Charlie Sheen, Russell Brand and Louis C.K. are getting most of the attention, but I’m most excited that one of the best new shows of last TV season — Wilfred – returns for its second season on FX tonight (10PM ET).
Season one of the series ended with a cliffhanger — had Ryan (Elijah Wood) just imagined Wilfred and their pot-smoking bonding sessions in the basement? Last week’s pre-season episode answered that question, hilariously (short answer: no … probably), and season two kicks off with the maddeningly endearing, teddy bear-humping, Matt Damon movie-loving, manipulative Wilfie pledging his friendship and devotion to a surprising, non-Ryan character.
I chatted with series star and creator Jason Gann about the new season, donning that hot, itchy dog suit again, what mischief Wilfred will spark for season two and what he thinks of the new movie Ted, with its similarities to Wilfred.
Have you seen the trailer for the movie Ted?
I’ve seen a couple of trailers for it.
I can’t help but think of Wilfred when I see the trailer, which looks very funny …
Yeah, when you see Ted smoking the bong on the sofa with Mark Wahlberg, I guess, you can’t help but draw comparisons, but it seems different enough for me. I’m sure both worlds can exist side by side. It is very different as far as the premise, I think. Are you asking me what I think of it?
Well, are you flattered that people, especially Wilfred fans, are going to see that trailer and almost certainly be reminded of Wilfred, which came first?
Look, I think that that’s flattering that people might think that. I think that Seth MacFarlane is in his own stratosphere as far as success goes. He probably wouldn’t even be … I know he is aware of us right now, because he joked the other day to our showrunner that everyone is saying he ripped off Wilfred. But I don’t think he has. We didn’t create talking … teddy bears. I’m not even the first writer in a dog suit, and we didn’t invent bong smoking. When I did the original pilot, the Australian version, back in 2004, I was nervous then that someone would come out and beat us to the punch, and so I was just relieved then that we got it out, so we were the first ones.
For it to be 2012 and there to be finally something similar, I think we’ve done pretty well. I really think Wilfred has evolved far more and is far deeper than smoking bongs and putting on a dog suit, acting inappropriate. Because that would get really tired really quick. There’s a lot of layers going on in the show.
I haven’t seen anything like that, in the previews, anyway, for Ted. It seems kind of standard fare … a movie comedy … it’s funny, silly. It’s probably got a bit of pathos at the three?quarter mark, and then it ends happy. That’s not the kind of story we’re telling, so they’re very different.
You’ve already filmed the whole second season of Wilfred … how are you feeling about it?
I’m pretty proud of it. It’s just getting at the stage where we’re starting to get some feedback and I’m really enjoying it. And it’s good to be out of the suit. I’ve been out of the suit for a week now. On reflection it’s always … it’s a lot more fun once it’s all done.
I’m just looking at some stuff now at the office and picking up some things, some last minute things that I left behind. These studios we’re working in, they’re actually being destroyed and they’re making apartment buildings here, so it’s pretty sad. They’re called Centinela Studios, and they’ve been around a while. They shot 7th Heaven here and a bunch of other stuff. It’s been a lot of fun shooting here. Last year, we shot on locations for (the whole season). But this year, we actually rebuilt the house in a studio, Ryan’s house.
It was great. I mean, it’s just so great to be able to walk 20 feet to your dressing room instead of getting in a minivan and driving up to location. Last year it was kind of like we were the TV show without a home. We were like gypsies going from place to place and annoying neighbors wherever we went, whereas now we had our own place. We built about four or five different sets in here, for different scenes, like the office stuff was here as well.
But it’s the end of an era, because there’s been a lot of stuff shot here. It kind of reminds me of old Hollywood.
Season one ended with a cliffhanger, which you wrapped up in a very satisfying way with the episode that aired last week. Did you know all last season how you would resolve the cliffhanger, which could have radically changed the direction of the show?
No, we didn’t. We were already shooting season one when (executive producer) David (Zuckerman) had the idea of the closet being sealed off. We weren’t really sure. We loved it, (but) then it was just a matter of whether FX would. They don’t traditionally do cliffhangers for their shows. That was the only thing, whether we would go with a cliffhanger. Then in the end, they liked the idea, and supported it. You take a risk when you do a cliffhanger. If you don’t come back for season two, you look pretty silly and you drive your fans crazy.
Aside from building the sets and shooting the show in the studio, did you make any other changes after having had the experience of doing a complete season?
Wilfred changed a lot in season one from the Australian Wilfred in that he would take on little characters within his character, like whether he was being possessed by Sneakers, the dog of Ryan’s childhood, or he was the scientist plotting to poison Ryan with chocolate, or the aristocrat who was just trying to seduce the giraffe.
It was so much fun. That was something we just discovered in writing season one, and so I’ve continued with that and just the lightness of the character. Wilfred’s light and fun and almost childlike and innocent in certain areas, so I’ve taken that a bit further in season two.
When you said that, it made me think of the scene, which is one of my favorites of the first three episodes, when Wilfred’s having the discussion with the pigeons about how much he was loved by Ryan’s co-workers at the office.
I love that because suddenly Wilfred’s a standup comic. You know what I mean? I like the bit where he’s like, “So, how many of you work here? Show of hands?” He’s got that, like a street performer. It’s like, well, they all work here. This is where they work. It’s fun watching Wilfred struggle at things, as well, because he’s so manipulative. When things don’t work out for him, that’s a lot of fun.
When I talked to you last season, you mentioned that the Wilfred costume was particularly hot. Did you find a way to deal with that for season two?
Actually, it even was worse this year because we were in the studio, a big warehouse. In the morning, it’s cold, but as the day goes on, it just heats up. The suit that I wore is a different suit. You know when he goes in season one to seduce Raffi and he’s groomed? Whenever Wilfred gets groomed, it’s a different suit. Basically, it’s the same material, but it’s never been washed, so it’s actually twice as thick. The material doesn’t breathe at all. I wore that suit for a couple episodes toward the end of the season. Basically, I cook in it so much that, after a while, I go past the pain threshold into euphoria.
They’ll say, “Jason, Jason, do you want to get out of the suit?” I’m like, “No, no, let’s keep going. Let’s do another one. Let’s do another one.” I’ll be standing crazed, and people are hearing me singing from miles away, and it would look really weird if you didn’t know me or didn’t know what show you were watching.
It’s kind of like hitting the wall when you’re running?
Exactly. That’s right, yeah. Because otherwise, putting that suit on and off, people would think, “So what? You’re just putting on clothes, taking them off.” But it’s like water torture. If it’s a couple of drops of water, no problem. When it’s a couple of hundred thousand drops over and over and over, and something finally snaps inside my brain.
There are so many great little touches that I’m sure fans of the show notice and love … in last week’s episode, Wilfred’s wheelchair, and the arm that became his bong. Whose idea was that?
