If you’ve been online at all over the past year, you’ve likely seen some of Jon Defreest’s work. Jon is a designer and illustrator best known for his work on the pop culture blog Tauntr as well as his work in the New York Magazine TV blog, Vulture. From an “Arrested Development” themed flavor of Ben & Jerry’s, to the characters of “Parks & Recreation” in cartoon form, Jon has made countless illustrations that have spread far and wide across the web. We had the opportunity to sit down and chat briefly with Jon about his role in entertainment, and to see what he thinks we can expect down the road in terms of TV trends. Here’s the complete interview.
1. What attracted you to designing illustrations around entertainment?
My illustrations have always revolved around entertainment and pop culture as far back as I can remember. Some of my my earliest memories of drawing involve me drawing either Ghostbusters or Ninja Turtles. I’ve just always enjoyed drawing scenes with established characters in situations where you wouldn’t normally find them. Once I started illustrating professionally, I learned that creating pop art was a great way to get a lot of attention very quickly. Which was nice, because it’s the same stuff I’d be drawing even if no one was paying me. I think people identify with pop art more easily than most other subjects, because they have a pre-existing connection to the subject matter. At least I assume that’s why I enjoy it so much.
2. You’ve created some extremely popular memes on the internet, what has been your favorite?
I don’t know if I have a favorite project. I tend to hate everything I make after looking at for too long. I’ll find some small detail that no one would ever notice and obsess about it until I just hate the whole thing. That’s healthy, right? If I had to choose though, I would say the Breaking Bad shoe designs I made for Tauntr this winter. I never thought they would become as popular as they did, nor did I think they would ever be made into actual shoes. Some of the cast of Breaking Bad found them online and they’ve all been really great. Bryan Cranston even took the time to call me personally and invite me to be his guest on set once the show begins filming again this spring. He didn’t have to do anything, but he really went above and beyond because he’s a nice guy. It’s very rewarding to see your work end up in the hands of it’s inspiration.
3. Are there any major trends you see popping up on television recently?
I don’t really see any right now (so we’ll just skip this question).
4. As someone who has been heavily on top of what’s popular on TV in the past, what do you think we have to look forward to in 2012?
I honestly have no idea. I’m much better at spotting hidden trends once they’ve already become trends then making predictions. I can say though, that FX has been producing some of the best stuff on TV right now and I’m anxious to see what they have in store for 2012. With shows like Louie, Archer, Sons of Anarchy, Always Sunny, and now American Horror Story, they’ve shown that they’re willing to try new things, which is really refreshing.
5. In your opinion: what makes a good, well-rounded character on a TV sitcom?
A good TV character needs to unique, exaggerated, yet grounded, but above all else needs to be versatile. Ron Swanson is an excellent example, because he’s unflappable 90% of the time, but every so often he surprises you with a weakness or tender sentiment. He seems pretty one dimensional on paper, but over the past 3 seasons or so we’ve learned a lot of things about Ron that you never would have guessed earlier in the series. Characters that never surprise you never last, no matter how funny or relatable he or she is in the short term.
6. If you could bring back one show from cancellation, which show would it be?
7. Any favorite shows you think we should tune-into for 2012?
As I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend American Horror Story on FX. From the first episode you knew that show could only be really good or really terrible. But it had a solid pilot episode and seemed to get better with every episode. The scariest part of the whole show was that, as crazy as the plot was, it all made sense at the end. I recommend it if you’re looking for something different and you’re not easily grossed out. Other than that, if you’re not watching Archer (also on FX) then you’re really missing out. That show is basically Arrested Development the animated series. If you like smart, witty, and edgy comedy that relies heavily on continuity and inside jokes, then you’ll definitely enjoy it. So far I haven’t shown Archer to anyone who hasn’t fallen in love with it. Thanks Jon!