Studio Visit

We Finally Got the Backstory on Broad City’s Trippy Graphics

Take a peek inside artist Mike Perry’s incredible Brooklyn studio.

By: Hannah Baxter
Photography: Weston Wells

It takes a surprisingly brief amount of time after entering Mike Perry’s studio to begin discussing the fourth dimension. “We’ve been thinking about [our work] in a dimensional sense,” says the artist as we lounge inside his meticulously arranged Brooklyn office. Vibrant, abstract paintings of nude women cover the walls next to an array of wood carvings, sketches, paper chains, books, records, paint cans—the list goes on. It’s a multicolor wonderland with nary a paintbrush out of place. He adjusts his signature black-frame glasses before elaborating, “Francis just joined the [Mike Perry Studio] team a few months ago. He’s a writer, so he’s our one-dimensional voice. I do mostly two-dimensional work. J does the three-dimensional pieces, and Isam is our animator in-house, so he does our fourth-dimension.”

As he speaks, my brain is whirring; Im fascinated. His dog Bass (“like the fish”) lounges at my feet next to a custom plywood coffee table. The languid nature of both man and dog suggests they don’t suspect my sudden revelation, and why should they? This is just an average Tuesday for one of NYC’s most innovative artists.

Even if you’re not familiar with Perry’s name, you’ve likely seen his designs at some point over the last four years—the trippy, colorful graphics on Broad City are his handiwork. After one glimpse at the kaleidoscopic work space, his team’s contributions to the show make perfect sense.

Check out our behind-the-scenes look at his Brooklyn studio and find out how Chuck Jones inspired his love of drawing, why he loves spending time alone, and how he first got connected with Abbi and Ilana.

“I was six, and my mother bought me this book called Chuck Amuck about Chuck Jones, the creator of the Looney Tunes, and a set of colored pencils. Those two things coming together at the same time made me think, ‘I should maybe do drawings.’ I spent the next year of my life just drawing every single one of those cartoons, page after page, in my own sketchbooks. The act of creation like osmosis, if you will. That was my first big epiphany of ‘I like drawing. I can draw.’”

“I draw something [every day] without even trying. It’s still an activity that I enjoy into my adulthood—laying on the couch with my sketchbook and watching movies and drawing.”

“One of my favorite parts about being a creative person is how much time you get to spend alone. I mean, maybe everyone carves out that time to think about all of the things in the world, but there’s a lot of undisturbed hours where you’re just sitting quietly like, ‘Well, I guess I’m going to think about everything right now.’”

“My grandfather was this amazing, eccentric painter. He lived in Liberty, Missouri, in the middle of nowhere on some big piece of land. When he passed away, there were thousands of drawings and paintings and shit everywhere. And you’re like, ‘What do you do with all that stuff? That’s crazy.’ Then you look at yourself and you’re like, ‘Okay, I’m the same person making all of this shit.’ It's exactly what my life is now, but in complete isolation—not like [New York] surrounded by millions of humans and positive energy.”

“For myself, you make this stuff, and it’s part of you and how you exist, and the story that you leave and tell on the planet. I think it’s important. One of the things that I love about making things is when it’s not in my life anymore. I love giving things away or having things travel into the world, because then they start to create their own stories, and they’re disconnected from me. It’s just knowing that they’re traveling through time and space into the world. It’s the best.”

“I moved up [to this floor] like nine years ago. It started off with a bunch of friends who shared the studio together, and then I was kind of aggressively taking over, and then I had to ask everyone to leave. Then J started, and we built this wall here [to my office]. We’ve just been slowly masking the space out in hopes that these guys next door will leave, but no one ever leaves the building.”

“I try to make optimistic, positive work. I think that’s one of my overall goals—to promote positivity and all that good stuff. I like color a lot, so it feels natural to me. It’s easier to think in color than it is in line, because there are colors everywhere.”

“I’m definitely going through a human form phase right now in my life. I’ve been doing all this animation, and when you start making things move and come to life, you really have to embrace the human form and think about it and how it works. I’ve spent a long time trying to become comfortable with how I represent the human form. I always felt nervous because you want to represent a person in a way that makes them feel good.”

“These paintings signal moments of contemplation for myself and the viewers. There are stories in them that people have to define for themselves and search for. But the animations get to be like, ‘We’re telling these stories. Here are the stories that we’re trying to tell. We’re gonna communicate with all of our senses.’”

“I love the science fiction concepts of what animation is. You’re basically manipulating time within the process of animation. You can create the illusion of things moving slower or faster, or you can do all kinds of fun, complex mind tricks.”

“I met Abbi [Jacobson] at Art Basel in Miami circa 2008 or something. She was a fan of the work, and a couple years later, Comedy Central called and said they got this show Broad City, and Abbi wants [me] to be involved in the process. She is [an illustrator] as well, and I think it’s really amazing to work for and with someone who understands the process. It’s very trusting and safe, and they really allowed me to bring my voice to their projects. Because of that safety, I get to make things that are really exciting and unique. Four years later, here we are.”

“My job is to think in it all—3-D, 4-D, 2-D, 1-D. But the deeper everyone starts to get to know each other and figure out the process, you just get into this rhythm of inspiring and making and putting out and finding the venue and the idea.”

“J and I have always talked about our relationship as a kind of back-and-forth. When he first started working, I would joke like, ‘I’ll make a shitty drawing, and you’ll turn it into a beautiful object.’ I don’t have that skill; I don’t know how to make all of these things come to reality in a physical space. But that’s why J exists. He understands the aesthetic of how we make things and how all of the pieces come together. I think that turns into this massive opportunity to take on more complex projects.”

“It was amazing actually, because as soon as J cut the hole in the wall [into the newest area], it just exploded into there. I couldn’t help but bring things in there, and so there was this amazing moment where it was a color explosion in this white space that was just overwhelming. I’m happy here. I’m really inspired by this place. It’s a good spot.”

Part of the series:

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