(Laughing) That was my pitch in the writers’ room. Because someone had pitched in the story that maybe he was passing a joint. I’m like, “No, no. He’s got to … ” I just said, “If you just pulled the arm off of the wheelchair and turned it around, and it’s a packed pipe, and he lights it up and offers it to Ryan …” Everyone was, “Yeah, that’s great.” Then I turn up on the day of filming, and there it is. It looks exactly like what I imagined. That’s one of the most fun parts of the job, is when just a random idea like that can come up, then one day you turn up and someone’s made it real. Then it’s shot and edited, and now you’ve seen it. To me that’s still the most incredible, exciting part about this job.
Do you get feedback from fans about details like that?
Yeah. I think our show is one of those likely that people are watching over and over, and so we have the little scenes in there that we’re quite aware that you may not notice on the first viewing. But the fans will get it on the second or the third.
How did the Robin Williams guest appearance come about for “Progress”? Was he a fan of the first season?
Yes, he was. That was exactly what happened. He was working with Elijah on publicity for Happy Feet 2. Elijah sent me an email to tell me that he is a big fan of the show, and thought Wilfred was hilarious, and that he would be interested in doing a guest spot. I went back into the writers’ room and said to David, “Robin Williams asked to be in our show. We’ve got to find something for him.” David said, “Well, we’ve broken all the stories. There are not really any characters.” I said, “No, no, you don’t understand. We have to find something for Robin Williams.” He was such a hero of mine as a kid. We were able to isolate that character and say, “OK, how can we finally make this work if Robin was to play it?” But still, we weren’t sure that he would do it, because we didn’t know if it was big enough, or if it was funny enough, or worthy enough for him to do. We sent it off and just hoped for the best. He read it and said, yeah, he’d be glad to do it. I haven’t been so nervous about meeting someone, so nervous and excited at the same time, about meeting someone as I was him. You know, going up to him and just those two days that he was on the show … it was a real highlight.
I think we’ve got to do everything we can to get him on the show one day. But, season two, it didn’t come up. I mean, we really do put the characters first and create the show that we want to create, and sometimes when we’re at work on a character, we’ll say, “Oh, such?and?such would be good for this role.” But it really is one of those things where … even with Elijah playing his role, we needed a certain actor to play Ryan, and he won that role with his great acting. We don’t really do any stunt casting for the gimmick of it. I mean, people have been suggested to us before, that definitely fit into that stunt casting category and we’ve said, “No.” Then we’ll get, “Are you crazy? Imagine the publicity you’d get.” We’re like, “Yeah, but at what expense?” You know? We’re setting up this world.
You have had so many great guest stars. Will Dwight Yoakam return as Bruce in season two?
Yeah, yeah. I think I tweeted it … I said I thought this show was fucked in the head, and then Dwight Yoakam showed up. That guy … oh man, he’s his own person. He has a lot of fun with Bruce, and he really had even more fun this year. We love having him on the show.
Bruce is one of the few connections to Wilfred’s past. Will we find out more about Wilfred’s pre-Ryan life in season two?
Yeah. That’s one of the great things about Wilfred … he could be 100 years old. Do you know what I mean? He just has this history that may be real or may be fabricated, but we have no choice but to take him at his face value because you’re talking to a dog. We find out his middle name in one of the episodes.
One day, I’m reading the script, and I see it, and I’m like, “All right, it’s as good as any.”
You didn’t come up with the name, then? It was a surprise to you?
I didn’t come up with that one. That one was a surprise to me and then once it’s said in one episode, before you know it, it comes up again later in another episode. Then it’s season three, if we have a season three, we might find out where he got the name from. You don’t know, but it’s funny how these little threads start and then you pull it out and it becomes this big, ongoing thing.
You mentioned Twitter … do you enjoy it? Some people love it, some people hate it, but it must be interesting to have that direct interaction with fans.
It took me a long time. I’ve had that account for a few years now and I think I tweeted like three times before FX asked if I’d like to tweet (more) for the show. I’ve enjoyed it, but I think I was thinking about it too much, like it seemed like a lot of work for me. But now I, just about two months ago, fell in love with Twitter, because I was always just a Facebook guy. Now I have really been enjoying tweeting more as me. I’m looking forward to tweeting during the shows again this year. I would think I’ll do it a lot more.
I saw that someone had tweeted you a photo of a tattoo they’d gotten of Wilfred and Bear. That’s real commitment. Are people still sending you a lot of drawings and things of Wilfred?
People do art. Someone painted an oil painting of me. That’s why I’ve actually stopped by the studio today, because of another painting that a girl did, and I have the whole wall just covered with prints of people’s artistic impressions of Wilfred, or Wilfred and Bear, or Wilfred and Ryan. They’re all so different, but they’re all so brilliant. The most humbling thing for me is that people are taking their time and creative energy, and it’s inspiring them to use their creativity to express their attachment to the characters. It’s just wonderful.
Do you have a favorite thing that someone has done?
No, I don’t have a favorite. Well, the oil painting, I just had it framed, and I’m going to actually get a fireplace to put under it (laughing) … to me, that was … I just love them all, but to me, that was when I looked at that and said, “Oh wow.” Like, that painting will probably live way beyond me. I was trying to imagine, like you see, oil paintings of people from hundreds of years ago. That’s when I thought about how Wilfred has existed. Wilfred is here. One day, it will be gone, so I’ve got to enjoy it. I was wondering if my grandkids are going to look at that and wonder, “What was he thinking?”
Can you imagine, can you look down the road and see, if you’re doing a fifth season of Wilfred, what that would look like? What Ryan and Wilfred would be doing at that point?
Sometimes when I’m in that delirious, euphoric state that I was talking about earlier, in the suit … I come up with some really crazy ideas. I pitched something the other day and David just looked at me …
What’s the craziest thing Wilfred does this season?
I just walked by editing and saw (a scene with) Wilfred, just being like Rambo. He gets so caught up in those characters.
So, no spoilers for those who may have some DVR’ed Wilfred ahead of them. But for those who have seen the season finale … whoa, right? It’s going to be a long wait for the next season, and the resolution of how … well, again, no spoilers. But it is going to be a long wait.
The good news is that there definitely will be a second season of Wilfred, my favorite new show of the year, the delightful FX comedy that brought together Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood (who proved he has as much skill with the funny as he does with the fantasy) with Australian actor/writer/producer Jason Gann, the man in the Wilfred suit.
I had a chance to chat with Gann, who’s been playing Wilfred since he co-created the series in Australia in 2007, before Thursday’s finale, and he, like that sometimes-naughty pooch he plays, is, in a word, charming.
That he’s enjoying the success of his first American TV hit and is very appreciate that viewers have embraced the show and his character so much is endearing enough, but during our chat he also talked about how excited he was to move to Los Angeles, because he sees Hollywood as a town and industry rife with opportunities for someone who wants to tell good stories. It’s a refreshing point of view, when so many people are cynical about the prospect of good storytelling in Hollywood.
But don’t take my word for it … dive in and get to know Gann for yourself, as he talks about the season ender, what’s ahead for season two, the delicate balance the show tries to strike between whimsy and touching on mental health issues, the Sesame Street stars who inspire him and the comedian who was integral to convincing him to don the hot, smelly Wilfred suit for FX.
