I think that everyone has to jump off that cliff and make that assumption in their own work – because the truth is, even if it doesn’t happen, you have a more interesting life if you’re to sit down and write a novel than doing the math on the likelihood of it getting published.”