Like a bunch of Rich Dicks, the world cried “ner!” when Nick Kroll announced he’d be ending his eponymous sketch show late last year. As the third season of Kroll Show wrapped up, the ending seemed almost natural, like Kroll and company had brought the storylines fans loved to a natural close. PubLIZity’s Lizzes were finally happy, what with their bangs and toilet boyfriends, and even the Oh, Hello! guys found someone who thought getting too much tuna wasn’t a bad thing.
Alongside executive producer John Levenstein and co-executive producer Jon Daly, Nick Kroll plotted the arcs of Kroll Show’s main storylines for the past three seasons. He knew what ghosts Bobby Bottleservice would ultimately bust in his heart and that Dr. Armond would star in a truly unprecedented run of wack reality shows. The A.V. Club asked Kroll to walk us through some of the show’s longest-running storylines, from Wheels, Ontario’s quest for Canadian glory to the constantly confusing genesis of the European Guy.
The A.V. Club: Of all the characters on Kroll Show, Dr. Armond probably goes through the most drama. Did you know what was ultimately going to happen with that character when you started on the show?
Nick Kroll: Dr. Armond is an interesting one to start with because we definitely did not know what his character arc would be, and he is, for me, one of the most gratifying character arcs of the show. He was originally on the pilot as just a side character because we wanted Jenny Slate’s character, Pretty Liz, to get her dog red carpet ready for Cupcakes For Canine Cancer. So we were like, “It would be fun to send her to a dog plastic surgeon.” And that’s where Dr. Armond was built.
When the show got picked up, we really liked Dr. Armond and thought it would be fun to see him again. One of our favorite tropes is when reality shows have spin-off characters, and how they get their own shows. And so in that regard, we thought that Armond would be a good place to start. And then he really became a conduit through which we continued to play that joke through all three seasons. Within season one, we started with Armond Of The House, where he gets married, and where we see his home life with Andy Milonakis and his wife, played by Jackie Debatin. But we thought it would be funny then for him to get divorced and then be Armond About Town, and then once we started playing with that it was like, “Well let’s see what it’s like when Andy gets his own show called Roman’s Empire,” and then in Roman’s Empire we meet C-Czar. Once I started to crack C-Czar we thought, boy it would be fun to now have something where the bad-influence friend of Armond’s son gets his own show called C-Czar’s Palace. We knew we were going to carry it that far, I think, in season one.
I would say that Armond, which obviously I have a lot of involvement in, really was John Levenstein’s baby—the executive producer and showrunner. And John’s influence on all of these recurring storylines is really big, because he came more out of the scripted sitcom world. I met him doing Life & Times Of Tim on HBO, the animated show, but previous to that he had been at Arrested Development from the start. And so his influence on the show is obviously there joke-wise, but really most of the people who work on the show had been my friends in the sketch and stand-up space more than the sitcom space. By having John as the showrunner and executive producer, we all of a sudden had someone who was interested and capable of really building long-form story arcs. And I think Jonathan Krisel and I knew—Krisel directed the first two seasons and was an EP on the show—that we wanted to tell long-form stories because we had made a pilot for Rich Dicks with Jon Daly. That was our original pitch to Comedy Central—we’re going to have these characters recurring. You’re not going to just see them once. We want to see the Rich Dicks show, we wanted to see the Oh, Hello show, we want to see PubLIZity, we want to see Fabrice Fabrice or Bobby Bottleservice. We want to see these people keep coming back versus just one-off sketches. Levenstein’s influence on creating these story arcs and building more long-form narrative is very present in the show.
So then we get to season two and I think some people had watched The Staircase and we were talking about how it felt so funny to have Armond on trial for murder. I don’t remember exactly how that got cracked, but we could then change it again so that some of these shows still felt like reality shows, but it was like Armond Of The House Arrest. And it would be Bill Burr coming in to investigate this murder, but also still keeping it in this reality show packaging. But then that transitions into the actual murder trial, which we shot like a murder trial, and that was a lot of The Staircase and O.J. and all of those murder-related things, and now, obviously ironically, The Jinx. There was a trial last year of a Utah doctor who was accused of murdering his wife, and he was described as stone-faced, like almost exactly as we were describing Armond and his travails.
