Sonoma’s Max Simonet making big splash on Adult Swim
“Fish are living, unscripted organisms,” remarks former Sonoman and 2007 Sonoma Valley High School graduate Maxime Simonet, now of Atlanta, Georgia.
“I enjoy the erratic, natural movement of fish,” he says. “Add a layer of dumb commentary and jarring personalities with quick, janky visuals, and it just becomes a world someone like me would obviously like to sink into.”
What Simonet has just described is “FishCenter Live,” a bizarrely simple cult-hit web-and-television show in which real fish swim about in an aquarium as four guys, including Simonet, make silly fish jokes, play silly fish-themed games, take live calls from viewers, and generally horse around.
“It’s basically just fish swimming around a tank, scoring points by swimming over superimposed cartoon coins,” he elaborates. “We talk about the fish. People call in and talk about the fish. It’s awesome.”
The program, which Simonet co-created, is a production of Adult Swim, a nighttime block of programming running on the Cartoon Network since 2001, aimed primarily at teens and young adults. One of several shows Simonet has helped develop for the network, “FishCenter Live” stands along with such stuff as “Daytime Fighting League,” in which non-professional wrestlers compete in the ring while doing outrageously stupid things – from wearing plastic animal heads to forcibly removing household items from each other’s pants.
“We once had a couple of people, handcuffed, trying to fight a sandwich in the middle of the ring,” he says. “One guy got knocked to the floor and came up with a bloody nose. It’s great, visceral stuff, presented in ways that are scary and stupid and confusing. And I art direct it to seem very ‘video-game-y,’ because that’s the generation I’m from.”
Both shows originally started out as a live daily streaming program on the Adult Swim website. “FishCenter Live” began in 2014 and soon became so popular the network elected to air tape-delayed episodes on the network proper at 4 a.m. – presumably for the benefit of fish-loving, goofy-joke-craving insomniacs.
A year later, “Daytime Fighting League” followed in its wake.
“I get to create wild, experimental, interactive low-fi stuff that’s just impulsive and weird and allows me to throw my craziest ideas out there to see what sticks,” Simonet says. “And it seems to be working, because the stuff I’ve put on at four in the morning – the fish program and the wrestling program – they totally beat the competition for views. Or so I’m told.”
Asked to describe the youthful inspirations and influences that led him to his present job, Simonet laughs.
“Well, I did a lot of acting in High School,” he says. “Then I did local theater at the Community Center. I was often encouraged to make a fool of myself – and I guess I appreciate that now. I didn’t know who I was back then, and community theater was a great way to claw at the walls and see what and who I could maybe be.”
After graduating, Simonet attended Hampshire College in Massachusetts.
“I read about it in the ‘Colleges that Change Lives’ book,” he says. “The school had no grades and no guidance, but had a fairly decent video production department, so I went there. It was all very laid-back and pointless and hippy-ish, and I had a wonderful time.”