Workaholics debuted this spring to the usual array of mixed reviews. From the expected Office-meets-It’s Always Sunny comparisons, to the lambasting it took from David Hinckley at the Daily News (who somehow missed the humor in asking schoolyard kids for clean urine), it’s been run through the TV mill like any other sitcom. But labeling Workaholics as just another sitcom would be entirely unfair to the show’s creators, Kyle Newacheck, Blake Anderson, Anders Holm and Adam DeVine, who find themselves in the position of having their own television show after years of writing and producing a DIY internet sketch comedy under the name Mail Order Comedy. The do it yourself work ethic that brought them to the attention of Comedy Central strikes a chord with the hundreds of other self-funded comedy troupes out there (and even the musicians we regularly cover within these pages).
I wanted to get a closer look at what it takes to go from shooting videos in your apartment to getting a Comedy Central pilot, so I (literally) chatted up Blake Anderson (the one with the hair) to find out.
Blake: What’s up?!
Can you hear me ok? I’m using Gchat.
Gchat? That sounds Gangster dude, G CHAT!
So let’s start right off the bat, how much do controlled substances play in the creative effort behind the show?
Oh, well shoot. As far as when we’re in the writer’s room, we try to stay fairly sober, except on maybe Fridays we’ll crack a few bottles, but weekends anything goes. Fer sure.
Where in north Cali did you grow up?
The East Bay. It’s a little town called Concord. It’s about 20 minutes away from San Francisco, Oakland.
Did you follow the north California music scene at all?
Absolutely. Actually, other than comedy I would say my greatest passion is listening to music. I just picked up three Marvin Gaye albums yesterday and I can’t believe I’ve lived so long without him. He’s the man. As far as Bay-area stuff, I’ve kept up with the hyphy movement, and currently I would say that I’m “Based” with Lil B. I love him. He’s a genius.
Did you hear he killed Osama Bin Laden?
Oh, I believe it. I believe that 100%. That’s the coolest thing, I’m totally one of those guys. I rep Lil B to the grave. I think he’s absolutely our finest.
Have you heard the new Zach Hill project, Death Grips?
No I haven’t, is it something I should get my hands on?
Yeah. Sacramento based.
I try to stay pretty up to date with the music scene. Ever since I’ve moved away from the Bay area though, I’ve sort of lost grip of that scene. But I tell you what, I’m all for it. I grew up on E-40 so… “In a Major Way” is probably my favorite rap album of all time.
Who is responsible for your IMDB photo?
Well, it’s a funny little story. I’ve always wanted to have a Jheri curl, always. At least have a Jheri curl once in my life. So I was like, maybe it would be cool if we took a 80s, Howie Mandel-esque cool photo shoot. So I went to CBS and got some Jheri curl goo, Stay Gold, poured it in my hair and it just didn’t look the way I wanted, you know? I wanted that tight puffy curl look, but it just ended up looking really wet. So it ended up being like a porno-slash-WWE photo shoot.
You guys have a really good chemistry on the show. Does that stem from the Mail Order Comedy stuff, or are you just faking it to pull it off for Comedy Central?
[Laughs] No, fer sure. We’ve been doing videos together for like five years now, and our director, Kyle, I grew up with him in Concord actually. I met Adam in community college, we’ve kind of just hung out for so long and we were all roommates for the past five years. So you’re really watching friends acting like friends on TV. Because we are actually best friends.
So it’s all pretty true to life then? Is that why you use your real names?
Absolutely. We say it’s an extension of who we really are. Ders really is kind of uptight in a way. Adam actually is pretty stupid, and I’m actually pretty weird out of the three of us.
Were you guys worried at all about losing some of that chemistry with the new production team coming in and helping out, or has it been pretty seamless?
To tell you the truth, the first two episodes that we shot on see—the last episode you saw, “The Promotion”—that was actually the first episode we ever shot. I don’t know if the audience can tell, but I can kinda tell, we were a little scared at first. Coming from the internet days, it was literally like us doing everything; holding the boom, editing, directing, like Kyle doing both of those things, getting costumes and all that, so when we went into an actual production and you’ve got like a 120 dads on set, it really was a different vibe. But you know, by the end of the season you’re a pro.
|Workaholics||Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30c|
One of the reasons you pull off the show so well is because you guys have charming personalities. What I mean by that is, being that it’s low-brow comedy it runs the risk of being crude and off putting. Was that part of the writing? Like, we have to make these guys kind of lovable if they’re going to be talking about these kinds of these things?
[Laughs] Yeah, that is a fine line. We definitely all have extremely dirty minds, but I feel like most of America nowadays does. I mean, kids are growing up with hardcore porno, and it’s awesome. If i grew up these days as a kid, with this access to hardcore porno, I know I’d be a better man today. I really do. As far as the writing went, we also wrote the show and we’re in it, and we’re improving, but we always have in the back of our minds that we don’t want to be total assholes. We’re all pretty nice guys in real life, so I think that sort of comes through. I don’t know. At the end of the day I was all about writing the dirtiest stupidest show on TV, so I’m doing pretty good.
Was that taken into thought as far as the other characters, because it seems like they play off that. They’re the weirder, eccentric roles. Like the mean boss, the weird awkward co-workers, etc.