Then there’s Armond—what was the one with Rance Howard, Ron Howard’s father, who plays Armond’s father? House Of Armond. House Of Armond is where Armond moves back home after he’s released on a mistrial, and that’s where Armond and Bill Burr’s Detective Smart come together, and Detective Smart is also sort of in love with Shannon, so it’s House Of Armond, which has a gothic feel to it, then it’s Bill Burr and him and they’re going to find Shannon’s killer and it’s called Too Much Love. And that’s like a USA blue-sky kind of show.
So then this year he goes into Loser’s Bracket, and all of a sudden has a memory as to how his wife was killed, and he sees that my European man character was there. Since very early on, I wanted the European guy to be like a Joran Van Der Sloot, the [Dutch] guy who allegedly murdered Natalee Holloway and then didn’t get convicted and then murdered another woman in [Peru], and now is in jail in [Peru]. I always thought it was funny that this innocent-seeming European guy was actually a serial killer. So Armond remembers that the European guy was at the scene and then he goes on the search for the European guy into Europe, and that’s when Detective Smart’s like, “You can’t go to Europe, we’ve got to bring this in,” and Armond’s like, “Come with me, we’re best friends. Besides Kelsey Grammer you’re my best friend.”
AVC: And then in last week’s episode, it was Armond Le Monde.
NK: Armond Le Monde works in French, but in English it translates as Armond The World.
I really personally love that he falls through the roof, he ends up in Show Us Your Songs Commonwealth, and that it’s all this elaborate ruse. It was all a game, you know. And it turns out that Roman, Andy Milonakis, had set this whole thing up. Then he has a heart attack and dies because his heart is so filled with love, and then he comes back in the final episode as a ghost. What’s that show called, do you remember?
AVC: I don’t. I just know he says he’s having the time of his afterlife.
NK: Yeah [Adopts Dr. Armond voice.], “and I’m having the time of my afterlife.” That was originally “I’m having the time of my life” in Armond About Town.
So, he started as this side-side character. What drew me to that originally was, if you watch Breaking Bonaduce, there was that therapist character who had a weird nose job, and, to me, the idea of “let’s follow the most boring person” was really fun and exciting, and then to see him go from this side-side character through huge, huge life—divorce, murder, reconciliation, the discovery of who his wife’s murderer was, to then chasing after him, and jumping off a building to kill himself, falling through the ceiling, and then finding out that the whole thing was a ruse put on by his son to show him how to live, and then he comes back as a ghost to help Pretty Liz who we had originally seen him with—is so ridiculous to me. It’s really fun and funny and gratifying.
AVC: It’s so interesting that it comes full circle. I don’t know that people will realize that.
NK: Were you surprised that it was a game? Were you upset about it?
AVC: No, I thought it was great. I loved when Armond hit the trampoline.
NK: He’s so flat through all of it. I kind of love that. And we have all those sound effects that our editors started putting on him early on, and then we’ve slowly played more and more to that to the point where he’s basically a pantomime artist. We have him now being confused for a pantomime artist in Armond Le Monde, where people think he is a mime.
That’s what I really love about the show—and I’ll take partial credit—but really a lot of credit obviously goes to Levenstein and also our editors who directed the third season of the show, Bill Benz and Dan Longino. What I really am proud of about the show is that we really used every piece of the cow. We really squeezed all the juice we could out of the weird, disgusting orange that we started with, and really drank the juice. And the rind, and the seeds, and everything.
The fact that Armond had all these sound effects that are stupid reality show devices that then become a central part of the kind of character he is was always really fun to me. No matter how dramatic the scene is, there are always stupid cartoon whistles and Looney Tunes sounds behind him.
AVC: Did you go into the third season knowing it was ending? Or did you want to end because you’d felt you’d used everything up?
