Talking to the ‘Workaholics’ Guys About Writing Smartly for Dumb Characters, Catchphrases, and Who Would Win in a Fight
Contrary to what you might think, it takes a lot of talent to portray idiocy. It takes genius to do so week in and week out on one of the funniest shows on TV. The guys behind Workaholics, a team of four best friends, created, write, direct, produce, and star in the hit show on Comedy Central which is returning tonight for the second half of its third season. The show has just been picked up for a 4th and 5th season, so expect the idiocy to continue for quite some time. Here, we sit down with the gang and talk to them about their history, the show, and what we can expect in the coming seasons.
Kyle and Blake, how did you guys meet?
Blake: We first met each other in 3rd grade. We wrote comic books together called the Funyun Protectors. It was about Funyun the chip.
Kyle: We would write it, and I would draw it. We would come up with stories about basically giant Funyuns with a ring of power, kind of like the stone protectors.
What were the big plots?
Kyle: Well there were two main bad guys, fungus and moldy cheese. That’s all I can remember.
And despite everything you guys remained friends till now?
Blake: Well, actually lovers and friends.
Kyle: Brothers and friends and mothers, and lovers.
When did you start doing comedy together?
Kyle: I think in high school.
Blake: All of us started doing comedy together for Mail Order Comedy in 2003.
Kyle: Actually, Blake that was 2006.
Adam: Well, I met Blake and Kyle first day of community college in Orange County in improv class. I moved from Omaha, Nebraska. We both made videos in high school, and one night we got together and showed each other the videos and judged each other. Kyle moved up to L.A. to go to film school — and I moved six months later, and met Ders at the Second City Conservatory.
So, was it love at first sight?
Adam: Yea, it was love at first sight. Actually, besides for Kyle trying to fight Ders the first time he met him.
Kyle: I was very drunk and had no idea who he was.
Ders: If you are the tallest guy in the room with Kyle, he’s gonna try to fight you. No matter what. For male dominance reasons. He is the most primal guy ever. He is the original man, basically.
Adam: Kyle was in one of his fighting moods — he swung on me and missed me several times that night. He passed out and woke up and saw Ders holding his (Kyle’s) set of Jamie Foxx DVDS, looking like he was going to take it home with him. Then when he got up he swung on Ders saying that you can’t take those DVD’s those are Adam’s friend’s DVD.
Have you ever punched each other in the face?
Adam: Incorrect, Ders. Kyle punched me right in the face and dislocated my jaw right before Thanksgiving. And I couldn’t eat my mandatory 10 pounds of food for Thanksgiving, which was a real bummer. We were roommates for seven or so years, and we had a period in which we would fight every once a year or so, like really swing on each other.
How do you guys stay so close while spending so much time together?
Kyle: I think when it comes down to it, we are just real best friends. We see the bullshit as bullshit. Like, we know what’s real and when we get together and work on something that is real.
Adam: At this point, we are like brothers. I have spent more time with these dudes than I have with my family. I still live with Blake — year six or seven. (I love you Blake!)
Ders: You guys are going to start looking like each other soon. Kyle’s gonna carry my first baby, Blake’s gonna inseminate me.
Adam: I get to be the cool uncle that takes the kid on adventures.
Ders: Yea, you know, where like you pick up a carton of cigarettes and just go on the road.
Blake: Tight butthole.
So Workaholics, how did that come together?
Adam: We were doing internet sketches for several years before the show, like 70-80 in total. Comedy Central saw our stuff online, brought us in, and liked the idea of our webseries, The 5th Year. Then they asked us to pitch that to the president of Comedy Central. But right at the same time we just finished the wizard album, the wizard beats — “Purple Magic,” (available on itunes), and we made some videos for it. So we kept on wanting to pitch ourselves as gangsta wizards, but Seth Cohen who works at Comedy Central told us not to pitch that “fucking wizard show.” I think we still brought it up at the big meeting — I think we said i know we aren’t supposed to talk about it, but…
Who came up with the idea for a wizard rap group?
Adam: I actually don’t know.
Blake: We were doing our pilot for Super Seniors, and I think it came up then.
Adam: Oh right we were dressed as wizards and started gangsta rapping. And then we started doing it live, and people liked it so we decided to go with it. And Kyle became a real beat master in his bedroom.
So run me through a writing session.
Ders: We all get together that first day and pitch ideas. We all come in with numerous ideas, so we see if there is a germ of an episode, like a conflict for instance, then put it on the board, and see if we can do anything crazy with it. From there we then think about it from the characters perspective, what they could they do or lose if they don’t pull it off, and then we go on from there.
It doesn’t seem easy to continuously come up with real idiocy…
Ders: When we are writing stories, we’ve honed the rule to be, “What’s the stupidest thing to do to overcome the obstacle”? But within the parameters of the characters. And they chase it.
