PaleyFest LA: Comedy Central Has the First Laugh
The Paley Center’s annual PaleyFest LA is in full swing, and this afternoon’s “Salute to Comedy Central” panel brought us a whole pile of Comedy Central’s brightest: Abbi Jacobson of Broad City; Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele of Key and Peele; Nick Kroll of the soon-to-leave-us Kroll Show; Andy Daly of Review; and the Workaholics crew of Blake Anderson, Adam Devine, Anders Holm, and Kyle Newacheck. It was up to Grantland’s Andy Greenwald to wrangle this large, wild bunch.
“Comedy Central” was never a misnomer, but the last few years have seen a renaissance for the network in terms of scripted series, as evidenced by the panoply on stage—Workaholics, on its fifth season, was the oldest show in attendance, and the critically beloved Broad City and Review are only on their second seasons. Conveying the group’s infectious energy and utter hilarity with mere words is difficult, but here are the highlights, broken down by show:
- It was a shame Jacobson’s partner in various crimes, Ilana Glazer, couldn’t make it to the panel, but Jacobson held her own amongst the rest of the (totally male) panelists.
- In the Season 2 episode “The Matrix,” Abbi and Ilana free themselves from technology by leaving their phones at home and get lost rollerblading to a dog wedding in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Abbi kicks a soccer ball back to a group of hot guys, which is not a thing anyone should do while wearing rollerblades. “I had to do that fall six times,” Jacobsen said.
- In the same episode, after being separated, Ilana tries to use nature to find the dog wedding and ends up, er, bringing a tree to climax. “You know, at the show, when we write it, we want it to deal with really important issues. What’s going on in the world that we can mirror back? And every once in a while you get to do it,” Jacobson said. But really, the scene wasn’t in the script—Glazer found the tree and came up with the idea on the spot. “We needed to figure out what would be the best…sap…so it took a couple hours. We have a great prop guy.” Comedy Central was slightly bewildered by the scene, but Jacobson and Glazer fought for its inclusion and won: “It really meant something to us.”
- The Broad City writing staff is largely composed of Jacobson and Glazer’s friends. “It’s a lot easier if our other writers know us already, if they know the dynamic between the two of us,” Jacobson said.
- Greenwald asked the panelists to name their “Nailed it!” moments. Jacobson’s: The Season 2 episode “Knockoffs.” “It was a very scary one for me, because there’s a whole act where I wear a dildo, a strap-on,” she said. Abbi and her neighbor/crush/hookup Jeremy (Stephen Schneider) get in a fight over the dildo Abbi’s about to use to “peg” Jeremy. “We get in a big fight and I’m wearing a strap-on. We’re not making fun of pegging—that’s not the joke. The fight is more than that. I’m really proud of that. All it takes sometimes is a strap-on.”
- The writing team will start working on Season 3 in April. “We don’t have anything yet, and that’s a big fear,” Jacobson said. “We can do anything, but that’s a lot of work. And all along the way, the fear comes in, because we really want it to be great, and the best it can be, and us. There’s always going to be that fear.”
Key and Peele:
- According to Peele, “We were almost Peele and Key.” “But then we talked about the alphabet,” said Key.
- The title of the show was also almost Key v. Peele, but “We don’t like to condone black on black violence,” said Peele. “Or even half-black-on-black,” Key added.
- Peele had a Goodburger poster in his college dorm.
- One of the network notes they received said, “Is Star Wars a thing people care about?”
- Productivity can be a problem, so one of the producers has been elected the time police. “There’ve been weeks where all he’s said is, ‘[Grunts] [points to wrist]. Mmmmm,'” Key said.
- The duo make sure to get everything filmed the way it’s scripted before starting to improvise. “Once we get everything we need, we say, ‘We’re just going to run a 5K off over here,’ that’s what we call it,” said Key.
- Peele’s “Nailed it!” moment: The “Family Matters” sketch, in which Peele plays . It takes a dark turn we won’t spoil here; just watch it below. “I love the way-too-referential Hollywood mythology s—t,” Peele said. “I was watching Family Matters one day, an episode where Steve and Carl are miniature for… some reason? They’re sleeping on a piece of white bread with a slice of American cheese as a blanket. What the f—?!”
