Zach Woods Talks About His Stop Motion Comedy ‘In The Know’ And The Poses We Throw To Be Seen

In The Know is funny. That’s the first and most important thing that you need to know about Peacock’s freshly released stop-motion animated workplace comedy that’s set in the world of public radio. The second most important thing that I want to call out is how well-crafted the show is. From the minds of actor/filmmaker Zach Woods, Mike Judge (Silicon Valley, Beavis And Butthead), Greg Daniels (The Office, King Of The Hill), and a vast team of puppeteers, animators, writers, actors, and artisans, In The Know looks gorgeous and feels utterly unique, mining the quirks and triggers of its dysfunctional work family for laughs while also saying something about the poses we throw.

I thought about the intricacies of pulling off a show like In The Know when I was going back over this interview with Woods, specifically when he paused for a moment to consider his answer to an early question about the intention of the show.

These kinds of interviews sometimes run on people’s ability and willingness to be front of mind and riff (having the charity of spirit to tolerate stupid questions helps too). There’s a fair bit of that here. But it’s wonderful when someone pauses to really think about a question so that they can deliver a thoughtful response, as Woods does, tying together the show, his childhood, the notion of fame, and our universal need to be seen. None of this is very surprising considering the show he’s promoting or my past conversations with the actor (The Office, Silicon Valley, Avenue 5) and filmmaker, but it’s a nice thing to advertise upfront before you dive in. So, you have that depth and clarity to look forward to. Also thoughts on the stop-motion process, the show’s use of live-action interviews, how Woods located his NPR vocal stylings, tote bags vs. cocaine, strangling Mike Judge’s balls, lazy, good-for-nothing sperm, and his condition for returning to a hypothetical reboot of The Office.

Where did your interest in using stop-motion for this come from?

The reason we chose stop-motion is because given that it is a show about fragile, slightly breakable, kind of precious little people who are being controlled by forces that are beyond their own awareness, puppetry seemed like a perfect medium to capture that. And then something we discovered as we were going is that because each character is animated by 30 different animators, there’s kind of a multifacetedness bred into each character as a result of that process because you have 30 different parents basically for each character. So there’s a very dynamic way of bringing a character to life, I think.

The idea of these characters, specifically Lauren, being sort of performatively interesting, is that mostly about what was right for that character, or is that for you, a larger comment on the social media age and how a lot of people are?

Wow, that’s a great question. I think when I was growing up, I was in a very verbal family. There was a degree of intellectual sparring and there was this sort of feeling that you had to have very sophisticated taste or something. I don’t know where it was from, but there’s just this, I don’t know, I guess I felt like I had to be eloquent. Sorry, I want to figure out a way to say this that really does justice to that question.

Here’s what I think: I think I, like many people, have spent large swaths of my life feeling like in order to be lovable, I have to be in some way remarkable or something. And I think that’s a dangerous and backward assumption. I think what makes us lovable is generally not our flashiest parts, but our most human parts. But it’s very, very hard to believe that about yourself. I find it very easy to believe about other people because you witness other people. And if I think about the people I love, sure, many of them are intelligent, many of them are smart, many of them are funny, but that’s not really what I love about them. What I love about them is some sort of mushy humanness that I could never really articulate.

I think that pressure is connected to what you’re saying about social media where you’re branding yourself or you’re performing yourself or you’re being branded by somebody else, or the kind of tyranny of a marketing approach to every aspect of human life is fucked up. It makes everyone lonely and inadequate feeling. I mean, I’m all for marketing when it’s marketing, but when you find yourself marketing yourself in intimate relationships or in your workplace when you’re with your colleagues who you’re ostensibly trying to do something meaningful with, that’s when it can start to feel like it’s a kind of slow-acting acid test on everything good about you. Does that make sense?

It absolutely does. To me, I suffer from people pleasing. I think when you don’t realize these ways that you kind of contort yourself to win people’s affection, I don’t know… It’s like being numb and not realizing the acid and then you just look down at your skeleton. That got dark.

No, I think you’re right. I agree. Now I’m going to become insufferable and long-winded as usual.


Here’s what I’ll say. I think a lot of people want to be famous because they’re lonely and they think if they’re seen, they will be known. But they are very different things. To be seen in a kind of literal way is very different from being known or understood or cared for. And I think it can be this kind of bizarre narcotic where people want to be seen so they feel less lonely, but then they’re seen and they still feel as lonely as ever. So then they need to be seen even more. And there’s this kind of addiction to it because you’re just hoping with one more view, with one more success, with one more award, that someone will actually know who you are.

But I don’t think that’s the right place to go looking for that, and that’s hardly a novel idea. But I think that’s one thing, and something that truly hadn’t occurred to me until this moment talking to you is that I guess each of the characters (in In The Know) is contorting themselves in some unnatural way. For Lauren, he’s trying to seem urbane and sophisticated and smart, and no pun intended, but “in the know.” For Fabian, I think she’s so vulnerable and feels so dismissed and marginalized that she’s sort of posturing as this sort of bellicose culture warrior when really I think she feels invisible in a way. And she’s screaming so much partly because I think she’s worried that no one gives a shit about her or the fact that she’s in pain or what she actually believes. Barb I think is shrinking herself down to the size of a thimble because she feels like that’s what’s expected of her and that’s how people value her.

