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Talking to Jim O'Heir About Playing Jerry on 'Parks and Recreation'

Chicago native Jim O’Heir had steady work as a veteran character actor in Hollywood until he finally caught a break in 2009 with a role he was born to play: Parks and Recreation’s put-upon government employee with the hot wife, Jerry Gergich.

It’s a testament to O’Heir’s portrayal of lovable loser Gergich that the character has gone from bit player in the NBC comedy’s early days to frequent source of the show’s biggest laughs. Even though Gergich retired from the town of Pawnee at the end of last season, Parks’ producers found a way to bring him back for Season 6.

I recently caught up with O’Heir after shooting an episode of Parks in Indianapolis to talk about his start in comedy, improvising with the best in the business, and why he doesn’t take vacations.

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Talking to Paul Scheer About 'The League', 'NTSF', the Genius of Arsenio Hall, and More

Paul Scheer must be the comedic actor everyone can agree on because as of publication he’s appeared in shows on the following networks: MTV, Fox, Comedy Central, IFC, Adult Swim, NBC, FX, E!, HBO, ABC and Starz.

Sure, some of those are blink-and-you’ll-miss-him bit parts, but there are also plenty of starring roles, including his portrayal of Dr. Andre Nowzick on FX’s The League, as well as Trent Hauser on Adult Swim’s NTSF:SD:SUV, a show he also created.

Like many of today’s TV comedy regulars, Scheer got his start at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York. It’s become the norm for UCB talent to appear in each other’s projects, but no one pops up as frequently as Scheer, who’s literally at the epicenter of the crossover — a testament to both his comedic gifts and likability.

And despite all his TV and film work, Scheer finds time to host a popular podcast, write comics books, perform live regularly, and put out web videos recreating bonkers interviews from The Arsenio Hall Show.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Scheer about The League’s upcoming fifth season, the benefits of being married to a fellow comedian, and the under-appreciated genius of Arsenio Hall. READ MORE

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Talking to Barry Rothbart About Leno, His Competitive Eating Documentary, and Working with Martin Scorsese

The Tonight Show typically isn’t the place where hip, young New York comics make their late-night TV debuts. They tend to go the Conan or Fallon route.

Credit Barry Rothbart for breaking the glass ceiling.

Things have been going pretty well for Rothbart ever since his first Tonight Show set two years ago. He co-directed a documentary, was recently named one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch, and has a role in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming The Wolf of Wall Street.

I recently had the chance to catch up with Rothbart at Just For Laughs in Montreal, where he was one of the festival’s stand-out performers. We talked about performing the day after 9/11, working with Martin Scorsese, and pissing off Major League Eating. READ MORE

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Talking to Aparna Nancherla About Twitter, Chris Rock, and Writing for 'Totally Biased'

Aparna Nancherla is a name we keep seeing on lists of the best up-and-coming comedians. And if you’ve seen her do standup, you know why.

Nancherla is a welcomed change of pace in an art form that is predominantly manic. Her jokes have an existential bent and are delivered at a slower, steadier pace, which allows audiences to pick up on the subtleties. The industry has taken notice as last year she was hired to write and perform on FX’s Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell, which moves from weekly to nightly on the FXX channel next month, so we’ll be seeing even more of her.

Nancherla is also coming off a run of stand-out performances at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, where she was one of the fest’s New Faces. I had the opportunity to sit down with Nancherla in Montreal and talk about her start in comedy, working for Chris Rock, and getting work through Twitter. READ MORE

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Talking to Vernon Chatman About 'Wonder Showzen,' His Standup Beginnings, and His New Book 'Mindsploitation'

If there’s a comedy equivalent of Rick Rubin, it’s Vernon Chatman.

Just as Rubin has become known for producing some of the music industry’s most seminal albums, Chatman has become known as a go-to behind-the-scenes guy for some of television’s most critically-acclaimed comedies. The list of shows he’s written for and produced includes The Chris Rock Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Louie, and South Park. He’s also a founding member of PFFR, the production company behind Adult Swim’s Delocated and the hilariously demented Xavier: Renegade Angel, as well as MTV’s Wonder Showzen, which he co-created.

As gonzo as some of his PFFR shows are, they are nothing compared to Chatman’s personal projects, including his new book, Mindsploitation: Asinine Assignments for the Online Homework Cheating Industry. The book is a collection of real essays and other assignments Chatman hired/exploited several online essay-writing companies to pen for him, including a slogan for a 16-foot party chicken nugget and an essay ranking the Top 8 major races (Asian, Latin, European, Native, Eastern European, Black African, East Australian, and Other) in order from greatest to worst.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Chatman about his hysterical new book, his standup roots, and why he doesn’t think he can ever do Wonder Showzen again. READ MORE

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Talking to Kurt Metzger About Starting Out in Comedy, Patrice O'Neal, and Standup Controversies

If you’re a person who believes that comedy has any sort of social mission, Kurt Metzger probably isn’t the comic for you. But if you’re a fan of funny for funny’s sake without any punches pulled, he’s your guy.

