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By Suzanne

Josh Gad

Interview with Josh Gad of "The Comedians" on Lifetime 4/6/15

It was such a privilege to speak with Josh! This show he's doing with Billy Crystal is really funny. Of course he was also excellent in "Frozen" and "The Book of Mormon." He was so sweet and kind on the call. I hope you get to watch the show.

Final Transcript
FX NETWORK: The Comedians
April 6, 2015/1100 a.m. PDT

SPEAKERS
Stephanie Kelly
Josh Gad

PRESENTATION

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to The Comedians conference call. At this time, all lines are in a listen-only mode. (Operator instructions.) We ask that you please limit yourself to one question and one follow-up. You may then re-queue and additional questions will be taken as time permits. Iíd also like to remind you that todayís conference is being recorded. (Operator instructions.)

I'll now turn the conference over to Stephanie Kelly for opening remarks. Please go ahead.

Stephanie: Hi, everyone, thank you very much for joining us for The Comedians conference call with Josh Gad. This morning, as a reminder, The Comedians is premiering this Thursday night at 10, only on FX. And this conference call is being recorded, but we ask that you not include audio in your stories; itís for print and on-line coverage only.

And without further ado I will introduce Josh Gad, co-star of The Comedians on FX. And we can get started.

Josh: Hello, everybody, very excited to be here. Thank you guys so much for joining me.

Moderator: Thank you. Our first question will come from Jamie Steinberg with Starry Constellation Magazine. Go ahead, please.

Jamie: Hi. Itís such a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you for your time.

Josh: No, thank you.

Jamie: You have such great comedic timing. Is it something thatís always come natural to you, or have you had to hone it at some fashion?

Josh: I got a book called Comedy for Dummies, and I just read it front to back and I wasó no, itís something that I think, I think weíre all born with an innate sense of what is funny, right? I was fascinated watching the SNL 40th anniversary special because there are these sketches that are 40 years old, which feature the likes of John Belushi and Richard Pryor, and all these different people that are still funny to this day.

And I think taken out of the context of any period will remain funny, i.e. Charlie Chaplin. I still revel in how a movie like Modern Times holds up and feels, for lack of a better word, as modern and fresh as ever before. So I think that comedy is something thatís innate in all of us and understanding what is funny.

And then you hone that skill like you would any other by getting the proper training. And for me it was going to Conservatory, and not only learning how to be funny, but learning drama techs, and learning how to do theatre and all that stuff. And then going to places like The Groundlings.

And thenóIíve been fortunate enough to work with people like Jon Stewart and Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and now Billy Crystal, and that continues to be a master class education in comedy. And so you keep picking up new things along the way and you keep learning. And youíre always growing, hopefully, as an artist and as a comedian.

Jamie: And what was your first impression when you met Billy Crystal?

Josh: My first impression was, oh my God, I'm in the midst of not only a brilliant comedian, but an icon who I've looked up to my entire life. I can vividly remember wearing out the VHS tape of Princess Bride growing up and City Slickers. And watching Comic Relief as a ten-year-old, and being like, oh my God this is one of the greatest performers I've ever seen.

So youíre awestruck. But at the same time you just jump into it because you want to leave a good impression on an idol, and you want to be worthy of sharing that billing with him. And so for me, it was like I said, a master class education in comedy. But also the foundation of a friendship that Iím beyond honored to have, and to be able to call Billy Crystal your friend is a dream come true for me.

Jamie: Wonderful, thank you so much.

Josh: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Our next question is from David Martindale with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Go ahead, please.

David: Thank you. Hi, Josh. I love the show, youíre really quite wonderful in it.

Josh: Thank you.

David: Yes. Is it fun, or scary, or both to play a version of Josh Gad, this is vain as needy, as self-loathing, as screwed up as the one we see in The Comedians?

Josh: Absolutely terrifying, probably the most terrifying thing I've ever done. Anybody who knows me will hopefully tell you that I'm much more modest in real life that I am on the TV series. And for somebody like Billy, I think itís slightly easier to play on preconceived notions about him because he has such a story to history with audiences.

I'm sort of newer. I'm a younger guy. I'm just developing that relationship with my audience, with my following. And so to trust the audience enough that you figure theyíll be in on the joke is something that requires a leap of faith, especially when youíre playing some of the ugly colors that I get to play on this series.

Having said that, itís also exhilarating to keep the audience guessing as to whatís real and whatís not. I like to joke around that thereís probably like 8% to 10% of similarities that fake Josh Gad and real Josh Gad share, and those 10% are absolutely heightened beyond belief. So what youíre seeing is a very meta-heighted version of who I am really am in real life, and thatís both exhilarating and terrifying.

David: Sure. Do the writers conjure up all of these character flaws for fictional Josh Gad and you take it and run with it? Or do you sometimes go to them and go, hey guys, hereís another of my shortcomings that you can work into the show. How does it work?