How do you find the right combination in terms of these characters? What helps you balance Fabian versus Lauren? Each character is unique, but they all fit together, which is sort of the magic of a workplace comedy, and I feel like you guys really aced it here.

Thanks. Most shows have a family at the center of them. And in this case, it’s not a biological family, it’s not even a chosen family. It’s an unchosen, non-biological family that these people are all part of. And we would talk about them that way, where Barb is a kind of long-suffering self-sacrificing mother. Lauren is an indulged baby boy. Fabian’s an agro teen. Chase is the golden retriever. Sandy is the weird stowaway who rents a room above the garage. Carl is the soft-spoken, well-intended dad who is out in his workshop with his copies of Popular Mechanics all weekend, but who will pick you up from the airport even if it’s 3:00 AM.

Finding these kind of archetypes, familial archetypes, was helpful. I think another thing that’s helpful is to try to remember what each of their core kind of little kids are. It sounds a little facile, like inner child shit, whatever. But we try to enjoy the more obnoxious, outlandish behavior while simultaneously staying connected to the core vulnerabilities that results in that obnoxious behavior.

This is sort of like a who’s your favorite kid kind of question, but is it more fun for you when you’re doing the interviews on the show with someone that you’ve worked with before and who you have that built-in rapport with like Hugh Laurie, or is it more fun when you’re doing it with someone like Mike Tyson? And hey, I don’t know your life, maybe you and Mike Tyson go way back and hang out all the time.

Mike Tyson and I have a stitch and bitch where we get together and just kind of quietly crochet stuff, but it’s both. In other words, they’re different kinds of fun. So with Hugh Laurie, it’s like doing a scene together and it’s kind of playing off of each other. With someone like Mike Tyson, it’s just that I’m so fascinated by him, and he also is so smart and surprising and contradictory. So the pleasure of talking to Mike Tyson was more like what I would imagine it feels like to be an interviewer talking to an interesting subject. And the pleasure of working with someone like Hugh Laurie, is that it’s almost like doing an improv scene with someone you’ve worked with a bunch of times. So they tickle kind of different nerve centers. What a gross way of saying something was fun. They tickle nerve centers? It’s both creepy and bizarrely clinical.

Sounds moist.

I regret everything I’ve done that led me to this point in my life where I made that metaphor.

Lauren’s voice is somewhat close to your own, but there’s still that NPR voice. How did you get to the NPR place?

I think random pauses and a kind of puckish naughty quality. They always have this kind of intellectual naughty boy, like we were provoking, we’re challenging some sacred cows. And I always thought that that was kind of crazy and interesting. But unfortunately and fortunately, I am very close to Lauren Caspian.

Tote bags as a giveaway — useful or bullshit?

I mean, as far as swag goes, it’s pretty good. I got to admit.

I guess. There are better things.

Yeah, I mean, listen. Small vials of potent cocaine would be preferred, but barring that, I’ll take the tote bag.

Man, they really took care of you guys on Silicon Valley, huh?

They did a really nice job.

It’s not TV, it’s HBO.

(Laughs) That’s right, that’s right. You know what I’m talking about.

That was Mike Judge’s real voice at the end the In The Know season finale, right? His real singing voice. He’s like an angel.

(Laughs) Oh, yeah. Yeah, he’s an angel. We had to tie twine around his testicles until they lost circulation so that he could hit those notes, but it was worth it, for me at least. He’s a gamer. He doesn’t feel great about the process, but I was like, “Mike, it’s a really good 20 seconds.”

Yeah, so of course now he has passive sperm (just like Wood’s character on the show) because of that. May I overshare with you?


At this point, we’re such good friends… So I had to go through the whole process of getting (fertility) tested (like Lauren), and the word they used was not passive sperm. It was lazy.

Are you fucking kidding me?!

So when I was watching this, I was like, that must be just a much nicer doctor because mine was like, “It’s lazy.” I was like, all right, well, judgment.

It’s a character judgment. That’s fucking crazy that it’s like not only are they not doing what you want them to do, but it’s because of a deficit of work ethic.

Yeah. There’s no ambition.

Your sperm is potheads.

I may consult a urologist for this article. I’m wondering if there’s a clinical distinction between lazy and passive sperm.

(Laughs) I was told this was for the New England Journal of Medicine. Is this not?

I do have one last question and this allows me to put in the headline that I asked you about The Office. There’s been some talk about a reboot. If there was a chance to go back and play Gabe again, is that something you’d be interested in?

No. I will only play Erin. That is the only way I would agree, is if they’ll dye my hair red, put some freckles on my face and allow me to be the plucky source of optimism and good feeling in The Office.

The first season of ‘In The Know’ is available to stream on Peacock