NK: Our goal was always to try to be pushing every story as far as we could without it becoming ridiculous? No, that’s not true, because “my pet peeve is being called ridiculous.” That’s a Pretty Liz quote from “Ice Dating.”
I do feel like we just kept pushing every story. We just didn’t want to be like, “Okay, now we’re going to see another PubLIZity thing where they take a meeting with a client.” Or, “Let’s see another Armond episode with Andy Milonakis where they’re at home and Andy’s making fun of Armond.” We always were trying to push the stories forward, and in doing so, they came to what felt like a genuinely natural conclusion. Levenstein and I were the architects of how those last couple shows came together, but we weren’t talking to each other about it being the end. It was only after the season finished that we sat down and I was feeling like I had basically done all the stuff I wanted to do, and I talked to John, who was like, “I feel like I told all the stories I wanted to tell here,” and then I went to Bill and Dan and I was like, “Do you guys think there’s more to the majority of these characters’ stories, or…?” And they weren’t like, “Yeah, I think we can do x, y, and z.” It was at that point that it just felt like, well, then let’s just end it. It wasn’t our intention that we were making the series finales. It felt like we were making the season finales, but in doing so it felt like we were done with telling these particular stories.
AVC: Well, there are always questions left open in any series finale, but that’s almost the fun of it. Like we’re left to wonder if Bobby Bottleservice and Farley get together, or if he can forget about her.
NK: Again, I think because there was no intent that it was the series finale, some of those things don’t get entirely cleaned up.
You know, Bobby and Farley in particular started as an Internet web video toward each other. The first time we see Chelsea Peretti as Farley is a Skype interview that they’re having with each other that we loosely improvised on two different cameras at the same time and cut together. I can’t remember what it’s called but it’s one of the first things that we did in season one. And the idea that their relationship starts there and by season three Bobby goes inside of his own body to bust the ghost of Farley’s love, is such a crazy journey and distance from where it starts as a regular Skype video between two idiots. It felt like, what more can you do in this format with these two people? As soon as a guy goes inside of his own body to bust the ghost of his girlfriend’s love from his heart, and one of his friends—Gian, the deaf/mute sound guy—gets stuck in Bobby’s body, how much further can you push this?
AVC: Bobby really gets humanized over the course of the series. You see his family, you see he isn’t so sold on being a gigolo anymore, and so on.
NK: I think Bobby—and I would say C-Czar, too, in very different ways—is a character that started as somewhat one-dimensional and continued to be pretty parody driven, but by the end I think he’s much more three-dimensional. Bobby starts as the Jersey Shore douchebag, but by the last episode that you see him in, he’s very emotional. He loves his mother, he’s not ready to be a gigolo, he’s in love with Farley, he’s actually made some music now.
AVC: He’s not just a ghost hunter anymore.
NK: And yet he’s still an idiot, and he’s still swallowing jet skis because he’s clutch.
He’s not a ghost hunter anymore because we didn’t want to do just another Ghost Hunters thing. That would’ve felt repetitive, and the way you heighten that is to have him hunt the ghost of his girlfriend’s love from his heart or bounce the ghost of Farley’s love from his heart. It’s just so crazy.
AVC: One of the great things about the show is that we don’t see the characters every week. It keeps viewers wanting more. You want the next Wheels, Ontario. You get excited when you get the next chapter of Bobby’s life.
NK: There’s limited real estate, and one thing that I think we tried to do was make it survival of the fittest. In the writing portion of creating the show, whatever stories or characters were fun to write to got written to. Chupacabra, which was one of my real go-to characters leading into the show—we could never really crack the fun way to tell stories with him, so he just kind of disappeared. Fabrice Fabrice, we figured out a way to break him in, but for the most part, it’s survival of the fittest in the writing process.
Then you go and shoot it all and then you figure out from what you’ve shot when you’re editing it, what works together, and then it becomes a thing of how do you put that puzzle of an episode together? You’re like, “This actually connects well,” or, “We’ve got too many old men in this episode, so Oh, Hello can’t go with Armond and Ref Jeff,” or something like that. Or you want to have a reality show thing and a filmic thing. A Bobby Bottleservice reality show goes well with a Wheels, Ontario, which is a little slicker and more of a scripted series. Then, hopefully the reaction is that whenever you’re seeing one of these characters or one of these worlds that you’re excited to see them again because it’s been a couple of weeks or a couple of episodes.
