Points of Reference
Andy Daly's 5-Star 'Review' Influences
The comedian chats about how Louis C.K. and Hunter S. Thompson shaped his new Comedy Central show.
Andy Daly has long been one of comedy’s top “that guys.” It's easy to recognize “that guy” because he’s constantly popping up playing small, but hilarious, characters on Eastbound and Down, Comedy Bang Bang, Modern Family, The Office, and more. Thanks to Comedy Central's new show Review, Daly has finally gotten his turn in the spotlight, and he's making the most of it. Review stars Daly as Forrest MacNeil, an affable, white bread, and slightly dopey TV host who gives star-rated reviews of life experiences: Stealing, going to prom, being a racist, sleeping with a celebrity, eating 15 pancakes, and much more. His steadfast, sincere commitment to completing each life experience despite the consequences (and his own ineptitude) leads to moments both uproariously funny and comedically tragic. Each successive review builds on the previous ones, which never seems to turn out positively for Forrest. Daly heads to Seattle on April 13 for one night at the Triple Door where he'll perform a cavalcade of his characters and debut new segments from an upcoming episode of Review.
For our latest Points of Reference interview, we talked to Daly about five pieces of pop culture that influenced the making of Review.
Review with Myles Barlow
Well the first thing is that—it’s too obvious but it has to be said—this show is based on an Australian series called Review with Myles Barlow. It’s a direct adaptation of that. So I couldn’t really talk about influences on our show without mentioning the biggest influence. My agent sent over DVDs telling me Comedy Central was looking at the show and had thought of me to be the lead in the American adaptation of it. I loved it, and a couple of things immediately jumped out to me. One was in their review of divorce, which they did in their second episode, he has a custody hearing where the opposing council brings up all the things that he’s done in recent weeks for the show. And they have him going whale hunting in protected waters, becoming addicted to methamphetamine, and training with the Taliban, and all this stuff, which in their version were not things that you actually saw him do, but they were inviting us to imagine them. And that was kind of the moment the show clicked for me; the idea of making the experiences that Forrest takes on for the show be cumulative. That moment there was a major influence.
I was incredibly impressed by how ragged it was at times and how true they were to the documentary style of it, and how stark they were prepared to take their premise. People should check it out. It’s available on Hulu Plus and various clips are on YouTube. There’s a segment they did—I think they called it “Destitution,” it’s basically homelessness—which is the darkest. As far as I can tell, it is not a comedy piece for like four minutes. It's just the horrors, the true horrors, of homelessness, all just building up to one joke at the end. It’s horrible. And back in studio he basically says, “It was degrading, it was humiliating, it was dangerous, but on the other hand it gave me a sense of liberation from society’s rules. 4 stars!”
There was another movie that we talked about a lot in the writing process, particularly when we were trying to figure out Forrest’s relationship to his own show. We talked about Young Frankenstein and, in particular, the scene where Frankenstein says to Igor, “I’m going in to see the monster now, and I’m closing the door and I’m locking it. Lock it from the outside. And you’re going to hear me say, probably, help, let me out. But do not let me out no matter what I say.” It’s such an absurd comic premise, and that movie is certainly not the only place where that premise has been used, but it’s really effective in that one because he’s putting himself in such an obvious horrible, dangerous position and he’s set it up that way. And, of course, instantly he’s begging to be let out of the room. We kind of said that that’s the relationship that Forrest has with his producer Grant. You see that in episode 3 when he’s trying to get out of this divorce thing and Grant says, “You told me don’t let me back down. Never let me back down.”
Right. Without the commitment to the rules of the show, the whole thing could easily fall apart.
At some point we talked about maybe this guy Grant created this show and hired Forrest to do it and has him under a contractual obligation to not back down, but then we thought it is much more powerful and much more interesting if Forrest was the original driving force but appointed himself a police officer in the form of Grant to make him to do it.
We also talked a lot about the Albert Brooks movie Real Life, which I gather was a direct parody of the PBS series the Loud Family. An argument can maybe be made that it was the first reality show, because it was really cameras covering this American family. It was kind of an introduction for a lot of people to the concept that cameras change behavior. So this family goes through a divorce, and then one of them comes out of the closet, and it’s just like all this drama during this year of their lives that they’re followed. So Albert Brooks makes the movie Real Life where he is this phenomenally self-important, arrogant documentarian trading in the destruction of this family for some higher purpose that he has an unflinching belief in, and it’s hilarious how arrogant and how certain he is of what he’s doing and how disastrous it is. That is definitely something that is going on on Review, Forrest has lot of that sense of mission.
We were also influenced somewhat by the show Louie, as I’m sure so many people are in comedy now. When we started writing this, there was some story in the comedy blogs that Patton Oswalt had given a speech about how he had written a pilot for CBS and had gotten all these notes in the pilot. And his writing partner said of the notes, “These are pre-Everybody Loves Raymond notes, and we’re living in a post-Louie world.” And so that quote was fresh in our minds when we were writing this and thinking, “Yeah, maybe that’s true. Maybe we are living in a post-Louie world. What does that mean?” I think part of what it means is that comedy doesn’t have to be constantly in your face with reality-breaking jokes. You don’t need a joke-per-minute ratio that sacrifices the reality of the characters in the situation. And there’s an episode of Louie called “Bully” where he’s on a date and ends up getting bullied by a high school kid, which is like a perfect tragic comic scenario. Because it’s funny to have a 40-something guy getting bullied by a high school kid, but it’s also real and it’s sad and it can happen and it’s terrible. And then there’s a long sequence where he just follows that kid home, and nothing especially funny happens. He just follows him: On the sidewalk, on the subway, on the bus, on the ferry out to Staten Island, and it is just a mounting suspense. And I think that is something when we writing the divorce segment and saying, “This it’s going to get rough.” And I think the concept, that came to us by way of Patton, we’re living in a post-Louie world was helpful.
Hunter S. Thompson
I thought also that it might be wise to mention that I went through a long period of obsession with Hunter S. Thompson. There’s something to the idea of him immersing himself in experiences. He has said that what Fear in Loathing in Las Vegas is about, basically, is two guys going to observe monsters and then behaving more monstrously than the monsters they’re observing. Forrest doesn’t set out to do that in that way. He doesn’t set out to document the death of the American dream, he goes out to have life experiences that he believes are going to be rewarding, but time and again because of what he himself is bringing to the experience—that he doesn’t acknowledge he is bringing to the experience—it becomes horrible.
Apr 13 at 7:30, The Triple Door, $15–$17