James Hamilton is a writer & comedian from England who penned a notably wild episode of Bravest Warriors, “Mouth is Alive with Juices Like Wine” that will come out with the 2nd half of season 4 (returns on Sept. 15). He has also lent his cheerful, openly horrifying sensibility to the last 3 seasons of The Amazing World of Gumball on Cartoon Network. Watch his Casual Violence sketches below; they leave no doubt why he was a comfy-snug fit for the show.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Yep – always wanted to pursue this weird and unsteady job! When I was a kid, I wrote short stories in school exercise books. They were almost exclusively about me and my best friend finding a time machine and going to the future, then hanging out with his jetpack-wearing, eighty-five year old younger brother. It lacked the narrative complexity of, say, Westworld – but I think if HBO had adapted my stories instead and put Anthony Hopkins in that jetpack, they’d have had a way more accessible show on their hands.

Did you go to a university, and if so what’d you study?

I did two degrees because I’m a goddamn nerd. I first went to Sussex University, which is pleasingly close to the seaside, to study English Literature. That’s where I first started writing comedy: I founded a sketch group named Casual Violence, but none of the others wanted to do the writing (and I totally wanted to do all the writing), so I got to script all our shows and hone my skills that way. Insanely, my sketch group’s still very much alive and kicking ten years later, and remains an outlet for my very stupidest ideas. I didn’t pay as much attention to my degree as I should have done, but I wrote my dissertation on “the uncanny” and that tends to come up a lot in my work.
A couple of years later, having firmly landed on “scriptwriting please!!!!” as the thing I wanted to do with my life, I did a masters degree in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media at Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in London. It was an awesome course and really gave me the confidence to write for mediums other than the stage, which I’d never done before.

What’d you do after graduating the first time?

The only thing I knew I wanted to do when I finished my undergrad degree was “continue making comedy”. I took Casual Violence up to the Edinburgh Fringe six years in a row, usually doing two shows a day for the whole of August – one narrative driven sketch-play, and one pure sketch show. It’s via the unlikely success of making and putting on those shows in Edinburgh – plus beginning to produce filmed sketches – that I first got an agent over here in the UK, and about a year later, she put me forward to write on The Amazing World of Gumball. Around the same time, Casual Violence managed to get a slot on BBC Radio 4, so I think that might just pip Gumball to the post as my first “proper” gig, but Gumball feels a bit more pivotal.

What was it like to write on Gumball? The show’s writing is legendary!

Gumball was an awesome learning experience and was probably the most I’ve improved as a writer in my career so far. There’s a huge emphasis on gag-writing, which I never considered to be a strength of mine – but when you have to sit down with two other great writers and write pages and pages of jokes, you learn to make it a strength! I am now adamant that there’s no excuse for not cramming your script with gags – which might be why I don’t tend to get offered a lot of work on heart-wrenching dramas. I had a meeting with a producer who wanted someone to write a very trope-heavy, gritty crime caper feature film, and I didn’t get the job because I couldn’t pretend I wouldn’t just undercut every trope with a joke.
Other than that, I haven’t quite gotten over how cool it is to see jokes and ideas and stories I suggested end up on screen. Gumball is hugely collaborative and everyone who works on that show does an astonishing job making it as funny and vibrant as it is – there’s so many magnificent comedy voices in both the writing and the animation sides. When even a fraction of my humour ends up in the final product, I’m weirdly touched that it made it through: my reaction’s basically “Awh, thanks guys!”


What have you written for outside of Gumball and Bravest Warriors?

Everything’s kinda spun off from working on Gumball really – people I met and worked with on that show have invited me to work on other projects with them, which is crazy flattering given how collaborative that show is. I’ve hugely enjoyed writing on Space Chickens In Space – I worked on nine episodes of that, which is coming out on the Disney Channel later this year. Both that and Bravest Warriors are sci-fi shows, which means you get to blend incredibly high concept ideas with incredibly stupid jokes – the perfect combination! Outside of TV, I still wanted to make sure I kept making my own work – so I created a very weird podcast sitcom called Hector Vs The Future in 2016, based on one of my old sketch characters.

What’s your creative process like?

My creative process… is a bit loose! I approach different projects in different ways. Sometimes I do a detailed plan for a story – sometimes I dive right in if I have an idea and see what kinds of jokes and characters I can churn up just by writing without over-thinking. Both have their merits and both have their drawbacks. When I get stuck with a scene, I’ll usually just try and sketch out the crap version first – a skeleton scene where every character just says exactly what they need to say to move the story forward, and then I go back in and wrap joke-flesh round its bones.

What do you like best about BW, and about writing for the show?

My favourite thing about Bravest Warriors by far is the freedom the show has to be completely ludicrous and gleefully follow its own bizarre logic. My episode is about Wallow eating ghosts to look after the environment, for god’s sake. It’s mad, and possibly my favourite ever idea for a plot.

Do you have a favorite Bravest Warriors character?

I kind of have a weird soft spot for Danny. I just feel strangely sorry for him quite a lot of the time.

What do you love most about being a writer?

I just love making things. It sounds so reductive and ridiculous to put it like that, but I find it deeply satisfying to be able to make my own work – and especially to create stories that, ideally, people find both laugh-out-loud funny and emotionally resonant. Working for animation now is such a natural fit for my sense of humour – and knowing how much I watched cartoons as a kid, it’s really weird and amazing to know that kids (and some adults!) nowadays are watching cartoons I wrote.

What is your biggest Dream or goal, if you have one?

I would love to create and run my own animated show one day more than anything. There’s a few scripts and show ideas I’ve worked up that I’m particularly fond of, but there’s one in particular which I’ve been itching to make for years. It’s set in a world I first started developing on stage. I’ve wanted to bring it to life for so long that I’m afraid I might get Paradise Syndrome if I actually managed to pull it off.

What are your favorite cartoons?

BoJack Horseman and Gravity Falls are not just my favourite cartoons, but my two favourite shows altogether. I could talk about how good they are for hours.

What are you currently working on?

Pending mishaps, I’m about to start work on another Cartoon Network show – and a few other things too. I’m also spending the next couple of months writing up a few new animation scripts of my own, and making regular (and usually quite dark) new sketches for Casual Violence via our YouTube channel.

What do you like to do outside of writing?

As previously mentioned, I’m a goddamn nerd, so: video games are probably my main hobby. I’ve been crazy about Nintendo ever since I was little, and remain a very devout fanboy to this day. Other than that: I love to cook, to go to the cinema or the theatre, and oh god this is beginning to sound like a dating profile, I’m sorry. ❀

Follow James on Twitter.

Thanks for the interview James, and your top-notch work on Bravest! We’ll be keepin’ up with ya.

– Cooper