Where the show really changed was I think in season two when we started to bring back characters and bring them together and have more crossover. That started with C-Czar and Pretty Liz in “Ice Dating.” They’re sort of in the same world—technically they’re all under that PubLIZity umbrella. That happened because we were shooting the whirling scene from Wheels, Ontario, so we had an ice rink for half of a day that we needed to fill, and we were like, “What would be fun on that ice rink? What if it was like Shipmates, like that old dating reality show, or like Blind Date, and we call it Ice Dating?” And who would we want to see in that space? And we thought, “It would be funny to see Pretty Liz and C-Czar on a date because she’s a woman and he’s still in high school but maybe they would be fun together,” and that then turned into the season two arc for PubLIZity and C-Czar, which becomes Pretty Liz is pregnant and then C-Czar gets Dad Academy, which is a show about him trying to learn how to be a good father and to prepare for that, which then ties up in the finale of season two, which was Levenstein’s brainchild, as, “Let’s make a whole episode that integrates a few of these worlds into one sort of continuous story.” That followed C-Czar’s journey from trying to graduate from Dad Academy and then taking Ron Funches, who had been Armond’s lawyer, who is now involved in the Dad Academy world, to the Rich Dicks house to a party where they then run into Niece Denise, who’s been living in the dog house there, then C-Czar returns Denise to the PubLIZity office and then Pretty Liz returns to Dad Academy to be with C-Czar and have her baby. That was John’s idea of, “Let’s really tell one continuous story,” and we didn’t always do that in season three, but we have a lot more of that in season three. The Illuminati episode is a lot like that, and the two finale episodes were much more tied together and integrated different things. Not only are we seeing these characters coming back and their worlds continuing to mutate and divide, but we were telling a whole story through a number of different worlds.
AVC: Why do you think you had a hard time making Chupacabra or Fabrice Fabrice work? Is it because they’re singular characters, whereas someone like Bobby has a Peter Paparazzo to play off of?
NK: Maybe. That might be it. Those characters also existed before Kroll Show and for a different purpose. They existed for podcasts and they existed for live performance. Armond was built for this show, and because he was built for it, he was able to survive the storytelling rigors of it. Whereas Fabrice or Chupacabra—they just weren’t built necessarily for narrative storytelling.
I will also say that, yeah, having Jenny Slate or John Mulaney or Jon Daly to play off of does make everything funnier.
AVC: Do you guys film all of, say, Oh, Hello at one time or do you film episode by episode?
NK: We tended to shoot in chunks as much as possible, and that was partly based on schedule. Say we have Jenny for two weeks, so we’re going to shoot as much PubLIZity as we can in these two weeks, and because we’re shooting PubLIZity we have the PubLIZity office. With Mulaney, we really had limited time with John because he was either living in New York or working on his show, so we almost shot all of Oh, Hello always over a three or four day period when we had him. It was a lot of tuna over those days.
For example, when we had Mulaney for three days, we started those three days in the woods shooting that stuff with Mantzoukas and Sean Morris’ Gold Digger stuff, or Hunt And Gather, and then we’d go in the afternoon and shoot Henry Rollins’ stuff and then the next day we’d go to our quote-unquote “New York apartment” and shoot the episode of them leaving New York, and then we went to a green screen to shoot what became the opening video of their video of why they’re leaving New York. Literally it was a three-day shoot with him. We also did the hospital stuff where they prank Dr. Neuringer.
Were you surprised when you saw them in the final episode?
AVC: I wasn’t surprised, though I did wonder if the doctor was distracted by them or if she really was ditching Wendy at the altar.
NK: Well, that’s a longer production story, to be honest with you.
