I thought the best part of interviewing Andy Daly in Austin over the weekend would be getting a chance to witness the star of Comedy Central's “Review” channeling his fictional alter ego Forrest MacNeil and eating pancakes, as he did in the year's funniest half-hour of television. But though pancakes were, in fact, consumed (in the interests of accuracy, I should say that Daly ordered the short stack – albeit what turned out to be a Texas-sized short stack – and ate much, but not all, of it), the most exciting part of the interview was the news that Comedy Central was days away from announcing that “Review” (which had ended on a brilliant, but seemingly final, note) would return for a second season.
(In that same announcement, Comedy Central also renewed “Inside Amy Schumer” and the animated series “TripTank,” as well as greenlighting two new series: “Another Period,” starring Riki Lindhome and Natasha Leggero as rich, vapid sisters circa 1902; and “Idiotsitter,” created by and starring Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse as, respectively, a rich woman under house arrest in her daddy's mansion and the woman hired to keep her out of further trouble.)
And now that the renewal is official, here's our entire conversation in Austin, looking back over the brilliance of that first season, and ahead to how the show might work in season 2.
What were the discussions with Comedy Central like about the pick-up?
Andy Daly: For us, the relationship between our budget and our ratings was a little skewed. One of those numbers was significantly higher than the others. It was just a question of if we could do it a little less expensively without losing all the things people love about the show. It was just, “How about we shoot a few fewer days per script?”
What is the big cost of the show?
Andy Daly: To tell you the truth, we went into production having written too much. I hope we'll be able to put out a DVD with all the incredible stuff we weren't able to put in the show. We were supposed to originally make eight episodes, and we turned it into nine, because we'd written too much and shot too much, and still had to cut out a lot. That was a measure of our inexperience. So now we can go in knowing we don't have to write that much.
So what are some of the reviews we might not have seen?
Andy Daly: We didn't cut a single review, actually. But there are lots of scenes that got cut. You know how in episode 1, I take that girl to the prom and introduce her to cocaine for the first time ever? We had a little bit of a running story, where when I'm Batman, I beat up a drug dealer, and she's there still in her ratty prom dress buying drugs from the guy. We had to cut that. And then in the final episode of the whorehouse, she's also there, still in her prom dress. Stuff like that had to get cut. And there's an extended version of the coffee cart scene, where we make it clear that she's hoping to leave the business to Forrest so he can retire.
I have not seen the Australian show. How did you come upon it in the first place?
Andy Daly: My understanding is that the Australian Broadcasting Company sold the format of the show to one of those international formatting companies that usually deals with game shows and reality shows. I've been told that a Dutch version has been made, and I heard that they were developing a pilot for a British version. Comedy Central saw this international process, and they thought of me for it. And I just mysteriously received DVDs on the doorstep one day, and watched it and said, “Yeah, that's what I should do. That's me! That's the Australian me!”
Is the Australian version as dark in terms of what happens to the guy?
Andy Daly: Well, it doesn't have quite the narrative arc that we had. he does, in the second episode, divorce his wife, and they stay divorced. And then in the second season, it gets a little more narrative than in the first, but we drilled down on that – the piling up of consequences – a little more consistently than they did. In that second episode with his divorce, they have a custody hearing that's almost identical to ours, except he's not dressed as Batman, and that was the moment when I realized what the show could be. In the context of the custody hearing, opposing counsel was saying, “Look at what this man's done in the past 30 days! He's joined with the Taliban, he's gone whale hunting in illegal waters…” And I said, “That's it: the things he's reviewing will screw up his life.”
What I like is that there's continuity even within episodes, so the cocaine addiction becomes a problem at the prom. How did you figure out how to structure the reviews together in that way?
Andy Daly: We just had all these cards on the board, and we shifted them around to see what would work where, and how things could come back. Andy Blitz is particularly adept at callbacks. He just has a brain for that. He probably pitched 100 fascinating callbacks that we couldn't use. But one of his great ideas was the idea that, in episode 8, I kidnap him, playing one of the cops, and his idea was that every time we see cops in the show, it's him and his brother (Jeffrey Blitz). It pays off in episode 8, but we've seen them in a bunch of other episodes.
It doesn't really come up until the finale, but what does Forrest's wife know of what he's doing? Is the show on television that she could see?
Andy Daly: No. One decision we made is that it's not gonna air until Forrest's show is all shot. But the other thing we decided is that the people around him, for whom the cameras would be inescapable, all understand that a documentary is being made that Forrest is the focus of. Maybe they've been told it's about the life of a reviewer, but they have not been told that he's reviewing life experiences, because that would skew the results. At the end of the racism episode, he could just tell people, “Oh, I'm reviewing what it's like to be racist.” It would take all the stakes away. Same with the sex tape: for her to have the true reaction of wondering why he was doing this without giving Forrest the chance to explain himself.
People asked about this a lot, particularly after the divorce. Was there a way you could have made that more clear in the show, or would it have just been clumsy exposition?
Andy Daly: We definitely talked about it, and we decided that it would be burdensome to put that explanation on the audience. The decision was made to just have fun with the premise. In retrospect, given the number of people who have asked about it, it's a tough call. For some people, who are logical-minded – and I am one of them – this was a sticking point. Other people would have heard the explanation, and it would've gone in one ear and out the other. And in the sex tape scene, she's saying, “What's going on? This isn't like you.” I wanted to find a spot in there to explain in voiceover, but it would have been a big digression from the topic.
Even though it hasn't aired yet, he's getting a lot of suggestions for reviews.
Andy Daly: I know; what's the logic of that? They put the word out on the internet. It doesn't seem unreasonable that you could solicit on Craigslist or whatever.
