I’m sitting in the Human Giant office in New York City on a couch strewn with winter coats, and below a poster of the Kate Hudson-Matthew McConaughey movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. This is going to get a little crazy.
Aziz Ansari is rockin’ the DayQuil. All three principals – including Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer – are sick, tired and hungover. Scheer wants to do a bar trick on me. Not the pervy, ass-over-head variety befitting everyone’s jovial but chill mood, but one he tried on everyone at Half King last night. The trick is about 5’s and carrots. Look it up. I just might forever be “Turnip Girl” to him because I didn’t say “carrot.” He is greatly amused by my choice of vegetable. This makes me very happy.
My mission is to discuss Season 2 of the well-received short film/comedy sketch show, which premieres tonight on MTV. But it’s hard to stay focused when the guys lay this exchange on me regarding “Bruce Penis,” a new character:
SCHEER: “’Bruce Penis” was originally called “Cock Stevens.”
ANSARI: “Well, ‘Cock Stevens’ was the name we wanted, but we couldn’t use it, because of Standards.”
HUEBEL: “They wouldn’t let us say ‘cock.’ There are a lot of things that you can’t say.”
ANSARI: “The Standards and legal people were like, ‘Okay, we know this is pretty crazy stance, but just storyboard out how he’ll be having sex with him as a ghost.’ So Jason [Woliner, our director] was like, ‘Okay, well, his dick will be right here, and you’ll be right there,’ and they were [fine] with that. Shit like that you can put on TV.”
SCHEER: “We have perverted the Standards of television! Because we wanted to do that scene last year when we had the dick on our face – we had to draw it – and they were like, ‘Well give us different drawings of dicks!’ We literally faxed them over a sheet of four different penises. We forced them into a lot of awkward decisions.”
HUEBEL: “We told a version of that story on stage, where we had to fax the Standards people, and they had to approve the drawings of these dicks. I ran into the guy from Standards at a Christmas party awhile ago, and they’ve actually framed those things. They have these pictures of dicks in their offices!”
While Season 2 features tried and true audience favorites such as “Shutterbugs,” and “The Illusionators,” new sketches “Bruce Penis,” “CrimeTime,” (an office shooting reenactment) “Sci-Fi Makeup,” “T-Shirt Squad” (military missions with air canons) and a sketch artist killer among others, will only do more to further endear Human Giant to the pop culture zeitgeist. Ansari, Huebel, Scheer and Woliner are all keenly aware of what grabs attention, keeps attention, and gets the influential blogs talking in the age of watercooler gossip and truly wretched viral videos. On that point, this exchange follows.
ANSARI: “We just shot this thing recently…we were watching those viral videos, those things that get passed around, those really horrible ones like ‘2 Girls 1 Cup,’ and the thing where a guy cuts his penis off, and Rob says something like, ‘Man, that guy is such an idiot! He just cut his penis off, he’s gonna be famous for like a week, and then he’s not gonna have a penis anymore!’ We were just laughing about that, and then [thought], ‘Man, we should just do a sketch where you’re a guy like that, who just did that.’”
HUEBEL: “Walking around New York, you see so much coming at you, and a lot of it is just crazy stuff or whatever, but I think things just pop-up on your radar. Sometimes it’s from a TV show, or from a movie, and a lot of times it’s something that is just so dumb, it’s happening right now, and we love to embrace things that are really, really dumb.”
Embracing the now and the mystifyingly dumb things people put on the Internet is a goldmine for comedy, and Human Giant holds the mirror up well for its uniquely mind-bending slant on social commentary.
“Whatever you get obsessed about, big or small, [I think about] how can I tweak that just a little bit, and then we write it up. The cool thing is that I don’t think we go to the same well for inspiration all the time,” Scheer adds.
Of the well the guys take from, you might be surprised at its origins. Scheer points to James Garner’s 1974-1980 series The Rockford Files as a particularly important source of inspiration, along with Jim Varney’s Ernest movies, beloved television shows Friday Night Lights and The Wire, sporting events and of course, kid actor headshots. In fact, they even found “Shutterbugs” star Bobb’e J. Thompson while watching America’s Most Talented Kid in 2004.
Along with spreading their subject matter out to involve as much absurdity as possible across the board, the guys hilariously cop to their own strengths and each other’s.
HUEBEL: “I’m probably the best at everything…anything at all, really!”
SCHEER: “I am the best at getting hours and hours and hours of makeup applied to my face! Sadly, in the last two seasons, I’ve been in the makeup chair for like, 48 hours, I’m sure. I think Huebel’s anger is always really funny. We just laugh.”
HUEBEL: “I’m not angry in real life. [deadpans] I think there are things that we definitely do [best]… I’ve done a lot of dark and weird stuff, and Paul a lot of times will play just dumb and goofy, but we switch it around, because no one wants to be the dumb guy all the time.”
SCHEER: “I think when we write a piece for ourselves, we like to play up things that we like to do….more fantastical fun stuff.”
HUEBEL: “Anything with a beard Aziz is gonna do.”
SCHEER: “Aziz loves the beard work.”
As with Season 1, look for Season 2 to feature impressive star cameos from Arrested Development veteran Will Arnett, SNL’s Bill Hader and Fred Armisen, and other big gets. John Krasinski from The Office has expressed great interest, as has another former Arrested Development star, Michael Cera.
Popular comedy stars are fine and expected, sure, but Ansari, Huebel and Scheer have designs for more serious movie stars to try their hand at working for some laughs.
HUEBEL: “I wish we could have gotten Vin Diesel, we tried to! That was a real bummer.”
SCHEER: “What would be amazing—and the more serious the actor, the better—we’ve been chasing down Philip Seymour Hoffman forever to get him to do this part in ‘Sci-Fi Makeup.’”
HUEBEL: “We were told that he wasn’t in New York, and then we went outside in Washington Square Park, and we saw him in Washington Square Park!”
SCHEER: “I think I chased him down literally to make sure it was him!”
ANSARI: “Yeah, Paul and I were like 30 paces behind him, and Paul’s like, ‘It’s him!’”
HUEBEL: “It’s hard to get serious actors to do sketch comedy show. There’s a reason they’re a movie star.”