TVSCREENER: I have to start by telling you that I love Wilfred, both the show and the character. I think it’s been the best new show of the year, and it’s just been such the perfect summer show.
JASON GANN: Wow, that’s really great. Thanks so much. I really appreciate that. Put a smile on my face. That’s a good way to start an interview.
It’s true. I wish I had my own Wilfred.
I hear that a lot. I’ve heard that statement a lot. And I say, ‘Do you really? Are you sure?’
Does that surprise you? Does it surprise you that, even given how ornery Wilfred can be, we all love him so much?
Well, it surprises me that people say they wish they had their own Wilfred. I didn’t hear that much with the old, with the Australian version. And I think that is because Wilfred … he was very negative. He was much darker. And even though I’ve maintained those elements in this character, (this Wilfred) is funny, he’s a lot more, I hope, more positive, a more positive influence with Ryan.
People do question constantly, is he on Ryan’s side, is he trying to help him, or is he trying to destroy him? And there’s that kind of balance that makes people say, ‘Well, it looks like they have a lot of fun in the meantime.’ Whereas I don’t think the dynamic between Wilfred and Adam (in the Australian version) … there wasn’t as much fun going on. The Australian show is primarily a love triangle, whereas FX were very clear with what they wanted early on, and that was a buddy comedy. So I think in our efforts to make it more of a buddy comedy, the relationship is a lot more fun between the two guys, and that maybe is why people are now starting to say they want a Wilfred. Because the guys do seem to have fun when they’re on their misadventures together.
Do you watch Curb Your Enthusiasm?
I think of Wilfred as a doggy Larry David in a way. He does what he wants to do, says what he wants to say without worrying what anyone thinks …
(Laughing) Yeah, without the intense paranoia.
Exactly. All the good parts of Larry David.
All the fun parts. It’s really exciting at the moment for me, just to see the feedback, the love for Wilfred that fans are giving. I’ve just discovered all of this artwork that people have been doing of Wilfred … Wilfred and Ryan … Wilfred and Bear.
Some of these pictures, these paintings, are just phenomenal. There’s dozens of them now. They’re on my Facebook … it’s really one of the most humbling gestures that I’ve had over the years with people’s love of Wilfred. It’s really surprising to me.
I think you’re going to see Wilfred Halloween costumes this year.
Oh, look, I get asked all the time where can they get one. Someone at FX said to me last year that we’re going to have to have a lot of these for Halloween next year, these suits. I’m not sure if they are selling them or not, but I know someone tried to start a website. I think that was shut down … so I don’t know where they’re going to be sold, or if people are going to have to get them made. I know there’s a hundred suits that FX had at Comic Con. There’s a hundred Wilfred suits. I saw them, and they’re better than my suit. I said to them, ‘They’re better than my suit!’ (Laughing) They’re really nice and fluffy and have this really nice texture. But then I thought that’s probably better. I think that the copies should be superior to Wilfred’s suit, because that’s part of the charm, just how rough (his suit) is.
The season finale is … wow. Cliffhangers, we find out new info on Ryan’s background, tying back to the pilot … and though there’s a lot of humor, it also definitely gets darker than the show has been most of the season. Did you intend all along to pack so much into the finale?
Well, I guess we just opened so many doors over the season that we had to take it somewhere. And what is different in the new version of Wilfred is that we really go into the psychology of Ryan, and what Wilfred may be to Ryan, or why Ryan has either created Wilfred or summoned him.
And because we’ve gone into that and the potential mental illness, we need to go there further. And so, as a result, things are just a bit darker towards the end when, you know, hopefully the audience, who’ve come along for the ride, have really invested in the characters and are prepared to think of it a bit more.
I mean, to actually make a comedy that really makes you kind of think is sort of unusual. And so that’s just a risk that we take. I mean, we’re concerned sometimes. I sometimes would worry that it’s not funny enough. But it doesn’t need to be, and so therefore, just make it as funny as you can, while giving sort of some brain food, something to think about, and hopefully people have come along for the ride.
Now, as it turns out, they have. And so now people are really talking about the characters and discussing the show and debating it, which is one of the things we hoped for.
And thinking ahead to season two …
Yes, we’ve been commissioned for season two, and when we go back to that, I suspect things will lighten up again, and we can go back to having more fun again. It’s just that, at the end of the season, we wanted there to be a bit of tension … just some good storytelling, I think.
Are you working on season two yet?
I’m ruminating at the moment. I’ll always have ideas that will come up, story ideas. The change in my work method with the new Wilfred was that I think of funny ideas and then make them work in the show. Whereas (producer) David (Zuckerman) comes from more of a story-driven background, where the story has got to work first and then you work out how to make it funny. So I know that David has got his ideas about where he wants the show to go. I tend to now put all my ideas in a file and then bring them out when they fit in.
You touched on it a bit … there seem to be two camps of Wilfred fans. There are the fans who, like me, are so charmed by the characters and the friendship between them, and the humor of the show, that we’re not really thinking, ‘Is Wilfred real? Or is Ryan crazy?’ We’re just kind of going with it. But then there are fans who love it, but also really want to know, definitely …
And I love that. Sorry to interrupt, but yeah, I think that between David and I, we have found a good balance for that. I’m in the same camp as you. What I feel like I bring to the show is a lot of charm and comedy. To me, it’s funny first. To me, Wilfred’s real. I need to think he’s real for me to be able to play him and for me to be able to live in him. I don’t really spend a lot of time questioning why he is in Ryan’s life.
For me, personally, he already was in someone else’s life (with the Australian series). To me, the character’s been around for nearly 10 years. I’ve kind of gotten used to having him around. I never really start to analyze too much about who he is or why he’s there, but I love that David’s really opened up that world. I’m really excited about it. I know Elijah’s really excited about it, because the Ryan character has got a lot of depth to him, as opposed to being a punching bag that (Adam) the Australian character was.
Do you think you guys will, or do you even want to, ever answer definitively why/how Wilfred is in Ryan’s life?
I don’t know if we want to do it definitively. Someone was asking the other day about Wilfred’s childhood and background, and we’ll never know the true story. I said that Wilfred changes his backstory all the time. He’s recreating his story to suit whatever purpose he has at that time. I think who Wilfred is to Ryan could be one of those open-ended questions, where we never really know. It’s up to the audience to decide. If we want to end the show, all we need to do is give that answer, I think.
But I think that’s one of Wilfred’s charming qualities. He reinvents himself.
People have called Wilfred a doggy version of Russell Brand, and the relationship between Wilfred and Ryan has been compared to Calvin and Hobbes, but what kind of things did you think about when you created Wilfred and thought about how you wanted to play him?
Well, originally, Adam (Zwar, co-creator of the original Wilfred series) was telling me about this dog who terrorized his owner’s new boyfriends. And so I just started improvising out of that, thinking about how he would behave, interrogating the boyfriends, kind of like Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents.
