PLAYBOY: From Austin Powers to Family Guy, your brand of entertainment has been heavy on snark and eye-rolling irony. Robot Chicken is all about kitschy action figures. Do you ever wonder, When am I going to grow up?
GREEN: No, because this is what I do best. Goofing on this stuff is where my value to our culture is, you know? I wouldn’t be a good longshoreman. I’m kind of useless in that area.
PLAYBOY: How is it that you’ve been working steadily as an actor since the early 1980s?
GREEN: I’m like the everyman in a funny way. I’m short enough to be nonthreatening but appealing enough to kiss the girl in a movie. The guys want to have a beer with me and the girls think I’m a cute alternative to their asshole boyfriend. It’s also because I’m a student of pop culture. I get how pop culture relates to the economic atmosphere and politics and our personal lives. The shit we grow up watching and listening to has a huge impact on us and reflects what’s happening in the larger world.
PLAYBOY: So what does, say, Comic-Con tell us about our society?
GREEN: Are you kidding? Comic-Con is everything. This past year was my 15th time. On one level, it’s simply nerds in their natural habitat, which is a great way to study that culture. Nerds can commune with one another without fear of persecution. But it’s also an emblem of corporate entertainment. The major toy companies and studios roll out their products in a grassroots way. They feed ideas that the nerds consume and broadcast on a multitude of social networks. Plus you have all those cute girls running around dressed like Catwoman or the Ninja Turtles. It’s just hot.
PLAYBOY: Women used to run screaming from nerds. What happened?
GREEN: It’s weird. Something shifted in our culture over the past 10 years and beautiful young women started liking nerdy stuff. It was as if someone said, “Okay, hot women. You can like all this stuff.” Which is great for guys. They get to keep doing what they love, and now it’s cool—video games, old toys our mothers made us throw away, Star Wars.
PLAYBOY: But why do women find this appealing? What’s in it for them?
GREEN: For women, getting into this stuff is almost subversive. They can apply the conventions of being a lady and still play a mean game of Halo. What’s nice is it plays perfectly into fully formed male fantasies, whether it’s about Baroness from G.I. Joe or Lara Croft. When you see a real girl dressed up as one of those characters, it’s sort of the actualization of all those feelings you’ve had since you were 10 years old. But shit, Family Guy and Robot Chicken are both pretty nerd friendly and get some hilariously attractive women fans—not the least of whom is my wife.
PLAYBOY: How did you meet her?
GREEN: Funny enough, we met at a comic-book store in Los Angeles about three years ago. We’re ridiculously compatible. She has a toy collection that rivals mine in size. She loves Final Fantasy and Sailor Moon and DC Heroes and all that stuff. The first time she came over to my house she said, “No way! I have those Empire Strikes Back figures too! Do you mind if I pose them?
PLAYBOY: Do you ever dress up and play dirty superhero?
GREEN: We don’t need any of that. We’re not like “All right, honey, tonight you’re the schoolteacher and I’m a Transformer.” But we’ll put on costumes to go to parties and stuff. Of course when she puts on a costume, she usually likes to wear heels. She’s normally two inches taller than I am, and with heels she’s quite a bit taller. But it’s fine.
PLAYBOY: Is there any advantage to being short?
GREEN: I love people’s reactions sometimes. When we go out somewhere and my wife looks great, I like to think everybody’s saying, “Hey, how come she’s fucking that guy?” But I’ve been short all my life, so it is what it is, and I don’t have an issue with it. The only thing it determines is what parts I can play. I’m not going to be the intimidating asshole cop who shakes down the entire precinct.
PLAYBOY: Is there some serious dramatic role you secretly want to play?
GREEN: Let me be specific about that. The way I pick parts is never about “Oh man, I’d really love to do this.” I just get excited about a particular story or character or concept that pops up or comes to me. But I don’t have a plan. The most exciting thing about what’s available to artists now is that the options are limitless and you’ve never been more in control of your destiny. You can have an idea and make something with your own money and distribute it across any platform. You have the same ability to get views as a major studio with hundreds of millions of dollars behind it. You can be viral in an hour, international in a day. If you’re really good or make something really smart or funny—whether it’s animation, TV or film—it will get seen, and nobody can stop you.
PLAYBOY: When is the Robot Chicken 3-D movie coming out?
GREEN: If we ever make a Robot Chicken movie, we won’t make it in 3-D. We’ll make it in glorious 2-D because that’s what fits the show. I think part of what people like about Robot Chicken is that even though it is highly complicated and professionally produced, it looks a little homemade.