Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel on 'Crash Test' and the tyranny of @FATJEW
Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel have plenty in common: endless improv chops, an appreciation for terrible cinema (Scheer hosts the podcast "How Did This Get Made?" about lame movies; Huebel hosts the LA Upright Citizens Brigade revue "The Shit Show" where guests discuss their worst performances and gigs), and now, the experience of performing together on a giant glass bus. Their new special "Crash Test" sees the comics entertaining an audience on a large party bus as it travels through Los Angeles. On their journey, they meet fellow comics Aziz Ansari, Andy Daly, Rob Corddry, Aubrey Plaza, Natasha Leggero, Jack McBrayer, Thomas Lennon, Ian Karmel, and more. It's a wild ensemble held together by Scheer and Huebel's vaudevillian stamina.
We caught up with Scheer and Huebel to discuss friendship in the comedy community, the greatness of bad movies, and what to think of the plagiarism scandal surrounding Twitter star Josh Ostrovsky, a.k.a. The Fat Jew. An exclusive clip of "Crash Test," which premieres today on Vimeo, is posted at the top of this article.
I was thinking about how bizarre it must be to perform comedy on a bus. Then I thought: I bet these guys have performed in weirder places. Have you?
Rob Huebel: Well, when we first got started coming up through UCB in New York, we were like these young, hungry improvisers. We would literally do shows anywhere, wherever someone would allow us to perform. One time we were told, "Guys, this is a great gig for you. It's an art gallery in Midtown, and it's a Japanese art gallery so it's all Japanese people. It's very avant-garde and super cool." We went down and did an improv show. Everyone there was like, "What the fuck is going on? Why is this happening? I don't speak this language. I'm Japanese. Get me out of here." That was bad. We've had so many weird, weird places.
One time I remembered someone was having a turn-of-the-century, like, salon party. It was a really nice apartment in New York, and they were like, "We'll have some music, and then we'll have some storytelling, then some improv, then some dinner!" We did an improv show there which was also not very welcomed.
Probably the worst of all was at someone's wedding. We were paid to go to a rehearsal dinner for these rich people, and I guess the bride's family were big comedy fans -- or they thought they were. The groom's family didn't even know this was planned. They were completely mortified. There's this really fancy restaurant in Midtown called Daniel, a French restaurant. These rich people were doing their rehearsal dinner there, and we busted out in the middle of it. It was sanctioned. They set this up. We busted in with a TV crew and were "filming a reality show," but it was some comedy bit. We went around with a camera and interviewed all the relatives. It was so unappreciated and rightly so. They had spent thousands and thousands of dinners to have a nice, elegant dinner, then these jackass comedians break into the thing and try to do this fake reality show. We tried interviewing grandma and grandpa. Everyone was hating it. It was the worst. Thankfully we've graduated from those days and now we're doing shows that are a little less dangerous.
You've both been performing for at least a decade and a half. Can you say your comedy tastes have changed over time?
Paul Scheer: I think that's what possible in the world of comedy has kind of changed. I remember two distinct things that opened my mind to comedy. One of them was seeing the Upright Citizens Brigade for the first time at ASSSCAT with Matt Walsh, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Amy Poehler. I was doing a short-form comedy show called Chicago City Limits, which was very much Wayne Brady-style improv. I loved that. I performed that and it was the best thing, but then I saw UCB and sat there actually thinking, "I can't believe this." I'd never seen people joke like that. They touched on subjects that I never saw anyone else do and just did things that blew my mind. That allowed me to see comedy in a whole different way.
Also, another key moment for me was in college seeing "Welcome to the Dollhouse," that Todd Solondz movie. At the time I thought, "This sucks. This isn't good." Then three years later after I went to NYU I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. I remember those two moments clearly being a shift in my own comedy taste. Those two things in particular really shifted me. You can say things that are dark, that are bold, that aren't supposed to be said. It was mind-opening. Now there are a lot more options for that kind of stuff.
"Crash Test" is filled with performers who love being irreverent and weird, but they're also great actors. Which comic in your orbit do you think could be the first to win an Oscar?
Rob Huebel: There's a real "who's who" in the comedy world in this movie, and a lot of them have legit acting careers. Of all of those people, my money's on Corddry. He's a Shakespearean actor who came from, like, the theater. He did summer stock. A real actor. The fact that he horses around on our show "Children's Hospital" and on "Crash Test" is almost crazy. He can just do it all. If anyone's going to win an Oscar, it's him. Unfortunately he'll have to play a very sad character with cancer, Alzheimer's, or lupus in order to get it. I'm pitching "Lupus! Lupus! Lupus!" actually. Rob Corddry with lupus. Unfortunately he's not attached yet.
You both have proven you appreciate bad cinema. What's the worst movie you've seen the most times?
Paul Scheer: I had a conversation about this the other day, but the one I've seen the most times is "The Room." It is the best worst movie. There are some movies where you think, "This is so bad, it's good!" But this movie is fulfilling. I remember having to watch it again and I thought, "I don't want to see this again." But then I loved it even more! I've seen it twice unwillingly and it paid off even more. The other one, which is a movie that's a little more off the radar, is "Old Dogs" with Robin Williams and John Travolta. Was it a comedy? I guess. But I don't know if it's an adult movie or a kids movie. But "The Room" is the "Citizen's Kane" of this. The first movie that truly disappointed me as a kid was "Last Action Hero." It was like, wow. Movies can be bad. That realization is really gut-wrenching. It confounded me!
I feel bad for the comics that The Fat Jew rips off because, one, it's stealing, but two, it seems annoying to have to announce your own work has been stolen. How do you feel about addressing plagiarism in comedy?
Paul Scheer: I think when you call your own stuff out, it's not as good as somebody else saying, "Hey! They stole from this person!" If I've learned anything from the internet by my own behavior and by the behaviors of others, it's that it is a petty place. You never want to put yourself in a place of weakness or a weak position. So if people are coming to your defense, you can embrace it. But to put your own neck out there, it may look like you're whining -- even though you're not! If someone put out "Catcher in the Rye" and just changed the words, then J.D. Salinger was like, "Hey! This is my shit!" -- people would be furious! But because it's a tweet, people are like, "Oh who cares?" But hey, The Fat Jew is getting paid for this! If no one followed him, it would be one thing. But he's stealing and making money on someone else's thing. When you're taking money away from someone else, it kind of sucks.
Rob Huebel: I will steal from Julie Klausner's tweet here: The Fat Jew is bad for the Jews. I agree. I think he's bad for fat people and for Jews because now people are like, "Oh, well I don't like either of those people."
Paul Scheer: Also, speaking of bad movies, let me Google this. Did you know The Fat Jew was in a movie? It is called -- give me a second, I'm Googling it -- I just found it online last night. It is called "All Wifed Out." It stars The Fat Jew, Dustin Diamond, and Eve! Oh, and Metta World Peace. I don't think anyone knows about this? Marc Maron's in it too? "All Wifed Out." So I guess he's been working it for awhile.
Finally: You've been pals forever, but in general is it hard to stay friends with comedians? I imagine ego can hinder that sometimes.
Paul Scheer: As far as jealousy and envy, I'd be lying if I said I never felt like, "Oh, that guy got that gig? Why didn't I get it?" Everybody to everybody else looks like they have the best thing. The truth is, it all evens out and everyone gets to do their own thing. You couldn't do everything. There's moments of envy but the amount of friendship that comedians put in as a community supersedes that. There is a general happiness. I'll think sometimes, "I can't believe that guy got that part -- but I'm happy he got that part!" It's like family a little bit. You can take both sides at the same time.