And then we started thinking about it more, and about how there would be a conversation between two blokes, and one of them happens to be a dog. So I really wanted Wilfred to be a dog who thought he was human, but just stuck in a dog’s body. He’s frustrated by his body, the frame he’s in. Like in the pilot when Ryan says, ‘Why didn’t you climb over the fence?’ And Wilfred says, ‘I don’t have arms.’ Ryan goes, ‘What are they?’ And Wilfred says, ‘Legs!’ He’s really pained by the body that he’s born into, because he feels like he’s so much more than that. I think a lot of dogs that are spoiled probably go through this internal crisis as to who they are. So I really wanted that.
I worked in a lot of children’s shows, comedies, back home … and I always think back to the classic Bert and Ernie routines from Sesame Street. I just thought, growing up, that they were that perfect comedic dynamic of the hapless, dumb one who’s almost like a philosopher in his naivety and ignorance, and then then the brainiac who’s really intelligent, but has been driven crazy by his idiot friend. And these two have this dynamic where one just infuriates the other one, but they’re also, obviously, really close friends. I really like that dynamic.
When you brought the show to FX, did you consider at all the possibility of not playing Wilfred, of working strictly off camera?
When it was first suggested to me, the exact quote was, ‘I’m not putting that fucking dog suit on again.’ That’s exactly what I said. It was my manager, Jeff Kwatinetz who sold the show, who had the idea of this new version, this new angle. It was me as Wilfred. He said, ‘I know you don’t want to do it. But hear me out.’ Then he pitched it to me in a way that intrigued me, and said, ‘Look, this show is going to happen over here one day. You’ve got a window to play this role now or someone else is going to play it.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever. Who could possibly play it?’ He said, ‘Oh, the name Zach Galifianakis has been mentioned.’
I said, ‘I’ll do it. I’ll do it. If you can sell it, I’ll do it.’
It’s a big risk as an actor. I’m actually very shy by nature. So, to be in front of a lot of people, the whole crew and everything, in a dog suit, when no one knows what you’re doing … and they’re just thinking, ‘I hope for your sake that this works, because if it doesn’t, you look like an idiot.’ But I guess there is a high return now from that risk, because people really love the character, and it’s really put wind in my sails. I really want to continue doing it and make people laugh.
You and Elijah have such great chemistry together. Was that instantaneous?
It was instant, yeah. He’s just such a giving actor. I always say with Wilfred, we are all telling the same joke. The show is one joke. But we didn’t want character actors coming on, trying to make a name for themselves, trying to do their comedy shtick, competing against what is already working. What Elijah did straightaway was play the truth of the situation, and basically told the jokes with me for a whole scene. Straightaway, it wasn’t his ego. He wasn’t showing off.
Sometimes when you’re working with other actors, you kind of want to slap them and say, ‘Get in here. Let’s do this scene. Let’s do this. Be in here. I don’t know where you are, but I know you’re not in the scene. You’re acting and you’re showing off.’
So to have someone come in and just be so giving and consistent and humble is such a treat. It’s a rarer treat than it should be, really.
The funny thing is, Elijah and I are very different people, coming from very different backgrounds, career-wise, as well as personally. Yet immediately, we just had that instant connection. It is fun. Whenever I’m feeling like I’m not in the scene, I’m not connected, it’s usually because I’m not looking at Elijah enough. I’m not feeding off him enough. An acting teacher once said to me years ago that if you’re ever feeling that you’re not in the scene, you’re not in the moment, then look to your other actors. Look them in the eyes, because there’s a good chance that one of them will be, and you can feed off that. I always think about that. So, to this day, whenever I feel like I’m not in the moment, I just look into Elijah’s dreamy baby blues and I’m there.
Speaking of baby blues … Wilfred loves Matt Damon. Why?
(Laughing) You’ll have to ask David Zuckerman that. I don’t know. I think he has a mad crush on Matt Damon. That was one of the new things that appeared in the FX show, so I can’t answer that. Wilfred used to be obsessed with Alex Baldwin. Alex Baldwin.
Are you a big TV watcher?
Probably not as much as I should. But Breaking Bad I do. Deadwood was on last night, and I forgot just how much I really love that show. I just thought Deadwood was the best TV show ever made. The dialog is so rich and amazing that I just go back and play it again and again and again. Not a lot makes me do that … I love watching Ancient Aliens. That was my favorite show on the History Channel, but it’s on the same time as Wilfred, so I can’t really promote it.
I read an interview where you said Wilfred has made you fall in love with acting again. Why?
Yeah, I have. I’ve kind of fallen in love with it again. I think it all has to do with just a different perception that Hollywood has of story guys. It’s really tough to survive in a small country like Australia doing what I do. People can perceive you as being a control freak or, what is it that they say, jack of all trades, master of none if you’re doing more than one thing. So you play down your skills and abilities, because people get weird about the fact that you can be a writer and an actor, let alone a producer or a musician or anything else that you might be good at.
Whereas over here, when I brought my shows that I created to people … I came over here initially just to try to sell formats to shows. I wasn’t selling myself at all. I just wanted to sell the formats, sell ideas, because I’d heard and I knew from talking to (Sex and the City series creator) Darren Starr that Hollywood ran on ideas. It wasn’t just about who you knew or who your dad was. It was about if you had the good ideas and you had enough determination, you could be successful.
So I came over here to sell formats and everyone said, ‘Look, these are great, but you’ve got to be in this stuff. You’re fantastic,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, really? Well, OK.’ So yeah, weird, I unintentionally sold myself as a comedic performer.
Wow, I’m sorry, I promised I wouldn’t take up more than 20 minutes of your time, but we’ve been chatting for almost an hour …
Yeah, that’s OK. I like talking. I tend to have sentences that are more like paragraphs, a lot of commas. I’m a comma freak.
Do you write the way you talk?
Yeah, I do.
I think that’s the key to good dialogue.
Yes! That’s why … I think one of my best skills as a writer is dialogue between characters. Because I write like I talk. Someone who really does that well, who became a favorite of mine several years ago, is Charles Bukowski. He became a hero of mine for a while, because he did that so well. When I’d read his works, I’d feel like I was hanging out with an old friend. I’d feel like I was having a conversation with a friend. I think that’s a great skill, if you can write as you think.
I’m just a bit … people say to me all the time that I say things that people think but don’t normally say. I think that sometimes that’s a good thing and maybe sometimes it’s not. But I don’t know. I just don’t have any time in my life for dishonesty. That doesn’t mean that I say things that are going to hurt people and use being honest as an excuse. Some people say, ‘I’m just being honest. I’m just being honest. I’m just being honest’ … ‘You really don’t look good in that shirt. I know it’s the only shirt you’ve got to wear out. But I’m just being honest.’ People can be really mean.
Look, I’m rambling. I’m rambling now. I can go and sit. I’ve made my point. Thank you so much, Kim. It’s been really great … that’s why I waffle on, because I know that you are interested in what I’m saying. So, I’m enjoying talking to you.
I am too, thanks so much, Jason. And now I’m sad, because I’m going to have to wait until next year to see more Wilfred. I may have to go find a Wilfred suit for Halloween just so I can see him again.
Well, if you do, make sure you get a photo and send it to me.
I will. I’ll send it to your Facebook.
You’ve got to go on my Facebook. You’ve got to see some of these paintings that people have done. And there’s another site this girl has created, called Fuck Yeah Wilfred. She’s from Brazil. It’s incredible. It’s amazing.
What is it called again?
It’s called … what, you couldn’t remember that? (Laughing) Fuck Yeah Wilfred.
(Laughing) Yeah, I just wanted to make sure I heard that right.
You heard it right.
Googling it now …
We’ll always have our Reno 911! DVDs, but since Comedy Central’s surprise cancellation of the show last year, there’s been an unfortunate dearth of Thomas Lennon on the tube.
Hopefully, that’ll change soon enough, as Lennon and his fellow Reno star and screenwriting partner Ben Garant will soon film the pilot for Alabama, a sci-fi spoof sitcom that’s been ordered by FX.
Lennon, who started earning a devoted fan base as a member of the ’90s comedy troupe The State, has since co-written the scripts for the A Night at the Museum movies, was a scene-stealing performer in flicks like 17 Again and I Love You, Man and, of course, starred as Lt. Jim Dangle, the Reno sheriff whose shorts belong in the Smithsonian next to Fonzie’s jacket and Archie Bunker’s chair.
While working on one of his many upcoming projects, Lennon was kind enough to take time to chat on the phone and, later, via e-mail, about Alabama, his baby boy, his love of Twitter and viral videos, the TV shows and stars that make him laugh, the dangers of working with baby actors, the genius of Steve Carell and Harold & Kumar, whether or not he’s related to a certain Beatle and, of course, the Reno 911! porn spoof.
Kiiiiiim Poootttttts. Hi, Kim. How are you?
Haha, I’m good, Tom, how are you?
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat today. It’s nice to talk with you again.
Are you kidding? Of course, my pleasure.
So, what are you working on today, which of your many projects?
Today I am working on what will go down as maybe one of the most important films of a generation. It’s called A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.
In 3D. I basically took a long look in the mirror, and said, ‘Tom, it’s time that you do a film that’s really important, a film …’ What I needed was a clip for when I die so they can show at the Oscars.
So this is your Oscar clip?
Well, please, everyone make a note when you see me in Harold & Kumar in 3D, this film was intended to be my Oscar death clip. As you see me getting splashed with poop in 3D or any of the other terrible things that happen to me in 3D on this film … I won’t spoil too many of them.
Is that really one of the things that happens to you in this movie?
Probably. You know, more than almost any actor working today, one of my specialties seems to be scenes where poop gets splashed on me.
That’s a Tom Lennon specialty?
You know, I guess I should add it on my résumé. Although, I don’t really need to add it on my résumé. Just look at any film that I’m in these days, and you’ll notice I tend to get splashed with some sort of poop. I was going to be a serious actor at some point.
Well, you are playing a family man.
Yes, I play a … my character in Harold & Kumar … I’m just going to say 3D because it’s so much shorter … has a two-year-old daughter. And if you haven’t worked with a two-and-a-half-year-old in a film yet, I highly don’t recommend it. It is absolutely as hard as everyone says.
Was this your first time working that closely with a kid that age?
With a baby? Yeah, I guess so. I’ve worked with a chimp a couple of times, which is scary in its own way, because the chimp once in a while will just look at you like it’s going to kill you. The baby is more just screaming and crying and pooping. But it keeps you on your toes, because when you’re working with a two-year-old, you know that when the camera’s rolling, you really only have a couple of minutes to do everything you need to do while the baby will be cool. So in a weird way, it really makes you bring your A-game.
But you’re a new dad. You’re a recent new dad …
I am. My son just turned 13-and-a-half months old.
So you’re used to having various bodily fluids fly at you.
Oh my God, yeah. It’s really nothing but. Yeah. Right now, I’m just chasing a poop machine most of the time, and he just learned how to run, so it’s a lot of fun.
What’s his name?
My son’s name is Oliver.
Oh, that’s a cool name.
Yeah, it is cool. We went old-timey.
It sounds classic, though.
He’s 13 1/2 months old, and he’s actually kind of an okay harmonica player so far. I mean, he’s not amazing. He’s not John Popper from Blues Traveler, but he’s better than a lot of baby harmonica players, I would say.
So tell me about the new show, Alabama, which everybody is really excited about, and I think especially because you guys are going to be at FX now, which just seems like the perfect place for you.
It really does seem like the perfect place. I’m a big fan of their shows. I certainly really love It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And here’s the thing. We took the show out to a lot of different places. Pretty much every place we took it wanted it, which certainly was exciting and felt good. But we also knew that with (FX president John) Landgraf, it was just like, you know, FX was doing exactly the kind of shows that we want to do these days, and he’s exactly the kind of guy we want to be working for. So the concept really is basically sort of a gritty … we want the show to look and feel as if it’s shot on a working spaceship in space.
Sort of like the very beginning of Alien. You know, where everything is sort of leaking and everybody’s sweaty and in tank tops, and the ship is not like a pristine, cool spaceship. The ship is like a dirty, you know, Navy battleship that’s been out for way too long. And for some reason, there’s only two policies on the ship: No one’s supposed to have sex with any of their fellow officers, and everyone has to shower together due to space issues. So it basically … oh, and we sort of sleep in bunks in shifts. So it’s basically a show about forbidden love with people that you’re sleeping two inches away from and showering with all the time.
It’s being described as ‘Reno 911!-meets-Star Trek.’ Is that at all accurate?
I would say it’s a little more Reno meets … not that I’m not a Star Trek fan, but I think we’re looking more like, the new Battlestar Galactica. We’re sort of looking more towards the new wave of sci-fi shows, I think. To us, in our minds, what we really want the show to look like is Reno 911!-meets-Das Boot … do you remember Das Boot?
I know about it, but haven’t seen it.
It was a film, it was a really brilliant film, about a World War II Nazi U-boat. And it is the most claustrophobic, soaking wet, high-tension thing you’ve ever seen. So the look and feel of (Alabama) is Reno 911! in a space submarine, basically.
Awesome! And have you cast the show yet?
Not at all. There are certainly people that we’re thinking about that we’d love to work with. There’s obviously myself and Ben, playing roles in the show. We have been in some discussions with Natasha Leggero to play our government-authorized sex robot who’s on the ship. We were thinking, because of all the sexual tension, that the government issued us a sex robot to have. But many, many years ago, so it’s now been … so the first three weeks with the sex robot was probably like a really awesome time and a great idea, but now, the honeymoon is kind of over. She’s kind of like everybody’s ex-girlfriend on the ship now, and she knows way too much about us.
Excellent! And will you likely cast any of the Reno people?
I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point during the run of the show, I don’t know if the full-time crew will be too many of the Reno people, but I know during the run of the show, I’m sure everyone from Reno will play aliens and monsters and space princesses and things like that. But no, it might be a slightly larger crew than Reno, too. I think we might just start with a slightly bigger crew.
Well, speaking of Reno, it was such a surprise when Comedy Central cancelled the show. It seemed very abrupt, and I remember reading your Twitter response, and it seemed like it came as a surprise to you, too.
