The Other Two might seem like a cynical look at viral fame through the lens of late-millennial angst, but the Comedy Central series (which debuts tonight at 10:30 pm EST) is actually that and a sweet take on family. Specifically, a messed up family touched by fame and tragedy. And also hangers-on. Ken Marino plays one of those hangers-on in the form of a manager named Streeter, who attaches to the young career of ChaseDreams (the YouTube famous pop star sibling of the show’s main characters) like a barnacle. But, to hear Marino tell it, his character isn’t all that bad.
When I spoke with the ubiquitous comic actor (Wet Hot American Summer, Party Down, and so much else) about the chase for fame and the depth of The Other Two he was as open and effusive about series creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider and his castmates as he was in the mood to keep things loose. What follows is a cross between an interview about the show and a darkly comedic bit of banter about my crappy connection, weird hotels, his lazy river dreams, and his demise at the hands of, well, this interview.
With Burning Love (which Marino starred in and co-produced) and The Other Two it seems like you gravitate toward a similar topic. What is it about the quest for this sort of weird fame that appeals to you in terms of these projects?
Ken Marino: That’s a fantastic question and I wish I had an answer that made me seem like I really wanna delve into this topic. But the truth is, Burning Love was something… an idea my wife came up with. We watched that show [The Bachelor], it was a guilty pleasure, so we did a satire of that genre. And then the reason I did this is because I met Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider and they were fantastic people and they were funny people and I respected the work that they did in the past. I just came on board to do it. I mean, I suppose I responded to the subject matter but I’ve never really thought about it on a deeper level until you just asked that question.
You’ve been famous for a while, though. How is, I don’t wanna say “the scene” because I don’t know if you’re a party boy, but in general, the universe around being noticed and being notable and going to events… how has that changed since you’ve been around?
I still feel like I’m just trying to hustle and I feel like I’m on the outside looking in and I’m just trying to get the next good gig and hope that the previous work I’ve done is something that makes people interested in working with me. I don’t know how I’m necessarily perceived by people as far as if I’m recognizable or not. I just don’t feel that, I don’t see that. I’m just trying to be honest. I’m just trying to get the next good gig and work with really good people because life is short and keeps getting shorter ’cause I’m getting old and I’m gonna die soon and I appreciate you bringing it up now.
This is good. I wanna make sure this is a dark interview. That way everybody on the internet will be really focused on it like the line in that Conan interview with the New York Times. I wanna really take this to a really dark and macabre place.
You can call it “Ken Marino’s Last Interview.”
[Laughs] Exactly. Perfect.
They found him in a hotel room later that day.
I will build my career on the bedrock of your downfall.
[Laughs] I appreciate that. I want success for you.
And I want success for me too. Thank you.
Let me put it this way, though, you see how people kind of chase fame, and to me, I would imagine that it’s a little different than it was 15, 20 years ago. As someone who focuses mostly on the work, is it odd to you to see so many people try to get those gift bags and get that kind of lifestyle through reality TV or through YouTube fame or social media?
Yeah, it’s a different game now. I think I feel like the younger generation, a lot of people, especially with social media and all that stuff, people just, they just want the fame and they’re not necessarily floating out anything other than “hey, look at me opening up this box. I don’t know what’s in the box and it could be crazy.” Then they get a million views and then they’re famous and it’s a strange thing. Anytime my daughter or my son say something along the lines of “I wanna be famous,” we get into a deeper conversation about well, it’s not about becoming famous. It’s about working hard and doing the best you can and finding something that you love. But it’s a different world right now with people just wanting to become famous just to become famous. It strikes me as odd, and for me, back when I was younger, that was never a goal. I just wanted to act and do comedy with my comedy friends and then if something happened, something happened. Maybe I was wrong! Maybe that was the wrong approach to life. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Yeah, probably. Looking at the landscape, I think you definitely fucked up.
I fucked up. I should have just went for the fame.
There’s still time.
[Laughs] No, it’s slipping away. This is my last interview! We went over that.
The level of investment that Streeter has in Chase’s life kind of borders on the sycophantic and creepy. It just really feels like he’s a vapid hanger-on and then he kind of develops a little bit of a sadness.
I don’t see it as creepy, but goddamn it, you’re just really chipping away and chipping away! My feeling about Streeter is he’s just a guy who wants to make a personal connection with this family and considers himself family even though everybody in that family doesn’t consider him family. Chris and Sarah were very smart in layering in a little bit more depth as the season goes on for that character and they give him a little bit of humanity. He’s sort of a pathetic guy but I think his heart’s in the right place. He just has some extreme ideas on how to make this kid famous. Chris and Sarah describe him as this mad genius. Like you think he doesn’t know what the hell’s going on but he’s got the big picture in his head. That’s what we were trying to do. But, he’s fragile. He’s a Faberge egg.
Is there a want to explore some of Streeter’s back story a little bit more? Get to know what’s at the heart of him.
Of course. If the show goes on, it’ll be fun to go deeper into every character. One of the things that I pitched that we’ll never do… but Chris and Sarah, we met for coffee about the character and I was like, “I feel like he’s the kind of guy who, he lives in LA and his second house is in LA and he’s been working on a lazy river pool around his house and it’s half done and he’s always talking about it and there’s just always more and more complications so it never gets done so he just has this dry moat around his house, this uncompleted lazy river around his house.” They were like, “that’s fantastic, that’ll never be in the show but that’s a terrific idea.” I feel like they just sort of humored me and I was like, in my head, it was crystal clear that this was who the guy was. But hindsight being 20/20, I realized that was very smart of them not to put that idea into the show.
I don’t know that I agree. I feel like that might be a missing element. That might be something they wanna put in season two. I really feel like you might be on to something.
You know what? I’m gonna go 180 on that and I think you’re absolutely right and I’m gonna call them as soon as we get off the phone to let them know. Although, as we said, this is my final interview.
I’ll be offing myself in this lonely hotel that I’m in.
[Laughs] Is that because they reject the idea on the second pitch and they just turn you down flat?
I’m gonna leave a note. My final note is gonna be “why didn’t you do the lazy river idea?” [Laughs] And then “goodbye!”
It’d be really great if you were in one of those hotels with a waterpark attached to it or something. Some theme hotel. I think that would be poignant. “He was so close.”
I wish I was in one of those hotels. I’m in a hotel where the walls look like Swiss cheese and there’s a chain link shower curtain. I’m a little confused by this hotel.
Just going back because I missed an opportunity for a follow up. Streeter has this fragility, Ron from Party Down was fragile. What is it about that kind of character that you feel like you’re drawn to?
For me, I just like making sure that characters have humanity or something that you can kind of relate to. We all get… Nobody’s confident all the time. I think giving somebody a flaw like that… it helps to kind of round out the character. They can say stupid things or they can be aggressive but then you also see that they don’t even know they’re fully sure of what they’re saying.
Alright, awesome. Thank you so much for the time. I apologize for my phone. I appreciate you bearing with me on that.
There’s a bear with you?
There is! He’s coming for me. I can’t stop him.
Maybe this is your last interview.
That would probably be for the best. This is a fine place to stop, I think. A fine high note for me so I’m content with that.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think this is our best work. I think you handled the heavy lifting certainly. I’m over here finishing my iced coffee and regretting everything I’ve said.
That’s how I like to leave an interview… with the person questioning everything they’ve said in a room with a shower curtain that’s made out of a fence contemplating jumping off the balcony… All right, man, it’s been a pleasure.
I know it’s probably too early to say this, but, I love you.
Okay, now I have a question. I have a real question that I have to ask, because… Do you say that to all the boys and girls that you do interviews with? Because you said the same thing to me last time and I thought it was special and now I just don’t know.
I never kiss and tell.
‘The Other Two’ premieres on Comedy Central Thursday at 10:30 pm EST.