Metzger is a veteran NYC comic who in recent months has found himself at the center of some of the stand-up world’s prevailing controversies. He publicly called bullshit on the Upright Citizens Bridgade Theater’s practice of not paying comics for shows that charge admission, which sparked some heated philosophical debate about the business of comedy that went viral and eventually drew a response from the UCB’s founders. He also waded in the more recently publicized dispute about rape jokes vs. artistic freedom by sparring with a feminist writer on Facebook and inviting her to debate him on stage. (Metzger is a bit of a shit-starter on Facebook and frequently authors posts that draw hundreds of comments. Definitely worth following).

When he isn’t coming up with new material via his Facebook rants, Metzger, who grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and was an ordained minister, is an accomplished comic and writer. He’s a regular at the New York’s famed Comedy Cellar and has written for several TV shows, including Inside Amy Schumer and Chappelle’s Show.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Metzger about his start in comedy as well as the rape joke and UCB controversies. READ MORE

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Talking to Todd Barry About His New Podcast, 'Delocated,' and Doing an Hour of Pure Crowd Work

This podcasting thing must be here to stay because Todd Barry has one now. And Todd Barry is no Johnny-come-lately who’s going to fall for the latest fad. He’s far too much of an amazing and highly regarded comedian for that.

Barry launched The Todd Barry Podcast last month on the Feral Audio network. The format is nothing new – it’s essentially Barry interviewing his comedian friends in his New York apartment – but it’s great to hear him be sincere for a moment and break character from the Todd Barry World Famous Comedian he plays on his must-follow Twitter feed.

Barry has long been a staple of the NYC comedy scene known for his dry sarcasm. He’s released four albums, done three Comedy Central Specials, and appeared in several films and TV shows, including The Wrestler and Louie. I recently had the chance to chat with Barry about his podcast, his role in The Wrestler, and his recent crowd work tour. READ MORE

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Talking to Eric Wareheim About JASH and 'Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories'

Tim and Eric’s new YouTube channel JASH may not have the same amazing ring to it as Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, but fans of the TV show will be happy to know JASH has a lot of the same sensibilities.

And it would be one thing if JASH was exclusively a venture between Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, but the channel has comedic heavyweights Reggie Watts, Sarah Silverman, and Michael Cera as partners as well.

Together, they're producing short films, music videos, web series, and other projects for JASH, which Wareheim describes as a “place of good.” Since Tim and Eric went off Adult Swim three years ago, the duo has been busy. They made their first feature film, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, and, in the case of Heidecker, have been popping up in movies in both supporting (Bridesmaids) and leading roles (The Comedy). Wareheim has also done some acting, but is spending more time behind the camera, making a name for himself as a go-to music video director (Check out this insane video he directed for Beach House’s “Wishes”).

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Wareheim about the origins of JASH, making Billion Dollar Movie, and why doing mainstream comedy doesn’t interest him. READ MORE

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Talking to Jen Kirkman About Stand-Up, Misogyny on Twitter, and Her New Book

Jen Kirkman isn’t asking you to agree with her decision to not have kids. Just quit grilling her about it.

That’s the main point she’s trying to get across in her very funny new book: I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids.

The book is a first for Kirkman, an LA-based comic best known for her Funny or Die Drunk History sketches and, most recently, as a writer and panelist on Chelsea Lately. Like her popular standup act, whose die-hard fans include Paul F. Tompkins, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself includes hilarious perspectives and anecdotes about the confrontations she’s had with people because babies aren’t her thing.

I recently had the chance to chat with Kirkman about the new book, taking a break from Twitter, and getting back out on the road. READ MORE

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Talking to Eli Braden About Howard Stern, Parody Music, and Twitter

Comedian Eli Braden has an impressive 58,000 Twitter followers, but that’s nothing compared to the 6 million SiriusXM subscribers who routinely hear his parody songs.

Fans of the Howard Stern Show know Braden (@elibraden) as the comedian/musician who regularly provides the show’s raunchy parody songs introducing Robin Quivers, Stern’s well-endowed news anchor. (Sample “Robin’s Double G’s” sung to the tune of “Up on Cripple Creek.”)