We did want to be able to come back to Oh, Hello one more time. We wanted to be able to integrate them into the season finale, and so it felt like a good way to get them involved, because they historically have pranked her like three times at this point. Two or three times. And it worked for us, story-wise. The rigors of figuring out the show are like, yeah, we can shoehorn them in, but really we want to figure out how they work narratively.
AVC: Yeah, like why are they in Los Angeles, or how did they get to Pittsburgh?
NK: This last season was a lot of people on the road leaving where they were, trying to go somewhere or do the next step of it. And I think that was a function of us trying to keep these stories going forward. Yes, the Oh, Hello guys could stay in New York and keep pranking people with too much tuna but that’s boring after a certain point, so we started to explore in season two where it’s the mercury poisoning—where they’re in their sort of more filmic Woody Allen version of the show—but then it turns into a Too Much Tuna prank. And we wanted to get them out of New York, so we thought, “Let’s see them at a truck stop where they’re dealing with a guy who’s never had anything like this,” where Henry Rollins is a trucker and then he drops them off in the middle of the woods and now they’re just wandering the country and they end up in Don’s Pawns. Let’s see them in Pittsburgh. Part of that was like, “Let’s see what it would be like for someone to get really angry at them for getting pranked with too much tuna.” And that’s Henry Rollins freaking out. And let’s see someone finally love getting pranked with too much tuna. And that was Daly’s character, Don’s Pawns. Then with the finale we just wanted to see them one more time and integrate them in and it worked story-wise to connect them to Dr. Neuringer.
AVC: The Oh, Hello guys are such degenerates. They’re such assholes. Are you surprised that viewers have latched onto them as much as they have?
NK: You know, I don’t know. John and I have been doing those characters now, amazingly, for almost 10 years. We used to host a live show in New York at Rififi as them, and we tried to get into the Aspen Comedy Festival with our Oh, Hello show. We were told it was too New York and it would never work outside of New York. And so to see them succeed, to see them be something that people really connected to and loved, was sort of a surprise, but more than a surprise it was just very validating. To me they’re so funny. I just think that those characters, that kind of guy, is such a funny person to watch, you don’t need to be from New York to identify with them. I think that the too-much-tuna thing ended up being a very useful mechanism through which to get to know these characters—that they have this stupid prank show. I’m really grateful to tuna fish for the assist, for being some sort of vehicle through which to see these guys. But Mulaney’s the funniest dude, and I think that helps, too. People don’t get to see him do character stuff, but to see him as a character and as such an unapologetically awful guy, there’s just something very fun about it. They’re like Muppets, you know?
AVC: You say that you love tuna now, but in 10 years after you’ve had it sent over to you in restaurants countless times, you might not love it as much.
NK: We get the occasional tuna sandwich sent over. I get a lot of pictures of people sending me tuna sandwiches on Twitter. Like, “Is this too much tuna?” People always want to know if it’s too much.
But I genuinely credit the idea of tuna fish as an assist because there aren’t many Upper West Side weird liberal racists and there are only so many people that can identify directly with Upper West Side liberal racists, which is what the Oh, Hello guys are, but tuna is everywhere. Once you’ve got tuna as a way in, people can just enjoy the characters for their specificity.
AVC: A lot of sketches on Kroll Show thrive on specificity. Pawnsylvania is just a big Pennsylvania joke and Wheels, Ontario, which is a take on Degrassi. How do you make sure that stuff isn’t too specific?
NK: What I find funny and what I’ve found people find funny or interesting is specificity. And within specificity is universality, if that makes sense.
Wheels, Ontario was really the brainchild of Jon Daly and Joe Mande. Jon Daly was obsessed with Canada as a kid because he played hockey and Joe Mande, I think, was just was obsessed with wheels, and then Dan Longino, our editor and now director, has watched every episode of Degrassi. I knew nothing about Degrassi and very little about Canada, but hearing them talk about it was making me laugh, and then it’s just off to the races.
