Liam Lynch, co-creator of Sifl and Olly took some time to talk with our very own sock-puppet enthusiast, Jessica Rae. Lynch opened up about what happened to those hundreds of sock puppets from the MTV days, why he spent plenty of weekends stuffed in a school broom closet, and how he stays sane when stacked up against persnickety critics. (Reading this interview is almost like getting some very wise, very free therapy.)
There are new things to explore wit Sifl and Olly, courtesy of Machinima’s YouTube channel, Matt Crocco and Liam Lynch. The puppets present “real reviews of fake games” for fans.
EXCLUSIVE LIAM LYNCH INTERVIEW
Jessica Rae: Did you always know the new Sifl and Olly segments would be based specifically on video game reviews,
or was there another format you were also closely considering? (I ask this because the MTV version of
the show had so many different, amazing segments)
Liam Lynch (LL): Well I wasn’t setting out to make half hour shows, like the MTV episodes. Those episodes worked as a
series of vignettes, or shorts, because the show started as just short 2 minute episodes on MTV Europe.
They ran on MTV Europe as just short little episodes between the programming for several years
before I was able to do a full half hour show on MTV USA. So when the show got turned into a half hour
program, I kept the idea of it working as shorts and just made it a series of short segments sandwiched
together. Yes, I knew the segments would be about video games because that’s what I wanted to do.
I thought it would be fun to just do some new Sifl and Olly shorts again that would be video game
reviews, where I could create my own fake games and recreate the gameplay footage. There was never
any other format. I just thought it would be fun to do these, kind of like they were their own segment
that could have been one of several repeat segments from the old show.
How did the specific sock forms of Sifl and Olly come about? Was there any debate about what they’d
look like, like why one has a nose and the other doesn’t? (I’m assuming you had a couple plastic
sunflowers on hand…)
Liam Lynch (LL): The show wasn’t thought about first or designed with a group of people. I was living in England and
made the episodes in my apartment. I wanted to do some fun little short videos and originally wanted
to do stop-motion animation… however, I had none of the equipment to do so. I didn’t even have a
video camera. This was in 1994, so I didn’t have a computer, or digital cameras or editing software. It
was a lot more difficult to make things. Today I could shoot and edit a show on my phone and publish
it to the internet. So I didn’t have any of the technology that would make things easy to do stop action
animation. If I did stop-action animation back then, it would mean shooting on film with a super 8 or
16 mm movie camera and shooting frame by frame, then sending the film off to be developed… then
I’d need a film projector to watch it… so I decided that puppets was the way to go. I didn’t have any
materials or a budget to make custom puppets, so I just took socks out of my drawer and attempted
to use socks as the base to build some puppets. Sifl and Olly were the first two that I made and I liked
them… so I just used those. There was never any designing or thought before I made them. I just made
them for fun. Yes, I did have a plastic sunflower at my apartment and since I had no materials to make
puppets, I cut it up and the petals because Olly’s hair and Chester’s eyelashes. The green leaves became
Sifl’s hair. I then borrowed a video camera and started making some shorts shot on VHS tapes.
Are you more interested in bringing back old, familiar characters or creating new ones? (Precious Roy is
listening carefully to this one!
Liam Lynch (LL): Well, each season of the MTV series had over 200 characters per season. There were always a line of
characters moving through episodes that you never saw again and ones that would make a few repeat
appearances. There are a small stable of characters that are always the core of the show though.
Precious Roy did already make an appearance in episode 1 of the new YouTube series. Chester will
always be a part of the show too of course. Old characters are fun because they are established in my
head as personalities already but I like making new one too because it’s fun to create characters. It’s just
a fun process to make up a weird characters. This is why there were so many characters on the show
when it ran on MTV in the U.S.A.
So, you had about 200 different characters on every season of the show – what happened to all of those
sock puppets? Are they lining the shelves of your living room? And I’m also wildly curious, how many
official Sifl and Olly puppets exist? Are there back-up’s? Do they get dry-cleaned?
Liam Lynch (LL): There are only one Sifl and Olly and no backups. There were a ton of characters around and after the
show was cancelled, there was a small Sifl and Olly fan convention for diehard fans. We brought all the
sock puppets that weren’t the main characters, and let them just pick and take them all for free. So the
fans have all those puppets. I have all the original, main characters though, which is what I’m using to
make the new episodes.
The very first time I saw Sifl and Olly, I instantly connected with their random humor and was a major
fan. But have you and Matt ever worried that not enough people would like and respond to them?
Liam Lynch (LL): If you worry that people are or aren’t going to like something, you’ll never do anything. I really don’t
care what people think at all. I just like making things and I am not afraid to put things out there. It
doesn’t matter if it’s the most brilliant thing or the very dumbest thing… people will LOVE it and HATE it.
