How The Bread Is Made: Episode 98
EPISODE 98: A WORTHY UHHH
This episode had one of the most surprising reactions to it from the fans, and one I didn’t expect: They seemed to extremely dislike it. Some almost intensely so.
I remember leaving the taping so excited about its release. I couldn’t wait for everyone to hear what I thought was another awesome episode with a madcap, surprise twist ending. So what went wrong?
Let’s back up to the beginning: The first piece of the puzzle that went into the making of this ep was the booking of Adam Scott. Adam is a great actor and funny guy whom I’ve known for maybe around a decade. You, of course, know him from Parks & Recreation, Step Brothers and Party Down. When we first met, through “Tall Jon” Schroeder (a man whom you’ll hear much about in both this blog and, hopefully, your life), he revealed himself to be a big fan of Mr. Show.
This put me at ease, as I am generally uncomfortable around celebrities. We struck up a mild acquaintance; where we didn’t really keep in touch and seldom saw each other. Yay, friendship!
(One thing about doing this show, and the Tuesday night UCB show, is that they give me opportunities to see people like Adam much more often than I would if I were sitting at home not doing anything but writing. So I have it to thank for sort of “reconnecting” us, as it were. He’s a great guy, and really helped me out recently with agreeing to be in, and committing a LOT of time to, the CBB TV pilot.)
When I started doing the show at Indie 103.1, they made it clear that me getting celebrities on was an important part of why they let me do the show. So I went about trying to book anyone I knew who had some sort of connection to show business. I put a feeler out to Adam, whom I didn’t much expect to get back to me in a timely manner, if at all.
So consider me surprised when he immediately got back to me and said he would love to do the show. That episode, 49 (Family Counseling) was a pretty good one, as I recall, but Adam’s legacy in CBB history was cemented on his second appearance, Episode 80 (Enigma Force Five Reunion), alongside Maestro James Adomian.
(I’m sure I’ll talk about that particular episode at some point, but if you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and download it. Or at least stream it, you goddam computer-memory-skinflint! It’s what they call in the biz “a stone cold classic.”)
So, prior to this episode, I was itching to get to a reunion of Adam and James. Eighteen weeks later, the domino pieces fell, and they were both available. HISTORY IN THE MAKING, AMIRITE?
Gulp. What resulted is, I feel, a very funny episode, with an incredibly weird and bonkers ending, initiated by Mr. Scott, that transcends the usual. But, surrounding it is some improv that isn’t quite working.
As Jason Mantzoukas said to me a few days after its release, “Okay – we know it didn’t work. The question is why?” What was the problem?
Most of you know (and if you don’t, get ready to HAVE YOUR MIND FUCKING BLOWN, BROOOOO) that most of what we do on the show is unplanned – sometimes to the extreme, where seconds before we start, we sort of say, “Hey, what are we doing this week?” And everyone is there, waiting for the show to start, and I don’t want to waste people’s time, so I just kind of rush through it and say, “uh-huh, yeah, okay – that all sounds good. Let’s just start.”
In hindsight, I don’t think James Adomian actually wanted to do an Alan Rickman impression. I believe that he just wanted to do the character of “The Sheriff Of Nottingham,” who would be obsessed with capturing Maid Marian, but eventually revealing himself to be a Machiavellian homosexual (which is based on a piece in James’s wonderful standup act, which, unfortunately, at that point, I had not seen).
Even though we started there, for some reason – either I was confused, or I didn’t think that particular character was going exactly as well as I thought it should have – I threw James a curveball. I threw out that he really was Alan Rickman, playing the Sheriff of Nottingham. I sold his character out.
Now, James is a professional in every sense. A true improv genius, who says “yes and” in any situation. So, of course, he agreed that he was really the actor Alan Rickman. And we went with it, and he started in about how he wanted to steal the studio’s gold, like Alan Rickman’s character wanted to in Die Hard.
Ultimately, however, I think James came in wanting to do more of a caricature of a villain. And, to my dismay, reviews of the show centered on how his Alan Rickman impression didn’t sound much like the real Mr. Rickman. This is one-hundred-percent my fault.
But that’s not the only thing misfiring. If you listen to the episode back (and we left everything in – no edits – because, remember, I thought people would love it and want to hear every second of it), you’ll hear what I think is a fascinating glimpse into people trying to find the “game,” or the hook, of their improv. You can hear us circling around each other, trying to hit upon something that we know will work and we can further exploit.
Now, I have never taken an improv class, so I also believe this to be also my fault – perhaps were I more skilled at it, it may not have taken so long for us to hit on a usable angle.
And if I weren’t so in love with the ending, maybe I would have gone home and edited down some of the dead spots. I wonder if the show were only 1 hour 10, would people have had more patience for it? We’ll never know.
But I still love that ending – instigated by Adam, where he just, for some reason known only to him, started repeating “A worthy, uh…” over and over and over and over again. God bless him.