Talking to Adam Scott About ‘The Greatest Event in Television History’ and Other Stuff
As if starring in Parks and Recreation and Party Down wasn’t enough to establish Adam Scott’s comedy nerd cred, he’s also, for the past year, been working on a series of 15-minute specials for Adult Swim under the name The Greatest Event in Television History. The first one, in which Scott and Jon Hamm recreated the opening credits to cheesy ’80s detective show Simon & Simon shot-for-shot, aired in October and racked up hundreds of thousands of hits online. Tonight at midnight, Scott’s second Greatest Event special, featuring himself, Amy Poehler, and Horatio Sanz, airs on Adult Swim. I recently had the chance to talk to Adam Scott about how intense production is on the series, why you should send him the opening credits to ’80s TV shows on Twitter, and starring in Parks and Recreation and the upcoming Hot Tub Time Machine sequel.
How long were you holding onto the idea for Greatest Event in Television History before doing the first special?
Not very long. It was kind of an accidental thing. My wife and I were having dinner with Nick Weidenfeld, who was [development head] at Adult Swim at the time. We were talking about this idea we had as sort of a cheap internet thing … Nick said, “Well, why don’t we just do it for Adult Swim? You can have a little bit more of a budget.” It just kind of took off from there. We were just starting to think about it when we brought it up in conversation, and it just kinda took off from there. I guess it was five months later, we were shooting it.
How long of a shoot is that? It’s a short video, but there are so many shots.
Yeah, that’s the thing about them. We’re not sure how long we’re gonna keep doing it because for such a short, ridiculous thing, it’s really labor-intensive. It’s usually like five or six days.
So it’s usually an exhausting shoot?
Yeah, it is, and I’m so, so happy Amy agreed to do it. And I kept warning her like, “This is gonna be a total pain in the ass. Are you sure you want to do this?” And she was like, “Yeah, great! Let’s do it!” And it was a pain in the ass, but she had fun and it was a blast. And she was cool as she always is and so funny and great. But yeah, it’s five 12-hour tough days of driving around, trying to get all these different things.
Is Paul Scheer back writing for this one again?
Yeah, he and I wrote this one together.
And you’ve been trying to keep what show you’re doing a secret for each one. Did you choose to let it out there that this was Hart to Hart or did people just figure it out?
No, that was a mistake. Someone forgot, and it kind of went out there, which was sort of a bummer, but you know, whatever. It’s not a big deal. I mean, keeping it a secret is sort of dumb in the first place, so whatever.
You guys are doing two more of these specials, right?
Yeah, we’re trying to figure out what they should be. We’re not totally sure. I guess, sort of the criteria in a way is we want to try to do things that aren’t too tread upon culturally. Like, Starsky & Hutch has already been commented on and The A-Team and stuff like that. There are so many good ones out there that haven’t really been touched. We just are kind of searching around. We might take it to the one dozen fans of the show and see what they think.
So you might ask the fans?
Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. We’re thinking about it. We’re just trying to figure out what it is we should do.
Did you have an affection for these cheesy ’80s action shows or in the past, or had you just seen some great opening credits sequences online?
Oh yeah, well I watched tons of television growing up in the ’80s. It’s essentially all I did, so the Simon & Simon one was [an opening credits sequence] that really like as a kid would get me charged up on Thursday nights. That one, when I rediscovered it on YouTube, I got this visceral reaction to it. Like, I remember just squirming with excitement on the floor in front of the TV when that guitar lick kicks in, so it was a sincere tribute to it, really. We kind of made something funny out of it, but at the same time, I was really excited to get to do that and recreate that sequence.
Do you get inundated with fans on Twitter and friends just sending you the opening credits to different shows?
Yeah, I love it, and I watch all of them.
So you don’t feel like extending the series beyond these next two specials because it’s so labor-intensive?
I don’t know. I’m not sure. It takes up a lot of – especially more Naomi, my wife, who produces the whole thing – it’s a lot to handle. These shooting days are really, really packed full. Yeah, it’s a bit labor-intensive. It’s super fun, but we’re all just exhausted at the end. It feels like we just had a four month shoot because we’re trying to get so much done, but it’s a blast. I just don’t know practically how long we would be able to or want to do it.
Would you ever want to do other 15-minute specials for Adult Swim that weren’t this?
Yeah. We were even thinking of, we could recreate things that aren’t opening credits sequences, that are just other stupid things. Or just move on, and try to do something else with our life.
[Laughs] So tell me a little bit about you and Naomi’s new company, Gettin’ Rad Productions, and what you guys are working on aside from the specials.
Well, right now, it’s just the specials because we’ve been sort of consumed with this for the past six months. We’re just getting it off the ground, and this series of specials is our first big thing. We’re hoping to just kind of take it from there.
And you guys are developing the novel Downtown Owl into a feature, right?
Yeah, which is a great, great book. Love it … I’ve had a couple e-mail exchanges and phone calls and stuff with [author] Chuck Klosterman. It’s surreal. Being a fan of his for so long, even talking to him is very strange and cool.
How’s filming Hot Tub Time Machine 2 going?
I’m down here in New Orleans, but I haven’t actually started shooting yet. I think the movie starts shooting today, but I haven’t started yet, but it’s gonna be a blast. It’s like 400 degrees here … It’s like literally an oven, so I don’t know if I should go outside or not. It’s too hot.
Rob Corddry’s co-writing the script, right?
Well, Josh Heald, who wrote the first one is writing this one, but Rob and [director] Steve Pink are really involved in the script, as well. I’m not totally clear how they’re delineating that, but I know that the three of them are sort of steering the ship, and it’s really funny. I think it’s gonna be super fun.
Is it weird kind of taking over for another actor in the second part of a franchise?
Well, it’s not the same role, and it’s really really different, so no, I don’t feel weird doing that. [John] Cusack’s one of the greatest, so I would never feel like I could fill the shoes even if it were that situation, but it’s not really.
When do you go back for Parks and Rec?
We go back early August, right after this finishes.
When do you first start meeting with the writers in a typical season, like when do you first find out what’s gonna happen in the season?
Well, we don’t really meet with the [writers] … I usually just kind of find out an overview of where things are going … [when] we just all sort of get together, and then they tell me what’s coming, which sometimes changes. I’m always game for whatever they come up with because they’re great. [Co-creator/showrunner] Michael [Schur] always comes up with great stuff. It’s not like I sit down and say, “Listen, this is what I think should happen.” I’ve never once done that because I feel like anything they come up with is probably a lot better than what I would, plus it’s a lot less work just to sit and wait for the scripts to come in. They always come up with the best stuff. Any idea of mine would be trumped by them anyway.
You’ve done a lot of movies and TV shows in the past. Has there been one that’s flown under the radar that you wish more people would check out?
That’s a good question. There are a couple indies that I really like. The Vicious Kind and Passenger Side are a couple movies I did kind of right next to each other a few years ago. I really love both of those movies. I think they’re on Netflix or Amazon Instant or one of those.
You were doing mainly dramatic acting until transitioning to comedies beginning with Step Brothers. Do you have any desire to pepper more drama in, or do you just enjoy comedy a lot more?
Yeah, maybe. I kind of take it on a case-by-case basis and by what’s being made when I have a hiatus. A lot of it comes down to timing, hiatus-wise. But yeah, yeah, for sure. If the right role comes along.
Before you go, do you just want to tell viewers what they can expect from Greatest Event in Television History tonight?
I think that those who are fans of Parks and Rec will be really surprised by the nature of Amy and I’s working relationship. [I’ll] leave it at that.