I’ll be honest, I still to this day don’t really know why Reno was cancelled. The show always performed pretty well. It’s syndicated around the world. It has a pretty big fan base. I’ve never really known. And it was a show that I really loved a lot, but, you know, in a weird way I think it was a … a sort of left-handedly good thing for us, to get us out and doing something else. And of course, we spent the last year working on a pilot for NBC, which was a sitcom, which was an absolute waste of time.
That’s The Strip, right? It sounded like such a great premise (a former child star opens a theme restaurant in Vegas).
Oh my God. It was ten months of my life down the toilet. They’re lovely people at NBC … (but) I think we were sort of a little bit of an experiment at NBC, where they could see, like, ‘Hey, what do we think about multi-camera sitcoms?’ And the answer is, ‘Oh, we don’t like them!’ (Laughing). So yeah, it feels good to be sort of getting back in our … cable is where we belong, I think. Our tone is a little weirder and a little darker, and our material lends itself. Honestly, literally you couldn’t custom-make a network better fitted to what our sense of humor and sensibility is right now than FX.
Yes, it’s actually surprising that you guys haven’t been there already.
Well, I think, you know, had the NBC thing not sort of swooped in for a little while, we certainly would have been at FX about a year ago probably, yeah.
And what about the concept of The Strip? I mean, it’s such a fun idea. Will you do anything else with it?
No, I don’t imagine we ever will. I mean, we’ve now made sort of two attempts in our career at doing primetime network sitcoms. One was called Hey, Neighbor, and the other was The Strip. And I suspect The Strip was probably the last time we will attempt. It’s just, you know, everything kind of gets done by committee, and it’s just not for us. It’s clearly not a good fit for us. You know, I’ve got to say, the weirdest thing about The Strip was how positive an experience it was, like it went great, it went great, it went great, everybody loved it, everybody loved it, everybody loved it … then we never heard from NBC again. (Laughing). That’s literally, exactly how it went. And it was like, it was pretty remarkably weird, yeah.
(It’s at this point that Tom is called back to the set, but he graciously agreed to answer the rest of my questions via e-mail, and, well, he is as talented a writer as he is a performer, of course, so, you know, more funny stuff ahead).
Reno 911! is more than a TV show … when a porn parody is made, you know you’ve sealed your place in pop culture. Were you surprised/amused when you found out about Reno 911! The XXX Movie?
I was more delighted than surprised. And I have to say, there are times (especially the movie of Reno 911!) where we come awfully close to being a porno anyway. I guess that’s the danger of spoofing something that doesn’t take itself seriously. Technically, their porno spoof is a spoof of OUR SPOOF of Cops. So it’s a spoof within a spoof. Then with an enormous wiener inside a Wiegel lookalike.
The Reno cast recently did a live Mystery Science Theater-ish event with the porn parody … is that something you might do again? (say, in NYC?)
That was probably a one-time event. We did it for charity, and we watched mostly the non-sex scenes. The sex scenes, which I have seen, are quite enthusiastic, but it would have been a little odd for me and Kerri Kenney to sit onstage and watch people PRETENDING to be us, while NOT PRETENDING to have sex.
As you prepare to start work on Alabama, and think about details like costumes, are you thinking carefully about what committing to Dangle’s shorts on Reno meant?
Of course, that hangs over me as we set out on the new show. The last character I played is a fairly popular Halloween costume. I have a lot to live up to. I am planning on some version of a slightly different moustache, for sure. I think America likes me with a moustache, and aw hell, I guess I kind of do, too.
Are you missing the shorts at all?
Not even for one second. Remember, the entire LENGTH of proper Lt. Dangle shorts is 11 inches, top to bottom. That’s tight. That’s really, really tight.
Do you look back at them now as one of the best or worst ideas of your career?
You’re a father now … is that a big new source of comedy material?
I more than anyone was surprised that six years in the shorts hadn’t totally destroyed my sperm count. And yes, there’s a lot of new material in my stand-up act about being a parent. But I’m also doing less stand-up, for now. Between movie roles and writing, I’m trying to not miss my boy growing up, which is happening pretty fast.
You’ve really embraced social media, and the Internet, with Twitter and your videos on FunnyorDie.com … why?
Funny or Die is pretty much the greatest Website ever. I truly wonder, if a site like that had existed when I was younger, I’m not sure my group (The State) would have ever felt the need to get into TV. You can see funnier stuff there than most places on TV now, for sure. And Twitter is perfect for me, because I love to make short, filthy, weird comments.
In various places, by which I mean the discussion boards at IMDB (which are hilarious and weird), people have called for you to replace Steve Carell on The Office, star as Higgins in a Magnum P.I. movie and debated whether or not you’re related to John Lennon … the Carell idea sounds like a fun one, yes?
Funny because Steve Carell is a genius, filling in on that role for another genius, Ricky Gervais, who played it in the BBC version. I don’t think I’d want to be the third little Russian nesting doll to try to step into that position. The Office is one of my favorite shows, but I would never try to do something like that.
There’s no truth to the John Lennon theory, is there?
It’s actually entirely possible, although I feel like I look more like Paul. But there aren’t all that many Lennons in the world, and we tend to come from the same general area. My grandfather, Michael Lennon, was from just outside Athlone, Ireland. And there’s lots of Lennons in the west of Ireland, around Galway, where my current Irish relatives live. The Lennon motto is: ‘Prisco Stirpe Hibernico,’ which means something like ‘of ancient Irish stock.’ A little piece of trivia about me is that I have both U.S. and Irish citizenship.
And Higgins … ??? Do you think this originated because of the Lt. Dangle moustache?
Yes, and my droning, pretentious voice. But it’s a fantastic idea, and I’m in. What time and where?
You’re starring with Justin Timberlake in Bad Teacher … he’s shown some comedy skills hosting Saturday Night Live, but how is working with him on a movie?
Sadly, I have no scenes with him in Bad Teacher. All of my scenes are with Cameron Diaz. But in general, I find Timberlake hilarious. I just have to think about the way he moves his eyebrows in Motherlover to start laughing out loud. Really want to see the movie of those guys, I hope he and Andy Samberg are working on that. Bad Teacher looks very, very funny by the way.
I’m excited to see you, Eric Stonestreet and John Michael Higgins in the same movie (Bad Teacher). You’ve worked with most of the truly funny people in Hollywood at this point, between TV and movies … anyone still on your wish list of co-stars?
Steve Martin. My lifelong hero. Pretty much the reason I do what I do.
You joked earlier this year that Larry (Ben Stiller) would be working at the Liberace Museum in a third movie … What’s the status of a third Night at the Museum movie?
I’m not sure, honestly. There’s a script, and it’s probably my favorite script of the three. But there’s a million moving parts to get that movie happening. I truly hope it does, though. I love those films.
You and Ben co-write all your script projects. Why/how do you work so well together?
We’ve worked together pretty much every day since 1988. You have to let go of your ego. You have to have the same work ethic. We’re both compulsive writers, and pretty much workaholics. And, we never actually WRITE together. We outline together, then write separately, then re-write the other’s work as we build a script. Two people writing in the same room is almost impossible, and leads to a lot of stupid fights.
