The Love Me Cat Show: A Hairless Cat Begs for Love
There are web series online that feel so mainstream, that have such conventional characters and settings, that they look exactly like network TV shows. And then, well, then there are the online shows that could happen nowhere else.
In August, the online network My Damn Channel began streaming one of the more bizarre talk shows around. It’s called The Love Me Cat Show, and its host is a hairless cat puppet of the same name. He’s gotten some pretty decent guests for an affection-starved feline. The host’s highly entertaining interviews never go in any direction that a viewer might expect.
The man with his hand inside Love Me Cat is Eric Kaplan, a co-executive producer for The Big Bang Theory and the founder of animation studio Mirari Films. Kaplan has a long career in TV comedy, having worked for The Late Show With David Letterman, Malcolm in the Middle, and Futurama (he wrote the “Jurassic Bark” episode, among others). Clearly destined for comedy greatness from a young age, he started his career by interning at fabled Spy magazine in the go-go ’80s, where he wrote enthusiastic blurb-length movie reviews and was billed as “the movie publicist’s friend.” “Finally -- the first great movie of 1989! The Oscar derby may start and finish here!” he wrote about Patrick Swayze’s Road House.
A Direct Connection
As a man in the middle of a fantastic TV career, why did Kaplan create an online show, especially such a strange production?
“I want to be able to connect directly with the audience,” Kaplan says. “TV is very expensive proposition, so you have to go through a lot of layers of oversight in order to do something. And this is much cheaper and therefore it’s a lot easier to do. There’s fewer people weighing in and I can basically try something, which is more improvisatory, and connect with viewers directly.”
Love Me Cat isn’t Kaplan’s first online production. His debut was with an animated series called Zombie College in the early 2000s. The online video world was a sparser place then. Love Me Cat has to battle not only for affection, but also for viewers.
“It’s harder -- it’s sort of a drop in the bucket. There’s so much stuff going on, that it’s difficult to get noticed,” Kaplan says. But he likes the low costs and the ability to answer viewer questions within days.
Beside the hairless host, Love Me Cat features an owl co-host (Owly), a robot drummer (Bronzo), and a perpetually amused audience member (Sheepy). The surrounding cast seems normal compared to the host. So why a hairless cat? According to Kaplan:
"My friend Ray Yao once said to me, we both kind of like cats, and he said, 'Do you know why people like cats?' And I’m like, 'Well, I don’t know, Ray, you tell me, why do people like cats?' And he says, 'It’s the fur. People like cats because of the fur.' So I was sort of thinking, 'You know, everybody wants to be loved. But what if you had somebody who really, really, really wanted to be loved, but he had a problem, which is he didn’t have what Ray said was kind of like the killer app of the cat, which is the fur? So he’s got this reason, he wants to be loved, and he wants to use the internet to [get people to] notice him and love him, but he’s got this kind of horrific physical appearance issue, which is he doesn’t have fur.' So that’s kind of where he’s coming from.
"Also, I always myself find it funny, and this may have to do with me, [when] people who [are] like [that are] very aware of their own emotional needs and problems. So he knows that what he wants is love. And he wants to think about how he can get love and talk about it with people, about how he can get loved. It’s sort of a self-defeating, or a quixotic project, because sometimes the way to get love is to be unself-conscious. But he’s not unself-conscious, he’s very self-conscious. So that’s his character: He’s a hairless cat who wants love, and he is a talk show host, and he has a talk show on the internet. Whatever basement he’s living in, he’s putting these things on the internet in the hopes of ultimately becoming famous and loved."
When Kaplan first conceived of an online show, he thought it would be a good project for his animation studio, Mirari Films. His friend Matt Danner, who’s now a producer on the show, talked him out of it, arguing that animating that many episodes for an online series would be too big a project to tackle. Instead, Danner suggested they use puppets. According to Kaplan: