As dreams go, running a TV show with your best friend while using the city you love as a playground sounds pretty upper echelon. That’s Sam Richardson’s life as the co-creator and co-star of Comedy Central’s Detroiters (which returns with a double episode on Thursday at 10 pm EST). But while life seems pretty good for Richardson (who is also a part of the Veep ensemble) and Tim Robinson, Richardson’ aforementioned best friend and creative partner, there isn’t any hint that the pair is simply enjoying the ride or resting on their laurels. They want Detroiters to grow.
We recently spoke with Richardson about the process of making that season two growth happen, his interest in telling stories about male friendship, where to get a real Detroit coney dog, and the Dad rock viral sensation that is “April in the D” music videos.
This show is one where, when it came out, I wanted to see it and didn’t catch it. But I just went through the whole thing last weekend, and I really like it.
Sam Richardson: Thanks. Yeah, that was like a thing. You know, like trying to get people to see a new show is so hard because there’s so much stuff out there. But I think when people see the show, you know… we poured our guts into it, so we’re really proud of it. And the second season is better than the first, honestly.
It’s interesting, but when you watch them all in one sitting like I did — like I literally watched 15 episodes on a Sunday — you see a clear change in the characters in season two. It feels like they’re a little more three-dimensional. Was that an intentional progression for you guys?
Well, it’s intentional, yes. And we’re also learning how to better write a show. You know what I mean? Just between the first season and the second season. Like, writing your first season, you kind of learn as your going how the characters worked and how the show itself worked. Like, what the rules are.
So, the second season, you already have that blueprint a little bit, so you can take that. You know the rules of how these guys work and you can build on that so you don’t have to stress so much in the writing process about like, what’s this guy say? Because you already know what he’d say or like what the things are he’d say, so that you can just play around with that more. If that makes sense.
It does. They’re just like better people, though. I don’t want to give anything away, but they make a decision with someone on the staff early this season that I don’t know that they would have made in the first because I don’t know that they would have cared to make it in the first season.
Also, I feel like you guys are using the ensemble a little bit more. Again, was that a conscious choice at the end of season one to broaden who you guys were writing for a little bit more than just you and Tim?
Yeah. It was important for us to expand the world. You know, the first season you really want to get to know the two main guys, but then once you know them, then you can build that world of Detroit now. So really, we say Detroit is a third character in the show. It’s like the third star of the show is Detroit. So all the people who are in there, including everybody in the office, it’s more fun to get them more things to do. Like giving more stuff to Teddy and more stuff to Sheila. Like doing a Sheila-centric episode. Like to really get to play with all the people we brought into this world by trying to bring in, even more, is a really fun thing in the second season.
You guys start season two kind of on a high in terms of the business. I’m curious what’s more fun to write and more fun to play: when the guys are doing well or when they’re struggling?
That’s a good question because when they’re doing well it’s really fun to play with these guys being overly cocky about how well they’re doing. Just really thinking they’re at a ten when they’re at like a six and a half. That’s fun. But then it’s also really fun to yell and scream when you’re angry, which these guys do a lot of. But I think I always land on the screaming. I think that’s where I would rest my hat. So when they’re down in the dumps is like my favorite side.
I saw a press announcement semi-recently that was about you teaming up with Adam Pally and Jay Pharaoh to do a project. What is it about male friendship that’s interesting to you and something you wanna write about, create, act in?
I don’t know. I think I’m just, like, a perfect friend. [Laughs]
[Laughs] That’s a great answer.
I don’t know. Jokes aside. There’s something about being in tandem with somebody else. The opportunity hasn’t come to be in a friendship show with a woman. But so far it’s been two-handers, like me and Tim Simons [on Veep], me and Tim Robinson, and me and Adam Pally. I just like to play off of someone. I think I’m really good at that. Especially with Tim [Robinson], above all else. He’s my actual best friend, so that is a given.
The “April In The D” thing is not something that I was aware of. What is it and do you have any personal experience with it?
“April in the D” was when all the Detroit sports were happening at the same time. And that happens everywhere. But they have a contest to write the song for April in the D and people would submit their videos to win this contest. So, like all these garage bands, like Dad bands write awful songs and make these music videos for them so that was always a really funny thing to look up. If you look them up on YouTube, “April in the D,” you’ll find tons of just the most hilarious videos. I’m sorry if you have one, but oof. They are very funny.
I really like the one you and Tim do in the season premiere. I thought it was pretty good. You guys got skills.
Yeah, we got skills. We’re really proud of them. And Tim Meadows is so funny in that episode.
So, one last very specific Detroit question. We have a guy on staff here who is the amateur food champion of Detroit, essentially, and he wanted me to ask for your opinion on Lafayette vs. American for a coney dog?
Lafayette. Lafayette, Lafayette, Lafayette, Lafayette, Lafayette.
Wow, so that’s not even a question.
Lafayette. Lafayette. When you said food, I was like, “It’s gonna be Lafayette or American.” It’s Lafayette a hundred percent.
I’m from New Jersey and I know nothing of the Coney dog. What is a Coney dog and why is Lafayette so special? Make me come to Detroit.
I’m gonna make you come to Detroit. Well, first off, they’re both downtown and the buildings are attached. Like Lafayette is directly next door to American. They are attached. But American Coney Island is the touristy one, so it’s like a big, tourist spot. Lafayette Coney Island is like a dive bar kind of. It’s just more simple but it’s always so packed because it’s great. So if you’re a real down Detroiter, Lafayette is where you’re hanging your hat. But I mean of course you’ll go to American, you’ll go anywhere to pick up a coney dog, it’s life. Any time I have my druthers, I’m going to Lafayette.
‘Detroiters’ returns to Comedy Central on Thursday, June 21 at 10 pm EST.