Your Jersey Shore spoof with Craig Ferguson on The Late, Late Show was great. Do you watch the show?
I’ve seen a handful of episodes, and loved every second of it.
You mentioned you’re a fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Any chance you might pop up on an episode? Especially now that you’re network family …
If they asked, sure. I love those guys.
What other TV shows do you watch regularly?
Mad Men. Breaking Bad. 30 Rock. The Office. Those are my ‘never miss’ ones.
If you were a wrestling or music fan in the 1980s, Rowdy Roddy Piper was on your radar, from his moves in the squared circle and his lively, often out-of-control “Piper’s Pit” interview segments to his feud with Hulk Hogan, Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper that led to the first WrestleMania event in 1985 and, later, Piper’s own Hollywood career.
Tonight, Piper pops up in an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (10PM ET, FX), playing – what else? – a wrestler. In “The Gang Wrestles for the Troops,” Charlie, Mac and Dennis decide to do their patriotic duty by putting on a wrestling show for the troops, including an appearance by Da Maniac (Piper) and fashioning themselves into a wrasslin’ trio. This, obviously, cannot end well for the Paddy’s Pub gang.
I had a chance to chat with Piper yesterday about his gig on Sunny, about his thriving movie career (including a recent flick with his daughter and Corey Feldman), about his feud and friendship with the late Captain Lou Albano, and, in just-announced news that took Rowdy Roddy by surprise, about Hulk Hogan’s announcement that he’s returning to wrestling.
Does that mean a Hulk vs. Roddy rematch could be in the works? Could be …
Hi, Roddy. Thanks for taking the time to do this today. I used to watch wrestling with my grandpa growing up and was a big fan of yours.
(Laughing) Oh, you must have been starved for entertainment then.
Tell me about your character on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia … His name is Da Maniac?
Yes, he’s an interesting character. He’s a take-off of the character Mickey Rourke played in The Wrestler, and putting him in a sitcom situation. You know, they’re very kind people, the Sunny cast, I’m a big fan of theirs. When they were growing up, they watched wrestling –
they were very sweet (to me) – and when this project came about, and I heard they wanted someone to play the part of “The Wrestler,” so to speak, it seemed like kind of a natural (thing) there, I guess.
The guys on It’s Always Sunny are obviously big fans of yours, too …
Yes, and they’re just really super people. When we did the first scene and I came out, they didn’t know me. And I was late, and jumped out onto the set just in time. And I guess I was being intimidating – I didn’t mean to be – and Charlie (Day) was the poor guy who suffered the most. There’s a scene where (Da Maniac) takes a helmet out of his station wagon, and it has barbed wire all over it, and I inadvertently hit Charlie in the groin with it. Poor Charlie suffered, you see. So I don’t know whether Charlie is still talking to me, but the rest of the cast is, and they’re all wonderful.
They have several recurring characters on It’s Always Sunny, so is there any chance you’ll go back after this episode?
I would love to go back and see them. I guess we’ll see how this episode plays out. I’m talking to some folks about doing a sitcom now, so that would be a lot of fun.
That’s something you would want to do, a regular weekly series?
Yeah, I think so. I’m talking to Bunim-Murray right now, talking about developing one. And I’m also hosting Monday Night Raw in November at Madison Square Garden. I don’t think I’ll be getting back in the ring again though. I was (in the ring) in April for Wrestlemania XXV – can you believe that?
I know! You were there back at the very first one …
Right! I was there when it didn’t even have a number, wasn’t I Kim? (Laughing). The event, Wrestlemania XXV, in Houston was a really nice one, and I think there was something like 70,000 people in attendance, but I just don’t think my time in the ring is much more. I think it’s time for me to grow up. May as well have people laugh with me and at me and do something in the entertainment world.
And you’re hosting Monday Night Raw in November?
Yes, with Jimmy Fallon. That one’s easy for me, but poor Jimmy … I hope he doesn’t speak to Charlie.
Now Hulk Hogan just announced that he is going to return to wrestling … does that change things for you? You two have such a long history of being rivals, there’s still no chance of you going back in?
Wow, you know what … did he announce that last night?
He announced it this (Wednesday) morning. He’s going to be wrestling with TNA.
Ah, okay. Wow, this is terrible, giving me openings like that … I only wrestle for the major leagues. I’m the reason (Hulk Hogan) has got no hair, you know. (Laughing). But if he’s going back, I might be willing to go back for a one-off. You know, to be honest with you Kim, this is the first I’ve heard about it. But right away my ears perked up when you said that. I beat him once and he’s never beaten me, and I know that drives him crazy. So yeah, maybe I could give him a chance to lose twice, I guess. Hahaha. See, these openings that you’re giving me? You’re gonna have to make this match with me now if I go.
I would be right there in your corner! One of your other big rivals from the first Wrestlemania, Captain Lou Albano, recently passed away – what was your relationship with him like more recently?
I had an on and off relationship with Lou. I respected and admired the talent. Quick story: The first time I went to Madison Square Garden, when I was 19-years-old, they called me “The Boy Wonder.” And I used to play the bagpipes before I wrestled. So I got there, and Lou came up to me and hugged me and said he’d seen me (wrestle) and said ‘Oh, you’re too good, we don’t want you here.’ And then Freddie Blassie, the manager, “Classy” Freddie Blassie, came up to me and said, ‘Aw, you’re a pencil-necked geek, we don’t want you’ and gave me a hug. And then, before I went on that night – there were promoters from everywhere who had come to see me – I went to play my bagpipes, and nothing came out. Freddie Blassie had stuffed rolls of toilet paper in them. When they said they didn’t want me there, they meant it. And when I went into the dressing room, Vince McMahon Sr. basically said, ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ And it took me another 10 years to get back there. It was a brutal business, very brutal business. So I always carried a grudge, but later in life I found out that Captain Lou hadn’t known anything about it. It was Freddie. So when I came back, it was during the Cyndi Lauper (feud), and I explained to him that I had thought he was involved with it, and apologized to him, and we became very dear friends after that. So it was a very sad day for me (when he died). I’ve lost too many friends.
In addition to wrestling and the It’s Always Sunny episode, your movie career is really thriving, with several movies coming up for you. In The Bloke Goes to Hollywood, you co-star with your daughter, and the movie was directed by Corey Feldman?
Yeah! My daughter Ariel Teal Toombs. She’s a working actress here in Los Angeles, and she’s a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy … cost me a fortune. (Laughing). She’s just one of the most beautiful kids. I have four beautiful children, and I have great relationships with them. Being able to be on the set with her was like a dream come true. She was always hugging onto my arm, and it was great to get to work with her.
It’s a very It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia week, as the Sunny cast kicks off its tour of live The Nightman Cometh performances tonight in Boston, just in time to ring in the show’s fifth season premiere on FX Thursday night (10PM ET).
To get the scoop on The Nightman Cometh tour, the new season (hint: Kitten Mittens! Wrestling with Rowdy Roddy Piper! The gang’s naughty Christmas DVD!) and the next big thing from the cast (the upcoming FX comedy Boldly Going Nowhere), here’s my recent chat with Sunny star Charlie Day, who plays the angry, glue-sniffin’, thermal underwear-sportin’, musical-writin’, oddly endearing Charlie Kelly.