Adam: We spend a lot of time thinking about what’s the smartest dumb idea — what no regular person would do. Like no regular person would get their obese cousin to get the parking pass. They would just wake up earlier.
I know some of you come from an improv background. What’s the balance between a set script and improv in the moment?
Adam: We definitely script everything out. We write a solid script, but since its our words we don’t feel crazy tied to them. There is no writer behind the monitor who says you need to say these words. We do a scene once how it was written, then we get a little weird with it. And that is often the stuff that sticks. But we don’t improvise the story, just little moments. It’s just us talking to each other, not necessarily actors acting, that’s an important part of how the show gets made.
Going through your early stuff, a lot of characters and ideas persist. Moreover, there seems to be at least the impression that these people, in some way, reflect your own personalities. Is there any truth to that?
Adam: Look, I think we did so many internet videos along the way, that these characters have been around for so long, they are somewhat based off us but they are of course exaggerated. If I were my character I would be dead so many times. I would be dead if I was actually my character. This past season alone, I should have died at least four times.
But there does seem to be some overlap whether in the style of conversation, or the fact that you guys are real friends in real life…
Adam: I mean look, we are similar, and we talk like we talk on the show, to some extent.
Kyle: The characters started from a very real place, but then you put them in the dumbest situation and ask them to act the dumbest they could possibly act and it changes the dynamic completely. They started real and got so dumb and way cooler.
Ders: People who are normal aren’t fun to watch, but when you make someone really by the book or really crazy — you get comedy, and an abnormal outcome, which we love.
You guys use Tight Butt Hole pretty often, and it has gained cultural traction. Where did the phrase come from?
Kyle: Ders started it. At the time we were always, “that’s the tits.”
Adam: Ders got sick of it and thought, what is something better than tits? He said tight butthole. And then it was born.
Ders: You make me seem so weird
Adam: Yeah, then when we were writing the first season of the show, we said, let’s just say it and we did, and that’s what’s cool about having your own show, you can just throw out tight butt hole and it sticks.
You guys also have butthurt. Is there an end to butt phrases?
Kyle: So much more to come.
Adam: Much more butt stuff to do. It is a cavernous well that will never dry out.
Ders: Pun intended.
Q: You guys have a pretty rabid fan base. What’s that like?
Adam: Our fans are pretty die hard. We go to a concert or a bar and have a bunch of people know us and recognize us. It’s still pretty surreal to me. I mean, sometimes if I am on a date, and some guy comes up to me and screams tight butt hole, its not the most ideal situation, but for the most part everyone is great, and we love how much they like the show. We really work very hard on the show, its great to get that recognition.
Your humor is pretty unique, in that it lacks any cynicism or meanness. Is that something conscious?
Adam: We are pretty cognizant of stuff like that. We aren’t mean dudes, and we don’t like mean comedy. Sometimes it can be funny, but we like when everyone can be in on the joke, and its fun all around, why not just choose that? It’s not cool to have a mentally handicapped person on then make fun of him. It’s way cooler if he ends up being much cooler and smarter than the three main stars of the show, which did happen.
Do your families watch the show? What do they think about it?
Adam: My folks love it, almost too much. Last christmas was literally just pass the gravy its tight butt hole or the cranberry fluff gets me fully torqued. Everyone wouldn’t shut the fuck up about it. I had to sign shit for my cousin, and my 16-year-old cousin would be like, sign it to Jessica and say science class is real weird, and they ask me to sign a different sign for a different girl. I hoped he got laid off of it.
Q: If someone made a hallmark movie of your life, who would play each of you in the movie?
Kyle: I like to think my life would be portrayed by Chris Lloyd.
Blake: I would get Weird Al to grow his stache back and come back like a fucking juggernaut. The most honest thing i can say is that I owe everything in my life to Weird Al. I might tweet that at him, but I rather tell him in person, on set.
Ders: Tilda Swinton.
Adam: Sean Astin to play me. But he is sitting on all that Samwise money, so who knows if he would stoop to a Hallmark level, but it is a meaty role.
Who would win in a battle royale?
Ders: Kyle’s got the biggest hands, he’s got lunch pails. If I caught one of those, I would be down. Though I would punch him in the stomach first, make him vomit.
Kyle: Yea, but I would just puke, then punch you right back.
Joe Winkler is a freelance writer living in the Upper West Side. When not ingesting all things cultural, he attends classes for a Masters in English Literature at City College. To support this extravagant lifestyle, Joe teaches, tutors and babysits, unabashedly. He started writing with a personal blog, which allows him to indulge the ramblings of his mind. He began his writing career after he quit a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology because he realized that he likes people more in the abstract than in reality.