Whether you know Degrassi or not, you probably think it’s funny that everyone on this show has a hyphenated name, and so you think, “That’s probably a thing in Canada.” Or Daly had a joke in Pawnsylvania where he said “Yoi double yoi.” I’m like, for people from that region, they know what that means—it’s one of the Pittsburgh Steeler announcers—but if you’re not from there you’re just like, “That must be some stupid weird specific thing.” To me it doesn’t matter whether you specifically know the references or not. There’s something very gratifying about specifics.
AVC: Wheels, Ontario is full of specifics.
NK: Some of them real, some of them entirely made up. And that’s also the fun—not knowing what’s real and what’s made up. So it’s like, yes, Canadians’ milk comes in bags. But I don’t think they call backpacks “pocket zip-up sacks.” That’s part of the fun of it. I don’t know which of these is real. They call their milk “homo milk,” but I don’t think they call their cafeterias “cafetoriums.” But once you’re playing with homo milk, then you can say cafetorium and nobody knows what’s real and what’s fake.
AVC: Wheels, Ontario spun off a bunch of shows as well—or careers, even. You have Show Us Your Songs, Bryan Lacróix’s music career, and even The Hoffman Twins.
NK: And you’ve got Gene Creemers with Get Out! And then that spins off into Get Out! 20 years later, which is where we meet Jon Dore and Angela Mackenzie-Ng. Jon Dore’s character has a drinking problem and then he comes back in the Show Us Your Songs thing this year as the lumberjack, and then Katie Crown—Angela Mackenzie-Ng in the show—is the girl who does “Pleep Ploop,” which comes back in the finale as well. Then Bryan’s got his whole career and we’ve brought in the Hoffman twins.
The goal is to keep evolving. To keep everything evolving and discovering. That also makes the show very difficult to just jump into. I think it’s so much more enjoyable to watch cumulatively than to pick up in the middle.
AVC: It’s hard to tell someone to start watching now, because they’d have no idea why Dr. Armond is on the run or who Gene Creemers is.
NK: On a business level it might not have been the most tactical decision making, but it was the most exciting thing. What I really am proud of is that we were always trying to tell the most exciting story we could, or the most interesting, intricate story we could. And it’s not a surprise that John Levenstein was involved with Arrested Development earlier. I think Arrested is filled with so many weird connections and inside jokes that are connected through so many different layers of filters, and I think our show, as a sketch show, was doing similar things at certain times.
AVC: You mentioned earlier that you had done a pilot for Rich Dicks. Can you talk a little more about that?
NK: It was like a 15-minute show. It was when Comedy Central was flirting with the idea of doing Adult Swim-style 15-minute content. They liked it, but they came back to me and were like—because I had also done my my special, Thank You Very Cool, there with Bobby Bottleservice and Chupacabra and Fabrice and Oh, Hello—and they were like, “Why can’t Rich Dicks be part of a show with all your characters?” Thank You Very Cool was a backdoor pilot in a way.
AVC: Rich Dicks seems like it would have been a lot of fun to explore and write as a bigger concept just because it’s so crazy. Those characters can be ridiculous and they have unlimited amounts of money.
NK: Again, that was something that you would think like, “How would a large audience relate to two rich dicks? They’re such a small portion of the world.” But I think people got a kick out of them because they’re terrible. The debate is always who’s the worst person on Kroll Show? It’s like, Wendy Shawn, George St. Geegland… I kind of think Murph?
AVC: The European Guy?
NK: The European. The European is kind of the worst.
AVC: There are a lot of really specific affectations in both Rich Dicks and PubLIZity, like the way the Dicks say words or the way the Lizzes drink from straws. How many of those are in the script and how many develop on set?
NK: I think we were always discovering new, fun elements to the characters and the way they speak, and continued to evolve it. By the time we finished with PubLIZity, they’re almost unintelligible. They started with nonsense, but now it’s so crazy. And Rich Dicks—there were certain discoveries along the way. I think we were doing a live show of Rich Dicks, just workshopping and getting ready to shoot the show, and I think Daly said “dolphinitely,” and so then you’re off to the races with that, or “give me a brark,” and all of a sudden Rs start appearing everywhere in their wording.
The sipping the straws, we knew we wanted to have them having those drinks, because that’s the kind of thing those girls always do.