Though Braden’s songs are admittedly lowbrow, the jokes in his popular Twitter feed are often extremely clever and have drawn such fans as “Weird Al” Yankovic and Molly McNearney, Jimmy Kimmel Live’s head writer who gave Braden a tryout writing on the show. He now makes his living writing for several TV shows, in addition to performing live.

I recently chatted with Braden about his start in comedy, touring with the Stern Show staffers, and writing for television. READ MORE

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So Long, 'Delocated'

"It's not a silly comedy anymore. It's a silly drama."

As Delocated star and creator Jon Glaser points out, you can’t really describe his show any better than Sergei’s line in the first episode of the show’s second season. So it makes sense that Delocated, which ended its three seasons with a half-hour finale last night, went out in dramatic fashion.

(Spoilers ahead!)

It didn’t start out that way; at least it didn’t seem to start out that way. Season 1 was more light-hearted and goofy for goofy’s sake. Though Delocated has always been about a Russian mob target in the witness protection program who moves to New York City to become a reality star, the Russian mob threat never felt all that particularly grave. Probably because Yvgeny, the assassin assigned to take out “Jon,” was an incompetent man-child whose true passions were stand-up comedy and vodka. (Props to Eugene Mirman for so deftly portraying a mild-mannered simpleton born into a crime family but not cut out for the dirty work.) “Jon’s” presence in the witness protection program was the show’s backbone, but the humor came in absurd, secondary storylines, like “Jon” throwing a Ska-Mitzvah for his son, or this sublime scene from Season 1’s finale where “Jon” meets a drifter played by Michael Shannon and asks him to don the ski mask and assume “Jon’s” identity because he can’t take the pressure of having his life under a microscope. READ MORE

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Talking to Jon Glaser About 'Parks and Rec,' 'Girls,' and the 'Delocated' Finale

It's probably going to be a while 'til we see another show like Delocated.

The Adult Swim live-action series comes to an end tonight after three seasons of somehow making accessible a show about a Russian mob target in the witness protection program who moves to New York City to become a reality star. Delocated seamlessly blends avant-garde with lowbrow – the perfect middle ground between a network sitcom and Tim and Eric.

At the center of the absurdity is “Jon,” a suburban tool who wears a ski mask at all times to protect his identity. Based on a character by series creator and star Jon Glaser, “Jon” put his and his family’s lives in danger just so he could move into a sweet penthouse. Everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious, whether it’s intentional or not.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Glaser about his favorite Delocated episodes, what we can expect from tonight's finale, and what the future holds for “Jon.”

Is the final episode going to be a half-hour?

It's a half-hour, correct.

Is there any hint you can give us?

We wanted it to be an hour, but flying the whole crew to Russia for a machine gun battle in Red Square was too much money. READ MORE

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Talking to Mike Scully About Writing for Poehler and Fey at the Golden Globes, 'The Simpsons,' and 'Parks and Rec'

Mike Scully is living proof that if you just spend your childhood watching TV and have no college degree or any other marketable skills, you can always fall back on show business.

[Full disclosure: the preceding line was Scully’s invention. Hey, sometimes you take an assist from a professional comedy writer, especially one as accomplished as he is.]

Scully is a television writer and producer perhaps best known as the showrunner for The Simpsons Seasons 9 through 12. Since then he’s had stints producing and writing for shows including Everybody Loves Raymond, Parks and Recreation, and The New Normal, where he’s currently a co-executive producer.

Scully’s won 6 Emmys, was a recipient of WGA's Lifetime Achievement in Animation Writing Award, and was one of the 11 writers who worked on all 166 drafts of The Simpsons Movie. Not bad for a guy who started out writing jokes for Yakov Smirnoff at 25 bucks a pop.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Scully about writing jokes for Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, his time at The Simpsons, and advice he has for aspiring television writers. READ MORE

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Talking to Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer About Their New MTV Late Night Show 'Nikki and Sara Live'

MTV has provided plenty of laughs over the last 10 or so years, but rarely have they been intentional. Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer are about to change that.

Tonight at 11 EST the duo will debut Nikki & Sara Live, a weekly half-hour comedy show set in front of a live studio audience. It's MTV’s first late-night talk show since The Jon Stewart Show went off the air in 1995.

Glaser and Schaefer are both accomplished stand-up comics and writers. Glaser has appeared on Conan and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and is a regular performer at The Comedy Cellar in New York. Schaefer has appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and won two Emmys for her work blogging for that show. The two met a few years ago and together started hosting the popular You Had to Be There podcast, where they bring in comedian friends as guests and rarely hold back when discussing their personal lives. The chemistry they display on the podcast is part of the reason MTV decided to give them a shot co-hosting a television show. READ MORE