How long did it take to come up with “There all is aching” and its true meaning?
Andy Daly: That one was all Andy Blitz. Originally, it was @TheRealLisaLing, but it didn't make as much sense. Originally, it was two mistakes: the breaking of someone's name into words, and then a misspelling to “There all is ailing.” So we had a lot of ideas, and then all of it was in Andy Blitz's head.
I'm assuming that eating the pancakes was the most difficult review for you yourself to have to do. Or was there something harder?
Andy Daly: Actually, the orgy was probably the hardest day of the shoot. It was a night shoot, a rare night shoot, the call time wasn't until 4 p.m., and we didn't wrap until dawn. That's always disorienting and weird, and this was already a weird scene. Everybody's in freaky masks, and wearing flesh colored skin tight bras and tiny shorts. And we were in an abandoned mansion somewhere way out of town in the wilderness, and it was in the heat. And the snack plate that was being passed around had rotten vegetables on it, and the smell filled up the whole place. It was an unpleasant night! And that script, we went into the shoot with more written than we had time that day.
How many pancakes did you actually eat?
Andy Daly: I would say I swallowed the total equivalent of one pancake, over the course of a day where I theoretically ate 45, because we shot them both at the same time. There was a lot of spitting pancake into buckets, but they all had Aunt Jemima syrup on them. I got tingly at a certain point in the day, and it was because I had ingested all that sugar.
Where did the idea for the pancakes come from?
Andy Daly: The original idea was that we thought it would be funny to have Forrest have to do something really trivial right before having to divorce his wife. That was the original gag. I think it was Jeff Blitz who proposed having to eat 15 pancakes, but Andy says it was our writers assistant Sarah Tapscott, who's now a writer on “Kroll Show,” who suggested that the following review should be 30 pancakes, which is a brilliant idea.
(The waitress brings Daly his pancakes.)
Has there been any social pressure on you to consume pancakes, since the show aired?
Andy Daly: No. But people will jokingly ask me to rate things on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, which is slowly driving me insane. The character does that. I don't do it. Having said that, these pancakes are a five star experience.
I was a little ambivalent about the idea of the show returning, just because the season finale was such a perfect ending. Is that something you guys were thinking about as you made it?
Andy Daly: I think we really felt like just going for broke in season 1. There were occasionally ideas where we would say, “That's a season 2 idea,” but as far as the narrative and how it continues, we didn't get into any detail of that while writing season 1. We're getting into it now, and it's a lot of fun. I don't know what else I can say, except that we loved working with Jessica St. Clair, and I expect you would see some more of Suzanne.
Will we be seeing Grant again?
Andy Daly: I would imagine so.
James Urbaniak is so good.
Andy Daly: I didn't know until I watched the footage how often he would stare down the barrel of the camera. I don't know where that came from, but I love it.
I just love the tension of him saying Forrest made him promise not to let him off the hook.
Andy Daly: The thing we talked about a lot was “Young Frankenstein.” We had a big discussion at the beginning of the show: did Forrest come up with the show, or did Grant have the idea and hire Forrest to do it? Eventually, we felt it was more powerful if it's coming from Forrest. So the relationship with Grant is that he brought him in as his own enforcer. And there's that scene in “Young Frankenstein” where he's going in to talk to the monster and says, “No matter what you hear, don't let me out!”
Where did the idea of having dead Fred Willard floating in space come from?
Andy Daly: Jeff Blitz had heard a story from a friend of his who took a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, and the tour company gives you a video at the end of your experience, and it's a cut-up collection of footage of you and your family, edited together with footage of what you were looking at. And what happened to this guy is that one of his kids was throwing up and crying the whole time, so that the footage they got back from the tour company was a beautiful pristine shot of the Grand Canyon, hard cut to kid throwing up and crying, hard cut to a beautiful pristine shot of the Grand Canyon… That's where it started.
The first season was in the can for a year. How does it feel to have this thing you've done quite a while ago finally see the light of day and get this response?
Andy Daly: It felt great. I knew it was going to be annoying to have to sit on it for so long, when they told me we couldn't premiere until spring of 2014. But what I didn't realize was that I was going to have so much time to second-guess every single thing about the show, where I began thinking, “Oh, none of this works. People are going to hate this!” It was a huge relief. If there had been less of a lag time, I wouldn't have been able to go to that dark place. But as my wife will tell you, every week, I would say, “Well, I know people liked last week's episode, but this is the one where they're going to turn on us.”
It's not going to be a similar delay for season 2, right?
Andy Daly: I have no idea. We're going to start writing in the next month, and we ought to be ready to air by spring. But it's a complicated process to decide when to air shows. When we were shooting the first season, we had an airdate of July 2013, airing at the same time as “Drunk History.” But something happened where they looked at their promotional budget and realized they didn't have enough money to promote us. And the way it works with the budgetary calendar, there wouldn't have been significant money until the calendar flipped over to 2014.
You said before that when you watched the Australian version, you said that this was you. But there are multiple versions of you that people know. There's the sitcom guest star Andy Daly versus the sketch comedy guy Andy Daly. Do you feel like this is a pure expression of who you are as a writer/performer?
Andy Daly: I don't know that I thought of this as a fastball across the plate for me to hit out. It was just a character to take on. But I was excited about the possibility of taking an uptight, straightlaced guy and driving him into the dirt – putting him into extreme situations and see what happens to that guy, which is something that I love to do. So in that sense, it is a perfect project for me. I'm aware that there are a lot of people who really love what I do as sketch characters, but this isn't that. So I don't know. It's two different careers I have in a way, but this is a pretty good expression of the one career that I have, where I play guys who are like myself.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com