Packed with allusions, self-referential callbacks, rapid-fire banter and outlandish and irreverent characters, FX's Archer inspires a fervent fandom.-- and many of them were lined up outside New York's Irving Plaza a full two and a half hours before last Saturday's live show. Luckily for all of us, even with the sold-out crowd there wasn't really a bad seat in the house. Especially when it came to the t-shirt cannon. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Photo credit: Joel Murphy of Hobo Trashcan.

To kick off Season 4 of the espionage-centered comedy cartoon series and celebrate the release of Season 3's DVD, the cast and producers of Archer came together to perform scenes from the show, share clips, play games and answer questions. And though the event was far from being a finely tuned machine, it was one of the greatest live shows I've ever experienced. Yes, there were issues with the mics glitching, and some bits got clunky or ran long. But with a panel that included executive producer Matt Thompson, H. Jon Benjamin (Sterling Archer), Jessica Walter (Mallory Archer), Aisha Tyler (Lana Kane), Chris Parnell (Cyril Figgis), Amber Nash (Pam Poovey), and Lucky Yates (Doctor Krieger), who exchanged barbs and one-liners at a dizzying pace, it is easy to forget the show's snags.

It was a very special night. For one, Archer Live! marked one of the few occasions the cast was in the same room, outside of the occasional Comic Con panel. Despite their incredible onscreen chemistry, the voice cast of Archer typically records their lines solo, often from all over the country. Nash explained each actor offers several different reads on each line, and then the show's editors masterfully lace them together to create the electric and zinging pace that Adam Reed and Thompson developed working on 11-minute episodes of Sealab 2021 for Adult Swim.

Photo credit: Joel Murphy of Hobo Trashcan.

The show kicked off with Yates revving up the crowd with a quiz and costume contest complete with prizes. I leapt at the chance to win the coveted Archer Spy Pen, which warns the cap falls off for no reason, and did so by knowing that Judy Greer not only voices Cheryl Tunt, but also Krieger's virtual girlfriend. Shortly thereafter, Yates revealed something fans did not know about Krieger and his holographic ladylove: they are big fans of tentacle porn. (If you don't know what tentacle porn is, do not Google it. Some things can never be unseen. An educated guess will tell you all you really need to know.) Yates then showed us a clip of the Krieger-made tentacle porn that stars himself and his vgf and made the audience squeal and laugh in turn. Intrigued? You'll have a chance to see this bizarre bit of animation in Season 4 with an uncut version on its eventual DVD.

Still rattled, we were introduced to tonight's panel: "the darling from the south with a butthole for a mouth" Amber Nash, "lover of exotic fruits and prescription medications" Chris Parnell, "American treasure" Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter who "rescued the blind from a guide dog gone rogue" Jessica Walter, and H. Jon Benjamin…sort of. Those who've also watched Jon Benjamin Has a Van know the comedian with the sexy deep growl of a voice does not look like Archer. In fact, a special feature from the Season 2 disc—which screened later with Benjamin scowling beneath it—had quite a lot of fun with this fact. So, when they announced his name and a strapping young man who greatly resembled Sterling Archer took to the stage, the audience erupted in baffled giggles. The man opened his mouth, and we could hear Benjamin over the loudspeakers as his human puppet gamely played along, lacking any kind of sync. It was fantastic and led to the fake Benjamin picking a girl from the crowd to "kiss Archer" only to be pulled on stage, where the fake was swapped for the real Benjamin who stood on an apple box to reach her mouth.


Photo credit: Joel Murphy of Hobo Trashcan.

She became flushed and embarrassed and repeatedly shied from his kiss, sparking mock fury that was revisited throughout the night with Benjamin shouting, "I'm gonna' be bummed out all night…I know I'm 35 years older than you but come on! It's not like you never kissed a teacher before!" The lunacy didn't stop here. Skits were regularly ended with one of the cast grabbing a t-shirt cannon and firing it into the audience while the chorus of "Danger Zone" played on a loop. Walter, who in sharp contrast to Mallory or her Arrested Development character Lucille Booth, was radiant with warmth and excitement as she fired t-shirts into the balconies. Parnell stayed true to character, screaming "suppressing fire" as he shot his. Asking who wants to get shot in the nuts, Tyler plucked a smug teen from the audience and brought him on stage where she did just that. Finally, Benjamin ended his feud with the flustered fan by firing a t-shirt right to her.

In the midst of all this, three scenes were performed live. One from season three's "Drift Problem," where Pam drives Archer, Lana and Cyril away from the wrathful Yakuza. Since George Takei was not on hand to reprise his role as the Yakuza leader, Yates filled in with an impression that Tyler deemed, "only moderately racist." Benjamin retorted sagely, "We can all stride to be only moderately racist," adding it would make for a better world. There was also a scene from part one of season four's finale, but I'll get into that later this week in a special spoilers report. And lastly, they held impromptu auditions for who would play Cyril opposite Tyler for a re-enactment of "Skytanic"s final scene, where Lana and Cyril make up while pushing a massive bomb out of the rigid airship.

Photo credit: Joel Murphy of Hobo Trashcan.

When the show opened up to questions from the fans, queries ranged from the identity of Archer's father (they are not telling), to if Benjamin would hang out with the questioner (after a spotlight revealed him, the answer was no), to Arrested Development. Aside from confessing to her adoring crowd that Michael Cera's interested in a guest spot on Archer, Walter also shared her personal favorite line from the cult-adored series: "I'd like to cry, but I can't spare the moisture." Walter is so graceful and chipper out of character that her brief transformation to Lucille Bluth before our very eyes was utterly thrilling and caused such cheers from the audience that Benjamin grumbled that she should remember why she was on stage.

The event drew to a close shortly after a sizzle reel for Season 4 was shown, which elicited plenty of gasps and guffaws from the audience. When the show was over, people clamored to have t-shirts signed and pictures snapped with the cast, and I was exhilarated and exhausted. It was an event stuffed with gifts for the fans, both literal and figurative.

We were thrilled to be in the presence of the people behind the show we watch and quote obsessively, and with the repeated literal reaching out to the audience, Archer Live! offered more contact and inclusion than any Comic Con panel I've ever seen. We all had a chance to geek out in a safe space, and see our excitement for Archer reflected by its cast. But beyond that, it was fascinating to get a peek at the people behind the cartoons. Yates has an incredible and open energy that doesn't get much play in the fetish-obsessed Hitler clone Krieger. Tyler had a witty retort for every occasion, like joking that she couldn't strip to her bra and panties for "Skytanic" realism because she wasn't wearing any. (Instead, she insisted, she was favoring a "unitard and Mormon sexual suit.") Walter was utterly delightful and seemed the rightful queen of the scene. Parnell and Nash were playful and clearly awed by the audience response, and Benjamin's curmudgeon shtick might sound harsh on paper, but in contrast to the high energy of the rest of the cast, it played to cheers again and again. All in all, it was…it was…wait, I had something for this…Fuck it. It was awesome.

If you missed out on Archer Live!, don't fret because a recording of it will be included on the Season 4 DVD. In the meantime, watch for the debut of Archer Season 4 on Thursday, January 17th at 10:00 p.m. on FX. And get Archer Season 3 on DVD now, which includes a trailer for Archer's fan-made movie Gator 2, an idea he pitched in the Burt Reynolds' episode, "The Man from Jupiter."

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