- Key’s: “My favorite scenes are the ones the go off the rails organically, like Karim and Jahar, who are catcalling women in burkas.” It was a very narrow thing, and then all of a sudden as we were improvising, it took on this ridiculous homoerotic tone and you start realizing more and more than they’re in love with each other and they’re repressed homosexuals and the showrunners are like, ‘WHAT THE F— IS GOING ON?!'”
- The show’s most dangerous scene to shoot was a Miami Vice-based sketch, where they blew up a car. The safe distance between the car and the crew was about 100 feet, but Key had to be in the shot and could only be about 80 feet away. That said, “Blowing stuff up is the jam!” he said.
- Kroll started a faux anti-Obama persona he kept up throughout much the panel, culminating in a perfectly set-up response to a question about comedic influences: ” Obama, because his presidency has been a joke.” (It’s actually Mel Brooks.)
- Not that he’s allergic to sincerity: “To be honest, I watch all the shows up here, and it’s a really cool time to be at Comedy Central. There was a period of time when it wasn’t.” (“The Crossballs era,” Greenwald interjected.)
- Peele appeared on two episodes of Kroll Show sans Key, which ignited an amusing back-and-forth between the K&P stars:
Peele: It was very fun to do your show. We got a call—
Key: We got a call?!
Peele: You looked like you needed some rest.
Key: Do I look like a person who needs rest?! I can’t even say this is racist.
- Kroll’s “Nailed it!” moment: Kroll had wanted to do a sketch called Cake Train in the show’s pilot—the Chelsea Peretti-penned sketch had about six or seven people running out to a train where a chef was throwing cakes out at people. Comedy Central vetoed it, saying it was too expensive. In Season 2, Kroll decided to just do it, without telling the network. “It was the most expensive thing we did on the show,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense with the rest of my show at all, but they let us do it by not having stern oversight.”
- Kroll also enjoyed any time he could get Bill Burr (who played Detective Smart) in the sun with no shade: “Fry him up like a piece of Boston bacon.”
- Review is not an original concept, coming from an Australian show Review with Myles Barlow. “A lot of shows get discovered in the Outback,” Daly joked.
- While it’s shriekingly funny at times, it’s not all laughs, particularly in an episode like Season 1’s “Eating 15 Pancakes.” “That was a note we got a few times in Season 1: ‘It’s kind of sad!'” said Daly. “There was a specific note: ‘Maybe we don’t go back to the pancakes.’ But I felt totally confident eating 30 pancakes after 15 was funny.”
- Daly’s “Nailed it!” moment: “Times when we nailed it? Gosh, there’s been so many. I guess I would also mention when we killed Fred Willard. …What if the whole joke of space is that Fred Willard has died and his corpse is floating around in zero gravity, and we cut from that to beautiful view of space?”
- And how will they top themselves in the upcoming second season? “We gotta figure out a way to kill Fred Willard again.”
- The first season was shot in the same house three of the four actually lived in. (“Ders found a woman who loved him,” according to Devine.) “It was very weird waking up in boxers and going to craft services,” Devine admitted.
- The first season, the men felt like the network had made a mistake, and saw little network interference. “They were like, ‘Go on do whatever you want, you’ll be off the air soon,'” said Holm.
- That’s not to say the network had no notes at all. “We did get some weird notes at first,” said Anderson. “One of our first shows, the goal was to go to a Rihanna concert, and we got back, ‘Seems kinda gay to go to a Rihanna concert.’ They don’t understand the force that is Rihanna. And she’s got some dope tracks.”
- Another no-no was a storyline where the boys try to invent a fireproof American flag, which of course would involve several unsuccessful attempts. “One season: hard pass,” Devine said. “Next season? Fine.”
- “Our show is only going to get funnier the older and more pathetic we get,” said Anderson. “We’ll keep going, and then call it quits for 15 years and then come back,” Devine suggested.
- One of Devine’s prouder moments: “I like when we do shows with a lot of heart, like the Porno College show,” he said, “which doesn’t sound like it has a lot of heart.” Adam goes into a human sexuality class because he thinks it’s where a porn series was shot. “What we learned is that some chicks really do want to do porn. No, it’s a choice!” said Anderson. “I thought it was touching.”
- Anderson breaks the most on-set: “If you watch, I’m just smiling all the time.”
- Shooting the promos for this fifth season was, like Key and Peele‘s car explosion, rather dangerous; it too involved an explosion. “They said, ‘You can only do it once, that’s all we have the money for,'” Devine said. And so, of course, he started laughing as soon as the explosion went off.