'Talk Show the Game Show' Host Guy Branum on How Writing for Women Made His Career
On February 1, truTV’s Talk Show the Game Show kicks off Season 2 with back-to-back episodes featuring stars from some of your favorite shows.
With comedian and writer Guy Branum serving as host, this clever hybrid pits celebrity guests against each other in a series of typical talk show tropes and hilarious bonus games with the ultimate goal to win “Best Guest of the Night.”
After writing for a number of hit shows like The Mindy Project, Chelsea Lately and Awkward, Branum is opening up to TV Insider about his female collaborators and how it has led to producing and hosting his own show. He also weighs in on a mini Sabrina the Teenage Witch reunion in the premiere and the more exciting guests and games in store this season.
What inspired you create this one-of-a-kind mash-up show? Did you draw inspiration from any other specific game shows or talk shows?
Guy Branum: The thing that most inspired me was watching the slow, steady descent of talk shows during the Jay Leno years. Talk shows [started as] being these fun, alive, cocktail party sort of events that capped-off every night of the week. Over time, it just turned into people telling stories that their publicists had approved.
I was really tired of it, and I came to a strong stance of: There is a right and wrong way to be on a talk show. One night, I just got drunk and was like “If there were rules for this, how would it work?”
Have you always wanted to be a TV host? Do you think you’re a better talk show host or game show host?
Well, I think I do a lot of interrupting people, so that’s a really important skill of a talk show host. And I’m very condescending and full of myself, which is very important for a game show host.
I always loved talk shows and games shows so much… Though, I don’t think I ever aspired to be a talk show or game show host, primarily just because that wasn’t an option for extremely fat gay guys—or at least out gay guys. So I just wanted to be a comedian. But when I created the show, I sort of built it so that nobody except for me could host it.
You’ve been a staff writer on shows like The Mindy Project, Chelsea Lately, and Awkward. How do you transition between such different projects?
Between these two runs of Talk Show the Game Show, I got to go back and just be a writer on The Mindy Project for like six months, and it was really nice to go to a job where all of the big problems belong to somebody else. Sure, it’s fun having your own show, but it’s also a lot of responsibility and a lot of headaches. When it’s somebody else’s show, it’s just your job to show up, have some ideas, and eat lunch periodically. So it’s fun.
Are there any other types of shows you’re still hoping to try your hand at?
I would definitely love to work on a scripted sitcom that I created. Just having worked in scripted TV for a period of time, I really respect the people who understand it so well. The writers’ room at The Mindy Project was full of people from 30 Rock and The Simpsons and The Office who really understood story and character. I tried to learn as much as I could from them.
It would be fun to make some stories of my own, but there’s also just something so simple and satisfying about a half-hour of TV that you shoot in a shiny-floored studio where smiling celebrities come out and talk to you. It’s very immediate. On a little cable show like this that doesn’t have much time to produce episodes, there’s the fun of just having to run on adrenaline.
Do you have plans to reteam with Chelsea or Mindy on any upcoming projects?
I’d love to work with them. They’re both great writers and producers who have made a bunch of awesome stuff. But more than anything, I just really appreciate the opportunities that they’ve given me that I possibly wouldn’t have gotten from heterosexual male comedians.
Even though I’ve written for all sorts of people and all sorts of situations, my chances to prove myself pretty much relied on ladies needing sassy things to say. It’s cool that we live in a world now where straight male comedians are more likely to realize that my voice can work with their style of comedy and vice versa. But still, the important first opportunities that I got pretty much all came from women.
Can you tease us a little bit about what’s to come for the rest of the season?
Well we have one episode where we have Caroline Rhea and Melissa Joan Hart, and, I have to say, it’s a pretty dazzling episode. The two of them have a lot of really old beef and it all comes out on the stage. They get very competitive. All of those Sabrina arguments come back to life again. Also, having athletes on the show is so great because they’re just so competitive—especially when it’s athletes who really understand media. Charles Barkley is on the show, and he does really, really delightful work.
Is there anyone that you’re hoping to get on the show in the future?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I realize that he has a lot of things going on these days, but he’s attractive, he’s charming, he’s good with the media, he has very floppy hair. I realize that he is busy running one of the world’s eight largest economies right now, but you know, eventually.
Talk Show the Game Show, Season 2 premiere, Thursday, Feb. 1, 10:30 p.m. ET/PT, truTV