There are going to be a slew of new shows hitting the scene in 2012. I mean, even Charlie Sheen has a sitcom lined up. What do you think House Of Lies greatest draw will be, in terms of the competition?
I'm very particular about the things that I watch and I mostly only watch comedies because I like to learn. For me personally, the second I heard Don Cheadle was doing a television show, I would watch it because I think he's one of the best actors right now.
If you watch a network show about the underbelly of business, it's going to be really different than a Showtime show. We get to show you the disgusting stuff that truly happens.
It's a very slick and differently shot show. It's totally different than any Showime show. You get to see comedy mixed with real stuff happening, mixed with people really learning about themselves. I think when you watch a Showtime show, you get to really delve into that stuff a lot more and get to see the underbelly of business. If you watch a network show about the underbelly of business, it's going to be really different than a Showtime show. We get to show you the disgusting stuff that truly happens.
I think it's really going to be fun. I think it's going to be a hit new...who knows. I thought Undercovers was going to be the biggest thing in the world. But I truly do love our pilot. If you give it a couple episodes, you learn so much in those four episodes. I feel like people will get hooked and keep coming back for more. You'll care about the comedic ideas and the story ideas as well. I really believe in it and I think it will be really fun.
As a writer, are you always fighting the urge to add and improvise on the material given to you?
Luckily, for Parks and House Of Lies, I'm encouraged to improvise. It's one of those things, at the beginning the four of us [on House Of Lies] will sit down with the script and play with it a little bit. The writers are awesome. But on Parks And Rec, it's just crazy. They'll do something on Parks And Rec called "fun run," which doesn't happen in a lot of places, where you get to just play around. Sometimes Jean-Ralphio's fun run stuff will end up in the episode and I won't even remember saying it and I'll see it on TV and be like, "That's amazing that they put that in there."
I love the Jean-Ralphio highlight reel on your site, Rejected Jokes.
It's crazy! NBC made that! I was like, "Oh god, I can't believe people care about this character enough." The funniest thing was one of the comments that someone said: "The Best of Jean-Ralphio is just every scene Jean-Ralphio is in."
That's a compliment, right?
Yeah, I think so, but also in my head, being down on myself, I was like, "Oh yeah. They just took all of my scenes and put them together."
Well, if every scene was funny…
I hope that's the case. I loved watching that. Also, the people on the Internet have been so cool, making GIFs of him and stuff.
My one thing coming in was like, 'I think Jean-Ralphio would blow out his hair and make it f*cking enormous.'
I hope they loved this season. My hair was huge this year! Since they'd started a company and were trying to be ballers, my one thing coming in was like, "I think he would blow out his hair and make it fucking enormous"...to match the amount of success of Entertainment 720.
You've got quite a mop.
It's pretty hilarious. I think that's the most talked about thing. It's bad when everyone's like, "Yeah, Jean-Ralphio's got weird hair, man," and I'm like, "OK, cool."
Speaking of your website, you have to improve on your Wikipedia page. It's looking pretty vacant considering how much you've done lately. What's up with that? Do I need to go in there and make some additions?
[Laughs.] I didn't make it! Every now and then I'll check up on it. I'll be like, "Where did they get that picture from?" It's a little all over the place. I kind of love that it keeps changing with false information. Maybe this interview will help fill in all the right information.
One of the few things that it does say is that you got started faxing your jokes to Saturday Night Live. Is that true?
I started by doing UCB, and then I was a page for David Letterman, which means you show people to their seats, show them where their bathroom is, and give them tickets. And I worked that into being a freelance writer for the monologue, which means I would fax in jokes. So I'd fax in 15 jokes every day to Letterman. Then Horatio Sanz over at SNL helped me out, because he was a UCB guy and he said, "Hey, you should do it for SNL." So I did it for SNL, so again I'd wake up really in the morning and fax in jokes. I didn't put it on my resumé until I got a cerain amount of jokes on.
What was the magic number?
On Letterman it was three. I ended up getting 15 or more, but I only got like two jokes on SNL. It was in the same show. It was when Horatio had subbed in for Tina Fey on "Weekend Update." I thought he was so funny in it. And he used two of my jokes, and the jokes were so racy I could not believe he used them. They were so fucked up, and it got great reactions. I was so proud of myself that day.
I remember the first time Letterman said one of my jokes. I was a page so I was inside watching the show, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I was like, "Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god." It was a really fun moment. It was that dream like, "Maybe there's a chance I won't be showing people to the bathroom when he says it."
I think writing is terrifying in some aspects because you're saying, "This is what I think is funny, this is what I'm capable of. Tell me what you think." People can judge your words. Writing is a fucking scary thing.
I was wondering if you had a favorite joke that got shot down?
My website Rejected Jokes, the way that it started is that I would take all of those jokes that were rejected from both of those show and I would perform them in front of an audience of zero and they would bomb. I've almost hidden all of these from the site because I'm really embarassed, because, you know, I didn't know how to perform in front of a camera. But guests would come—Seth Green, Rob Whaley, Rob Riggle—and the website got a little bit popular.
How often do you get rejected now?
Oh, constantly. If you think about auditioning, you have to have such thick skin. You know you're going to fail in this business. You can do your best job and come in and audition for something and really kill it and knock it out of the park and then they just look at me and be like, "Yeah, but you're not right for the role"
Do they give you specific feedback on why you're "not right"? Sometimes they'll want like a super hot dude or someone who's not Jewish. Or again, there are some times I go in and I'm not good or they don't think I'm funny. But the whole idea in improv is not being afraid to fail and saying yes to everything. But with writing, when you really put your heart into something and hand it to somebody, like a script: When you sell it, it's amazing and when it doesn't go, it sucks.
Just as an aside, is Kristin Bell as hot in person?
She's fucking gorgeous. She's 5'1 and she's so funny, so sweet and so nice. She's just a beautiful little woman.
Interview by Shanté Cosme (@ShanteCosme)