You know those shows that you think you’re the only one watching, so you kind of keep it to yourself? Then it comes up randomly in conversation and there’s this explosion of, “Holy shit, I love that show too!” Comedy Central’s Review, starring the hilarious Andy Daly, is exactly that kind of show. Originally an Australian series remade for American audiences, Review has been called the “best new comedy of the year,” by GoldDerby.com, the leading site for award tracking/reporting.
Daly plays critic Forrest MacNeil, who does not review boring things like films, food or art. Instead, Forrest reviews the most intense experiences of life itself — by living them. He fully commits to showing what life experiences feel like, sometimes at the expense of his family and humanity in general.
Thought Catalog talked with Daly about the show, his early work on Mad TV, why Fred Willard can do no wrong, and how discovering others love Review is like finding out your friends are into golden showers (this was a mistake on our part, sorry Andy).
TC: How do you come up with the things Forrest will review? Do you have a wishlist of things to review?
AD: Yeah, I mean, the starting point was to make a list of everything they did in Australia. Then we put together an amazing writing staff. One of the first things we did was a crazy brainstorm. We had a directive from the network that they really wanted to see wish fulfillment type of things. They thought that the Comedy Central audience would be most interested in watching this regular guy get to do cool things that we all wish we could do.
TC: Like cocaine.
AD: (laughs) Exactly. We tried to steer them all in that direction.
TC: How much of you is in Forrest MacNeil?
AD: There were a bunch of times in the writing room where I would say something nerdy, or out of touch, or just stupid, and somebody would say, “Wow, you really are Forrest.” Yeah, he’s a nerd and he’s a suburban dad, but I’m not that dumb.
TC: Do people think you’re Forrest?
AD: I haven’t really seen that, the only evidence of that is sometimes in interviews people ask me to rate things. They say, “I’m gonna throw some things at you and I want you to rate them on a scale of 1 to 5.” Do they think that’s actually me? Do they not realize that I’m playing a character?
TC: What’s the weirdest thing somebody has asked you to review?
AD: I have to go back to this GQ interview. I told her that the character reviews things, not me. She says “Uh huh,” and went on with her list. “Rate on a scale of 1 to 5 what’s it like being a GQ reporter.” I was like, “Well you do that, I don’t know, what’s it like?”
TC: What’s the strangest response you’ve gotten to a review from the show?
AD: I couldn’t even estimate how many people have asked me how many pancakes I ate, or if I really ate all those pancakes. Think about that for a second. Do you really think I ate 45 pancakes? It’s pretty easy to fake.
TC: Have any companies reached out to you to work their products into a review? Like Bisquick after eating 15 pancakes or the KKK after the racism episode?
AD: No, what’s funny about that, in the early phases of the show, somebody at the network suggested we do product integration and say like, “This review is brought to you by….” We were like hell yeah, anything to help back the show. The process is we send the scripts to the companies to ask if they want to incorporate their product into the show. The answer was, “No,” from everybody. We tried so hard to sell out, but we had no buyers. Maybe in season two we’ll get the chance to sell out.
TC: You’ve had some great guest stars on the show. Did Lance Bass talk about Justin Timberlake at all? Or did Ashley Tisdale say anything about Zac Efron? We’re asking for a friend.
AD: To be honest, Ashley Tisdale was absolutely amazing in our episode, and she’s really, really funny. She was on board to do anything, knew exactly what to do, and so much of that was improvised. I was really impressed by her. I really didn’t know anything about her before that. Zac Efron is in those high school movies? I had no idea. Lance Bass, he never talked about Justin Timberlake. We talked about space because he trained with the Russian cosmonauts years ago.
TC: Before Review, you were on Eastbound and Down, Mad TV, and wrote a ton of sketches for shows. How does sketch writing translate to a full series?
AD: The several great sketch writers on the show, Kevin Droff, Andy Blitz, Leo Allen, come in handy in writing these pieces because they are sketches in one sense, but they also all tie in together. I think it was challenge for all of us sketch writers not to heighten the reality into the ridiculous zone all the time, to keep things grounded so that you can invest in the characters. Also to make sure that there was a storyline that people could invest in throughout the season. I thought it was a great challenge to throw at these sketch comedy writers, including myself. Kroll is doing that too, they’re doing sketches, but I think they call it “Sketch-uational comedy,” where they tie in together, they’re telling a story.