Yeah, fer sure. We never really, like… when you tune into shows, like Sitcom 101, who are the surrounding characters in this television show? And a lot of times we’d have that discussion. I think we were looking for a natural, I don’t know, I don’t want to sound like a dummy or whatever, but the feel of when you actually work in an office, you don’t really seek out these characters, so we really were picking and choosing who to have these strong personalities. Like the boss; she’s pretty three-dimensional, well I don’t know, [laughs] she is kind of a bitch, but I think if you keep watching you’ll see she has a heart. And as far as Jillian goes, we were actually doing videos with her before all of this. She’s one of the funniest girls you’ll ever watch. She’s going to have a huge career, I know it. She’s actually a Groundling, she’s hilarious. We’re all about, come to set and bring what you want to the character. I think we’re pretty stoked when people make it their own. That’s what we’re all about.
With all of that said, how did you develop the story and characters? From someone on the outside, how does it all come together? Do you have this concept or was it something you developed with the producers?
Well, we did a web series called 5th Year, that was in a very similar vein, and that’s what Comedy Central saw. From there, we pitched them an idea, we got a pilot presentation out of it, we wrote that first episode, they liked it and gave us an order for ten. But they also assigned us… like we interviewed people to be a show runner, and we got this dude Kevin Etton who’s been absolutely awesome. It’s not like he’s our boss, but he’s the guy who we look to to reject ideas. Because I feel like if we’re in this room pitching ideas for episodes and stuff, I mean, we still are the ones who are like ‘fuck that, that ideas stupid,’ but if you’re constantly having to shoot down each other’s ideas, it could be a negative vibe in the room. So he’s kind of like the mediator as far as that goes. And we’ve also signed on some other writers who are just awesome.
You’re in another sitcom aren’t you?
I did a short little two episodes on a show called Traffic Light that I’m not sure the status of, if that show’s getting a second season. But yeah, that was really fun. Actually the director, Chris Koch, who did four episodes for our show, he was directing one of the episodes that I did there, so it was just a really fun experience, because he let me improv and cut loose. It’s cool just to go wild on set.
What would happen if they ran concurrently?
I know, that’s what’s so cool, if you watch that first episode I’m in, Adam is in it, Anders is in it, our show runner Kevin is in the background, we’re all in that episode. And it actually aired, I want to say the week we premiered as well, so if you were really paying attention, you’re like, “why the hell are the Workaholics dudes all in this one show?”
Yeah, well I noticed you because of the hair, it’s really recognizable. And I think you were in the trailer for it too.
[Laughs] Sorry man, you cut out a little bit right there, were you making fun of my wig? It tends to grab attention, I’m so happy for my hair. I feel like a lot of people just tune in to be like, what’s up, is it a wig or what?
Do you have a favorite character that is not one of you three on the show?
Well, next week, if you check out B-Rad I think you might fall in love with him. This guy is pretty cool, it’s Ed Barbanell from the Ringer and he was in Jackass 3, he was just a pleasure to work with.
|Workaholics||Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30c|
|Taking Brad Home|
Did you come up through UCB or just took classes there?
Well, while we were doing internet videos, I was just taking classes. Like I was taking classes at the Groundlings and I took classes at UCB, but none of us ever really chose that path, to climb that ladder. We were more stoked on doing it on our own. It’s a good way to network and it keeps you sharp, like doing improv all the time, it definitely helps tat muscle. But we were way more believing that the way to go was through ourselves, making our own brand.
Yeah, it seems as though comedy has this DIY revival going on, where the people you notice are the ones making something themselves versus being involved in something else.
Absolutely, 100%. It’s like, if you have a unique perspective and voice, and it’s something that is marketable, the internet is such a great outlet for you to get that out there. And if it’s anything worth watching, I really believe the right people will find it. I mean, we never got a lot of hits on our Mail Order Comedy stuff, but if you go back and watch it, most of it still is pretty good. I like to watch it, I think we made some pretty funny videos. I’m not embarrassed about anything other than my afro maybe, but even that I loved.
Who did you look up to as a comedian, and who would you want to work with?
Well, as a kid, definitely always Jim Carrey. I mean, Ace Ventura was just the jam. More recently, Tim and Eric are the best, I love crazy comedy like that. Like Zach Galifianakis is the man. And it was always cool to watch the Lonely Island guys, because that was kind of how we first saw that doing this internet and youtube stuff was even a possibility. So it’s a lot of people who I think have their own unique voice and style. It’s that do it yourself, I really look up to that, all those internet sketch groups, like Magic Hubs and all them. I just really respect that independent hustle, it’s cool, it’s really cool to see ’em when they actually succeed at it.
When you guys were writing and producing your own videos, that’s a lot of production involved. How frequent was it? How often did you keep up with it?
Well, it was pretty much whenever we had 50 bucks to spare, because we were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. I was broke as hell, just eating bean tacos and ramen. So if I had a good week delivering pizzas and maybe had an extra 50 bucks where I could afford a wizard costume, we would definitely do that. Even before we had the responsibility of making the TV show, we all really did push each other to stay creative and keep coming up with ideas. We would tape notecards to our wall in our living room and just go down the line, ‘let’s make this one this week, let’s make this one this week.’ ‘Cuz if you’re not making money doing it and you don’t have anybody breathing down your neck, you don’t really have to do it. You’re not answering to anybody except your fellow teammates. And luckily we were all pretty driven people and pushed ourselves to keep going. We weren’t like a sketch a week group, we weren’t crazy like ‘we need more content!’ It was basically like, ‘let’s really come up with some good stuff and put it out there.’ We do have some real pieces of shit, but we’ve got a lot of good stuff too.
What would you like added to your Wikipedia page?
Added to my wikipedia page? I would just say, definitely something about how I’m Based 4 Life, and Lil B is the true based God. That would be awesome.