FX’s new comedy The Comedians (premiering April 9 at 10pm ET/PT) is a show about a show starring the guys behind the guys.
Comedy legend Billy Crystal partners with (relative) newcomer Josh Gad (Frozen, The Wedding Ringer) in this mockumentary-style, behind-the-scenes look at their new comedy/variety show. Reluctantly paired up for The Billy & Josh Show, Crystal and Gad power through network execs’ demands, underperforming assistants, a skittish producer and their own conflicting comedic philosophies.
“It’s a complicated show,” Crystal says of The Comedians. “We have a live show within the show, you have the sketches that fold into the show, and then you have our lives and who we are, and who we are to other people and an audience that thinks they know us, and changing those perceptions or enhancing those perceptions.”
“It’s a show essentially about these two guys who could come from any vocation — it just happens to be that they’re comedians,” Gad says. “Coming from completely different generational perspectives, being forced to work together essentially against their wills — that’s what makes it so wonderfully dynamic and so wonderfully perverse.”
Crystal and Gad broke down a few bits from The Comedians for us:
Scene: In a Billy & Josh sketch, TV chef Anthony Bourdain (Crystal) samples some delicacies prepared by his Himalayan host (Gad). When Bourdain learns what it was he just ate, he projectile vomits directly into the face of his delighted host.
Josh Gad: It’s not the first time I’ve had to do it, and it won’t be the last. Billy and I talk about the fact that that’s like where we become committed to this thing. If you can do that, you sort of can do anything.
Billy Crystal: Being the guy doing it — there’s a pipe alongside my mouth — but watching him so eager to have this corn chowder or whatever it was blown on his face, each time getting closer and closer and not blinking, going, “Here it comes!” I told him after we shot that, after we both showered and got the corn chowder out of our hair, I said, “You’re always great. But now you were truly born to play this. The way you hammered the line, ‘This has happened to me before! You think this is the first time?’” It’s such a great opening for that show.
Scene: Crystal and Gad prep for their appearance at the Kid Critics Awards by getting stoned and ransacking a grocery store.
Gad: The idea of Billy Crystal being stoned in a grocery store was, I think, the launching point for that storyline and it was one that I think has enormous potential comedically, but what happened in that episode so exceeded my every expectation. And it’s not just about the comedic payoff of what happens there, but it’s the quiet stuff like Billy and I sitting and talking to each other eating the ice cream, is what I think is what is so wonderful and specific about this series.
Scene: Gad gets them out of a jam by giving a security guard’s kids a phone call in the voice of Olaf, his Frozen character.
Gad: The beauty about the show is that it always begins with a “you’ll never believe what just happened to me” conversation. And then we will dissect that and expose it and flip it on its head and tie it into a way that the two of us can sort of create that conflict for the two of us to resolve during the course of the episode.
Crystal: We were both nominated [for an Annie Award], for Monsters U and Frozen.
Gad: That really happened. We were both nominated against each other. It really is art imitating life imitating art.
Scene: Gad and Crystal are sitting in a limousine. Gad attempts an impression of Crystal, who says it looks like a “Hasidic ape.”
Gad: I don’t know where that came from. It’s one of those things that, like, I don’t know why that became my go-to Billy Crystal impression, but it just worked.
Crystal: It’s like a bad caricature at a bar mitzvah or something.
Photo: Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FX