Hey, Charlie! Thanks for chatting today. How did the idea for the live performances tour come about?
Well, we did it once at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, and it was all entirely by accident. A friend of (Sunny star Rob McElhenney‘s) named Don McCloskey is a musician, and he had booked a gig at The Troubador and asked if we maybe wanted to sing a few of the songs from the various episodes in which we sing on the show. And we sort of agreed, and then The Troubador put up on their Website that the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was going to perform The Nightman Cometh, and it sold out almost instantly. And then we said, ‘Alright, well, now we actually have to do something here.’ So we got together and figured out the best way to do it, and we collectively decided that the best, most interesting thing would be to perform the entire episode like a play, and then the play within the play. So that’s what we did, and it was great fun, and it was a success, so we decided we would take it on the road.
Now that you’re moving the performance to these bigger venues in cities like New York and Boston and Los Angeles, will it change? Or will you still be performing the entire episode, with the sets, etc.?
Yeah, I think so. We’re gonna put the sets on a bus or van or drive it around to wherever we go.
Were you surprised at how the tickets – almost all of them at each venue – sold out almost instantly?
I was enthused. I’m pretty aware of the fan base that’s out there … we at the show are very grateful for it. So we’re all just very pleased to see how excited people were, and also excited that we have the opportunity to do this live performance for (the fans).
The tickets were even being sold on eBay for hundreds and in a couple of cases thousands of dollars …
That’s just evil.
There were many “troll toll” jokes being made on Twitter.
(Laughing) Yes, and that’s appropriate.
But you guys must feel like rock stars now, as well as TV stars.
(Laughing) Well, this is as close as we’ll get to being rock stars, so that’s another fun reason to do it, to enjoy it.
Is there a chance that you may do still more with The Nightman Cometh after this? We kind of have the Behind the Music-ish episode in season two where we originally saw (the idea) and now we have the actual show … could there be an episode of It’s Always Sunny about the gang taking the show on the road?
Well, it wouldn’t be like the gang to ever make it out of Philadelphia, but … certainly they would aspire to do something like that, and that could make for a pretty hilarious episode.
Is that true that we won’t ever see the gang leave Philly?
Well, we may or we may not. We don’t want to set down any ground rules so that there won’t be any surprises, but I don’t see big changes for these characters. I don’t see the final season taking place in Miami or something.
There’s lots of buzz about season five … Is it true that The Waitress (played by Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Day’s real-life wife) gets married this season?
Absolutely, absolutely. There’s certainly a snafu there. And we have a great episode in which we wrestle for the troops, because we want to celebrate the troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and we decide what better way to do that than to put on a USO-type show, and what’s more American than good old-fashioned wrestling? And Rowdy Roddy Piper makes a guest appearance in that episode and he’s fantastic. So that’s a favorite of mine this season. And there’s a bunch of them that are great this season … we’re going to flash back to 2008 when the Phillies won the World Series and see what the gang was up to that day, and that’s a good one as well.
And there’s a flashback to the gang as babies?
Well, not in the (regular) season. You will see younger versions of these characters in the Christmas DVD that we’re doing.
Is that episode a standalone, or will the Christmas episode be part of season five?
That’s a standalone thing, on DVD. And it’s uncensored … it’s pretty dirty. And we’re going to put it out at Christmastime.
And is it true that Charlie’s Kitten Mittens come to fruition this season?
Yes, Kitten Mittens! What the world has been waiting for (laughing). Yeah, there’s an episode in which my character designs these Kitten Mittens and then everyone (in the gang) tries to think of something they can create and sell in the bar.
You realize that fans are going to actually want to purchase Kitten Mittens? You’ve ensured humiliation for an entire generation of cats …
Haha, yes, well then, I apologize to cats of America.
Are you and Rob and (Sunny star) Glenn (Howerton) also working on Boldly Going Nowhere?
We are, we’ve been retooling and writing that. Our focus, really, for the last few months has been on finishing (season five) and getting that out and doing this tour, and then we can kind of shift back to that.
Is there a premiere date attached to it yet?
I don’t think so. We’re still working on it.
You guys are co-creating it, writing and producing it … will the Sunny cast also make guest appearances on it?
If all goes well with that, sure, I think that’s something that we would love to do. If we pull it off, it will be the kind of show that would have lots of people coming and going every week, so there will be plenty of opportunities for performers.
Boldly Going Nowhere has been tagged as “It’s Always Sunny in space” … is that an accurate description? Is it that same kind of attitude, same kind of humor as Sunny?
I think so. I mean, our humor is our humor, so we can’t change it too much.
I recently saw the Reno 911! episode with you and Mary Elizabeth – hilarious. Is that when you two met?
No, no, we had met years and years before that. But we’ve always had the same sense of humor, so we enjoy getting to perform together.
Had you performed together a lot before that, or before Sunny?
No, actually, I think Reno 911! was the first thing on camera, aside from home videos and that sort of thing. But yeah, Reno and then Sunny … I think that was the order. It’s all kind of a blur now.
With Charlie proposing to Waitress in The Nightman Cometh, it begs the question: how did real Charlie propose to Mary Elizabeth?
Haha, on a beach somewhere … we’ll put it that way.
And there was no bright yellow suit involved?
Haha, there was no bright yellow suit. And no musical.
In The Nightman Cometh episode, and several others, are you actually playing the piano?
Yes, I am, I do. Both of my parents are music teachers, and I grew up in a house full of instruments, so I can make noises on a lot of them.
And are you the one who writes the music used in The Nightman Cometh?
Yeah, I do write a lot of the music. And I brought in a good old friend of mine, a guy named Cormac Bluestone, who’s done a lot of music with us, both on The Nightman Cometh episode and on the Christmas DVD, and various other things throughout the show. And, as always, everything on the show is a group effort, so everyone chimes in with their opinions about things. Maybe I’ll come in with a good jumping off point and then everyone will go from there.
Obviously fans love The Nightman Cometh song, and bands are even covering it in concert, but you have been living with it since season two. Is it still fun for you, because everyone else loves it so much, or are you tired of the song?
Haha, no, I’m still having fun with it. I don’t have enough of a music career to be sick of any of my music.
During The Nightman Cometh tour, you’re performing the entire episode … and what else will we see during the performances?
We’re going to show either the season premiere or a random episode from the new season, and we’re going to show a scene from the Christmas DVD, and then do the live episode. And then there are going to be a couple of other numbers in there …
Yeah, a couple of surprises …
And will people have the chance to interact with you guys at all during the show?
(Laughing) I have a feeling people are going to be interacting with us whether we planned it or not. But that’s going to be a part of the joy of the performance, or at least, I hope.
Charlie Sheen, Russell Brand and Louis C.K. are getting most of the attention, but I’m most excited that one of the best new shows of last TV season — Wilfred – returns for its second season on FX tonight (10PM ET). Season one of the series ended with a cliffhanger — had Ryan (Elijah Wood) [...]
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