You will get an even mix of rocks and roses thrown at you. All that matters is that YOU like it and it feels
right to you. It’s one of those things that some people will get it… others won’t… the ones that won’t
get it don’t matter to me because I probably couldn’t even have a decent conversation with them. They
obviously have a completely different sense of humor. It’s like taste in food. I hate spicy food but some
people can’t get their food hot or spicy enough and it’s only good if it burns their mouth… some people
like salt… some people like sugar… humor is the same way. Some folks will only laugh at low-brow
bathroom humor, while others feel their intelligence is offended and disgraced by it. Some people need
physical things to happen or slapstick, others need intelligent quips and references to find something
funny… There’s no way in hell you can ever make them all satisfied so you just do what makes you laugh
and not worry about it.
Considering what you did back in the 90’s, I can only imagine what you would have done as a teen in
your basement with a YouTube channel. Are you jealous of the access to technology that young kids
have today? Or is that a far too bitter approach?
Liam Lynch (LL): Yeah, it would have been fun to have today’s technology back then but in no way am I jealous of kids
today. I feel I have more imagination and ingenuity because I DIDN’T have cellphones or computers or
the internet. There weren’t even VCR’s or home video cameras, and it wasn’t that long ago. Once home
video cameras came out, a friend of mine’s family got one and I spent all summer making videos and
movies with it. When my family finally got a VHS video camera, I spent 24 hours a day making stupid
movies with Matt when we were kids. Before that, all my fun was based on tape recorders. Matt and I
would make tapes and do skits and songs and stuff as kids exactly the same way we would as Sifl and
Olly. If I was a kid right now I would DEFINITELY be making videos on my own YouTube channel. For
sure… but I feel like I am who I am today because I had to invent my own fun and work for it. You kind
of had to advance the technology and programming of your brain back then since none of the actual
technology or programs existed. When I was in elementary school I found out the science class owned a
super 8 camera and asked them if I could do stop motion animation movies as long as I kept the camera
in school. They agreed. So I would go to school ON WEEKENDS and I set up a piece of cardboard and a
light and would make claymation movies IN A BROOM CLOSET ACROSS THE HALL FROM THE SCIENCE
ROOM. Nothing like spending your weekends back at school in a broom closet…. as lame as that sounds,
it was awesome. It forced me to have passions about doing things and created devotion to creativity. I
would go back to school on weekends because I was making something… I had a special project I was
creating… and that was just what I had to do to make it happen. I wouldn’t have had to sweet talk
teachers and janitors or do any of that today. I’d just use my phone and my laptop and be done with it
in a day. I wouldn’t have to beg, borrow, and steal just to have a 2 minute little movie playback for me
on a film projector. So it would have been much easier if I was a kid now, but I wouldn’t trade my lack of
technology for anything. It made me who I am… and today, I LOVE technology and APPRECIATE it.
I’ve read that Tony Hawk did a guest cameo on the unaired season 3. Are you interested in having real,
human, guest stars if Machinima gives you a season 2? (If so, do you have any people on your wish list?
Liam Lynch (LL): Well, when Tony was on the show, it was a sock puppet of Tony Hawk and Tony did the voice. So there
would never be REAL humans alongside puppets like on Sesame Street or the Muppets. If I ever did that
again, it would sock puppets of those people. I’m not against it or for it really. It just depends on if the
idea or skit was better with that addition. I could have celebrities do voices but that’s never been the
goal of Sifl and Olly. Sifl and Olly have always been more about interviewing an atom in Elvis’s comb or a
famous shadow rather than some celebrity.
Two episodes have aired… what has been the feedback on the new Sifl and Olly so far? Are you happy?
Liam Lynch (LL): Well at the time I’m doing this interview, three episodes have now aired. The reaction seems to be
pretty good. Anything on YouTube is going to be an even mix of love and hate. So you usually just end
up feeling gray. It’s a mix of feelings like you’ve made some people happy and others even more angry
than they already were. I’m happy though because I like the episodes… whether comments are good
or bad. I judge it by how I feel about and not what someone else says. It’s sock puppets… some people
can’t get around that point alone… “Is this supposed to be funny because it’s sock puppets saying it??”
It was the same way when Sifl and Olly were on TV. People either got it or they didn’t. I learned back
then to just not care because it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that enough people watched so
that we got to make more. I kept my feelings separate from other people’s opinions. So yes, I’m totally
happy. The feedback has been great overall but that isn’t why I’m happy. I’m happy because it’s just fun
making Sifl and Olly episodes… that’s why I started making them in the first place eighteen years ago.
My reward isn’t the feedback, it’s the fun involved making them.
Catch up with Sifl and Olly
NEW Sifl and Olly episodes go up Sundays on Machinima
Oh, you want a bunch of Twitter’s to follow? GOOD. @LynchLand is Liam Lynch. @RealSiflandOlly are our socks. @ThisJessicaRae is me. @SSScoop is us. And, you are? Comment, drop your handle, maybe you’ll get a sweet, sweet follow.
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