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Adult Swim Brings Funk, T.I. Brings Noise

Comedians from Kristen Schall to Dan Harmon chill at the late-night upfront party

Totally benign people in animal costumes at the completely normal Adult Swim upfront at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Wednesday. Photo: Sam Thielman

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Adult Swim typically throws the best party of the upfront season, as much for the decor as for the entertainment. This year at the Hammerstein Ballroom, the top-ten primetime network brought in southern rapper T.I., who played a full two-hour set for the packed crowd. The bar was set pretty high—last year the company brought in Jay-Z and M.I.A. headlined the event in 2010, so people expect to have a good time when they show up.

The network has a mammoth slate set for next year. Upcoming series include Before Orel, a prequel to Dino Stamatopoulos's darker-than-dark claymation comedy Moral Orel; a blaxploitation animated comedy called Black Dynamite (based on the movie), and a Robot Chicken special with DC Comics. On May 26, the network will bring back Toonami, its popular anime block. It's a wonder more networks don't do this, by the way—it's a wildly popular genre and if you can market it correctly, young people flock to it.

The real juice was in the development slate, though. Upcoming cartoons include a project from Community creator Dan Harmon and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies writer Seth Grahame-Smith, and a Harold and Kumar show. There's also Freestyle Love Supreme from Tony-winning In the Heights star/composer Lin-Manuel Miranda.

But seriously, the decor. Guys and gals in giant owl, rabbit and cat masks wandered around posing with people and simulating sex (fully clothed—overly clothed, even) in the peep show booth. Again, this is part of the Adult Swim's new arms race with itself. For M.I.A., the peep shows were hilarious/frightening taxidermy dioramas. Now we have furry sex. There was also quite a bit of neon around the room—signage with blinking dollar signs or messages like "FREE HOLE," a Muppet-pelt orifice through which prizes were dispensed.

Harmon, SNL cast member Abby Elliott, Kristen Schaal, Seth Green and perhaps a dozen other comedians attended; by the end of the evening there was a little knot of comedy writers and performers in the back of the room, drinking and dancing. The funniest piece of gossip gleaned at the party? Apparently there's a loud contingent at Adult Swim that wants—no fooling—to bring Dolly Parton to play next year.