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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Talking to Armen Weitzman About MTV's 'Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous'

It's been a busy year for Armen Weitzman. The comedy actor/writer joined the cast of the Yahoo! web series Burning Love for its third season, has been working on a movie script with writing partner Harris Wittels, and he's playing his first regular TV role as comedian Bo Burnham's sidekick on the MTV show Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous. I recently had the chance to talk to Weitzman about Zach Stone, his beginnings in comedy, and relating to the characters he plays.

So, tell me about your character on the show.

The character is Greg. I would say he's the guy that looks up to Zach the most. Everyone else, I feel, is – you know those words – frustrated and all that stuff by his antics, but I think Greg is the only one that sort of looks up to him [and] sees the dreamer [and] wants to be like Zach, I would say. And he's a shy guy. He's a nervous guy.

Do you relate to the character at all?

Yeah, I relate to him, but I think also I definitely grew up more like Zach, I'd say, and I'm sure that I've treated other people the way he's treated Greg, so I learned about myself from that side of it too, I'd say. But yeah, I'm not as quiet as him, but I love the guy.

In what ways were you like Zach more specifically?

Specifically, I think I also was craving attention and saw myself as a young genius or whatever those things are. I'm sure I've made some of my friends feel like they were sort of the Greg character of my life. You know, just we're actors and stuff.

What was it like working with Bo Burnham?

Working with Bo was great. I would say that we really have a little connection going on in terms of comedy. He's a lot smarter than I am in terms of intelligence and books and stuff, but comedy-wise, I think it was a very classic pairing, I would say. Yeah, he's an inspiring, great guy. Not to be so nice, but yeah.

Do you have a favorite episode from the season?

"The Zachelor," which is where Zach does the dating show. I guess that was fun for me because he forced Greg to be the host of the show and Greg doesn't like to be the center of attention, so there was a lot of comedy there. It reminded me of Wayne's World in that part where Wayne leaves the stage and Garth is there by himself. It was just funny to see Greg be in front of the camera more when we really hates it.

How old were you when you knew you wanted to go into comedy?

Second grade, I guess. I never wanted to be anything else. I think I wanted to be a plumber like Super Mario when I was little, but then I learned that those were different things.

What was some of your favorite comedy growing up?

I'd say classic stuff. You know, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Monty Python. The Marx Brothers. Stuff like that. My dad showed me all that stuff. It was just sort of in my brain and in my veins or something like that. I would also weirdly say the Beatles in some weird way growing up very comedically taught me something. I know that sounds weird, but I feel like that's the correct answer if I can say it.

How'd you get into comedy and start performing on stage?

Those are two different answers because performing on stage, in theory, again was a second grade thing, which was like a play. Later in life, comedy was more in college. When I met some people there, we started doing sketch comedy.

You went to Emerson, right?

I did go to Emerson, which comes full-circle because the character of Zach is going to Emerson, but I didn't finish as they'd say – the old college finish. It was a great place. I met a lot of great people there who I work with today and perform at UCB [with] and stuff.

Who are some of the other comedians you went to school with?

My writing partner, Harris Wittels. As you know, he [created] Humblebrag, he writes on Parks and Rec. We met there at Emerson, so if I had never gone there, we never would have met. We did our show for a couple years at UCB, and we're working on this movie now that was sold.

Are you allowed to talk about what the movie is, or is it under wraps?

Let's just say it's a movie that we're working on. I have no idea if I'm allowed to [talk about it].

How'd you get started at UCB?

Well, I got lucky because I was in this movie called School for Scoundrels, which I don't know if anyone recalls, but it was a Todd Phillips movie with Jon Heder and Billy Bob Thornton. I played "Classmate #13" or whatever. It just so happened that the class was all these guys, like Aziz [Ansari] and Andrew Daly and Matt Walsh and Paul Scheer and Jon Glaser. I didn't know all those guys were best friends. They were like, "We do this stuff at UCB. You should come by." So, I think I got lucky being in that class or whatever, and then I had a sketch troupe. We started doing shows there. Yeah, they changed it all. They changed Armen's life. That was my first movie.

Was it intimidating being in that group of established comedic actors?

Yes, but also, I was so dumb that I didn't know they were all best friends. I think I just was like, "Hey, we're all…" because we were all just "Classmate # whatever" … I learned about it as I went on. I probably wasn't as tuned in as I should have been. Now, I am mostly. Everyone in that class, I feel, is very successful. Also, Jim Parsons was in that. That's before Big Bang Theory. One day, we'll have a reunion special maybe of all these guys. I'm the least successful, but anyways, that was my first movie. I thought we would all be brothers like Lord of the Rings or something, but I learned.

So you were in Burning Love Season 3. What was that like?

That was very much a "dream come true" sort of situation. I think I got very lucky. I was in Role Models recently, and I did Childrens Hospital also. I met Ken [Marino]. I guess I got lucky because the whole thing is I play this fan of everybody. Sort of this weird spiritual thing. I already was a big fan, and then I got to play a nervous fan of everybody. That was an intimidating but inspiring time. I was really laughing a lot. I also had the stomach flu for a couple days on that thing. I pushed through it … I learned a lot about myself that way, but that was a life-changing experience for me.

Well, congratulations on pushing through the stomach flu.

[Laughs] I feel like it was important everyone in the world knows that.

Are you nervous or anxious for Zach Stone to premiere? This is your first role as a regular on a show.

Yeah, I guess we were discussing this yesterday and the word should be "anxious." For my parents, I'd say it's very exciting, but we live in a world where I feel like it's hard to be excited about something … but if I tell my 12-year-old self this is happening, then I think he's very happy. I'm doing it for him and my drama teachers. I'd say just very nervous … anxious. I don't know what I'm saying anymore.

Who are some of your favorite comedians going right now?

I'm gonna try and name people that aren't already famous because then that would help. I mean, the Birthday Boys … I'm friends with those guys. I'm very happy for their success in getting a new show on IFC because usually you don't get to be happy for people. This guy Paul Rust and Neil Campbell. Those guys are two of the funniest guys. My friend Kyle Mooney is also one of my favorite guys. And of course, Harris Wittels, my partner. I should say I like his stand-up too because I'm gonna see him later tonight. But thinking about my whole life, Steve Martin is cool or something. I don't know if you've heard of him. He's good.

What's his deal? Tell me a little bit about Steve Martin.

Yeah, he's a cool guy. You should check him out.  I think it was when he started writing those plays, I don't know if that affected me a lot on some level when I was 13, 14. Same thing with Bill Murray … doing all this comedy but also getting to do things that matter to my heart like L.A. Story-type things or Wes Anderson. Stuff like that. I guess I would like to give a shout-out to Paul Thomas Anderson … I want to thank him for helping my life.

 

Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous airs Thursdays at 10:30 on MTV.

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