AVC: Or how, when they get upset, they have their own little way of speaking—or, rather, not speaking.
NK: Exactly. That was discovered in the pilot. I knew that I liked doing that “mmmmm” thing with my version of it, and then we were like, “Jenny, just respond however you think Pretty Liz would respond to that,” and so then she jumps into that weird, high-pitched squeal, and then in the last episode we reverse it. I’m squealing and she’s doing the low timbre voice. Did that make it in? I don’t remember, to be honest with you. But then we’d also hug each other and sip from our cups.
AVC: And you have the one tear.
NK: I love crying and then putting my finger to my eye and looking to see if any mascara is running.
AVC: I wonder if you love doing that because you’re a dude playing a girl.
NK: Exactly. Like every time you watch The Kardashians they’re always checking to see if their makeup is running as they cry, which I just thought was and is really, really funny.
AVC: Have you always watched really bad TV or did you start watching more because of Kroll Show?
NK: Amazingly, I’m not a huge reality show guy. But yes, it was pretty fun to think that my job as we were writing was to go home and flip through the channels and watch terrible television, and it would be a productive night for me. And it really was, you know? It really was.
AVC: Were there any guests you wanted to get on the show but couldn’t? PubLIZity was a good framework for that kind of action, in a way, because you could just have Katy Perry go to a party they were working on.
NK: Right. Sometimes it’s the availability of an actor and then you go from there. In the case of like Katy Perry, she tweeted something about the show, and it was like “Oh, she likes the show,” and we have a couple friends in common so I got on the phone with her and it was like, “Okay, she’s available this day, and that’s around when we’re shooting PubLIZity, so we’ll build it around her.” Or Seth Rogen is a fan of the show and he was available on a specific date, and so then it’s like, what could work within that framework? It would be fun to watch a guy be more interested in Liz than in Pretty Liz. And then we sort of build it from there.
Other times it’s character-specific. Like Bill Burr. Bill Burr to me is such a fun, funny cop, and so fun to play against someone like Armond. So it was like, “Let’s specifically try to get Bill Burr,” who I just wanted to work with because I know and respect him so much. Or Nathan Fillion, who is Canadian, and wouldn’t it be fun to see him as a Mountie just because he looks like a Mountie, and he’s Canadian? And then it’s just like, who do I like? People I’m friends with or fans of. It would be fun to see Aziz [Ansari] be a chef, and he’s an old friend of mine, or Adam Pally as a bro who is gay, but just like a fun American bro would be a nice addition to the Wheels world.
AVC: You recently did a great interview with Pitchfork about the music in the show. In a way, music has almost become a recurring character in the show and that seems to have developed more over the course of the series. Is that something you always intended to do?
NK: People have said that our show is skewering pop culture and stuff like that. In my mind that’s sort of the case, but really it’s not like we’re directly making fun of celebrities. I think music is such an integral part of our culture, and the way that expression happens and things grow out of celebrities that people are interested in, that it felt like something we would want to explore. It would also just keep the show diverse, so that in one episode you would see something filmic like Wheels, Ontario, something reality show like Pawnsylvania, and then something musical like a Bryan Lacróix song or a Bobby song or a Nash Rickey song.
I get so many people saying, “I can’t get ‘L.A. Deli’ out of my head,” “I can’t get ‘Pleep Ploop’ out of my head,” “I can’t get ‘Ottawanna Go To Bed’ out of my head,” and it’s helpful that earworm stuff can get people super invested in the show.
Songs are also very helpful things to cross over, or to use to help connect different pieces of the show. Dr. Armond is playing Billy Joel’s song on Armond Of The House; “L.A. Deli” is sung in karaoke. Nash Rickey is singing it, but Niece Denise is also singing “Ottawanna Go To Bed.” Joe Wengert’s “Some people want to see me do my thing, some people want to see me move around,” which was an interstitial bit, became a song that one of the girls in karaoke is always singing. It’s such a good connector. Music ends up being a very helpful glue to cross from one piece to the next.