TC: You have all these Comedy Central shows that are based in that sketch style. It seems like it has a lot to do with viral comedy, internet comedy, and a lot of these shows are mirroring what’s being produced online.
AD: Right, that’s sort of an explanation why narrative shows are becoming more sketchy maybe. But I also think there’s a reason why sketch comedy is becoming more narrative. I think it’s because of the success of shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, the tradition of binge watching shows. When we were writing the first season, Breaking Bad was sort of at it’s highest irresistible watching point, where you couldn’t wait to watch next week. I think we were all inspired by that, let’s not do something that resets week after week, let’s do something that when the episode ends you’re going to go, “Man, what’s going to happen to this guy next week?”
TC: That’s certainly the message the show gives off. It’s one of those shows that you don’t think your friends like, and then it comes up in conversation, and you get super excited that your friends watches too. It’s like finding out your friend is into golden showers too, or something.
TC: Is it too soon to talk about The Paul Reiser Show, which only lasted 2 episodes and well, we’ll leave it at that.
AD: (laughs) No, nobody ever wants to talk about it.
TC: That brings up a larger point. You’ve been doing comedy for a long time and there’s just as many successes as there are failures, if not more. How do you deal with failure while doing the comedy you want to do instead of selling out and writing some copy for ad companies?
AD: Well, no ad company ever asked me to do any writing for them. The big message of this interview is that I’ve been trying to sell out. But really, I have a kind of comedy that I like to do and I’ll do it for free at the UCB Theater or podcasting at Earwolf (check out “The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project” on Earwolf). I do what I find funny because I have to, I gotta do what I do. I’ve taken all kinds of jobs for money and I have no guilt about that. I’m in this business to make a living and support a family.
TC: This is the first time you’re front and center on a show. What’s it been like to gain more attention for your work? Are you working on anything else?
AD: It’s really exciting. I’m enjoying it. As far as what else I’m working on, I’m pretty much focused on Review. Promoting, trying to get people to watch it, hoping for a second season.
HINT: Tell Comedy Central to renew the show for a second season.
TC: Has Fred Willard ever whispered something to you? If so, was it funny? And do you sometimes say to yourself, “Holy shit, Fred Willard is on my show!”
AD: All the time. Fred Willard is fascinating. There’s almost nothing he can say that isn’t funny. It’s really weird. If you read a transcript of what he said you wouldn’t find it funny, but he has a way of speaking that gets me every single time. There’s a shot that made it into the show where he says, “Some day we’re going to live in space. I don’t want to be there to see it.” My character busted out laughing, and that was not suppose to happen. Fred improvised that, and I just lost it.
TC: What would you say to comics just starting out?
AD: I once heard George Carlin say, “Tell your jokes in front of an audience.” It seems obnoxious, but it’s the best advice. I know that today everybody is into shooting things and uploading it online, and that’s great and everyone should do it. But that wasn’t available to me when I was first starting out. To go up on stage and do your comedy in front of an audience and let them tell you what’s funny and what works, I think that’s something comics shouldn’t lose sight of.
TC: Why should people watch the show?
AD: When we first sat down to write it, Andy Blitz, one of the writers, said, “Let’s make an award-winning television show.” We all just kind of nodded, we didn’t really talk about what that means. But I think that one statement kind of infused our work method on the show. It meant that we are all going to put our best efforts into this show to make it something unique and great. We’ve got Jeffrey Blitz, a director from The Office and an Oscar nominee for the film Spellbound, directing all of the episodes. He brought incredible vision to the show, and also helped write the episodes, bringing all his narrative expertise from his years on The Office. An incredible murderers row of comedy writers and actors. I think we made a show that’s as funny as any sketch show and as compelling as any narrative show.
TC: OK, final question, and it’s a biggy, will you follow me (@HAlanScott) on Twitter?
Review gets 5 out of 5 stars from Thought Catalog.