Josh: I think itís a mixture of both. The writers will come up withóthe writers came up withóthe creative team came up with the foundation for what they wanted this character to be in order to service a relationship with the heightened version of Billyís character. And to give the show enough conflict that it wasnít just two guys kissing each otherís a** for thirteen episodes.

In doing that, a lot of times Iíll get a script and Iíll be like, ďWait a second, is this really what you think of me?Ē You donít have the safety net of having a different name, youíre literally getting lines as Josh Gad and youíre like, ďWow, these guys must really think I'm an ***hole.Ē And that is always a terrifying thing because youíre not sure what their perception is of you, or if theyíre just creating these conceits from scratch just because this is whatís going to service the show best.

David: Thatís funny. Okay, thank you so much. Itís been a pleasure.

Josh: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Weíll go next to Suzanne Lanoue with the TV MegaSite. Go ahead, please.

Suzanne: Morning, Josh.

Josh: Good morning.

Suzanne: Itís great to speak with you. I really love the show, itís so funny. I was wondering, you do a lot of different things, do you think of yourself primarily as an actor, a comedian, or singer? You wear a lot of different hats.

Josh: I think of myself as a guy whoís looking for the next challenge. I think of myself as a guy whoís constantly trying to learn, and constantly trying toó like I said, challenge myself and prove to myself that thereís something else that I can learn from, that I can conquer, that I can accomplish.

In the case of making the distinction between comedy and being a regular actor, so to speak, look, I cut my teeth doing theatre. I went to Conservatory at Carnegie Mellon for four years. I trained to be an actor first and foremost, theatre will always be my first love. Itís the foundation for what I do.

But having said that, I love making people laugh. Itís the ultimate joy to be a part of something where you can hear an audience, you can see what that is doing to an audience. Thereís an actual visual and aural sensation that comes along with that. Whereas if youíre doing a drama or something like that, you donít get that same kind of response. And that to me is always the joy of doing comedy, and itís why I keep coming back to it.

Suzanne: And do you have plans to direct someday?

Josh: If somebody is foolish enough to give me the power, yes. I would love to. I think that, again, I'm always looking to grow and I'm always looking to discover new things. And hopefully be allowed to screw up and find my way, and discover that path as well. I would love to eventually down the road.

Suzanne: Alright. Thank you very much.

Moderator: Thank you. Our next question is from Nicole Carrington with Hello! Canada. Go ahead, please.

Nicole: Hi, Josh. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.

Josh: My pleasure, thank you.

Nicole: Congratulations on the show. So we know, obviously, that Billy Crystal is a complete master at his craft. What have you learned from him since partnering for The Comedians?

Josh: Itís an interesting question. I definitely have learned to listen and watch, I mean thatís what I've basically learned. Billy is a master at a lot of things. So one thing that heís really adept at, is he transforms into these characters.

In the series we have the luxury of doing a series within the series where we get to do sketch comedy. And watching this guy, who I think is one of the most brilliant voices to ever come through the halls of Saturday Night Live, itís an amazing study developing characters, and character comedy that is so distinct.

To create characters that are able to have catch phrases like, ďYou look marvelous,Ē and have that become a pop cultural touchstone, thatís an enormous feat. And so that to me has been, I think the most enlightening part of this process, is just getting to see him do what he does best in creating all of these amazing characters and distinct voices in his approach to sketch comedy.

Nicole: Thank you so much.

Moderator: Thank you. (Operator instructions.) And our next question will come from Bill Bodkin with Pop-Break.com. Go ahead, please.

Bill: Hi guys, thanks for doing this with us.

Josh: Hey, my pleasure.

Bill: Awesome. My question is, thereís so much on television right now, and Thursday night is chock-full of programming - comedy and drama. What do you think makes The Comedians stand out from everything else and makes it a unique show that people should be dedicating their time to watch?

Josh: Right. Well I think that thereís a number of reasons. First and foremost, I happen to think itís hysterically funny. And yes I'm subjectiveó

Bill: Of course.

Josh: ó but there is, baring my bias, there isóI've had an opportunity now to watch screenings of it with audiences and it is laugh out loud funny. I think that the return of Billy Crystal to television is an event worthy of viewership in of itself.

But I think above all else, even though the show uses the backdrop of industry and the inside machinations of creating the show, as I said, a backdrop, itís about a generational disconnect that exists between an older guy and a younger guy. And I think thatís a universal theme that people can get behind, especially the baby that I hear in the background. I can seeóis that a child that I hear?

Bill: Thatís my four-month-old daughter, yes.

Josh: He sounds like heís absolutely over this conversation.

Bill: Sheís actually laughing, soó

Josh: There you go. Heís like, ďWait a second, why are you talking to Olaf, daddy?Ē But I think that people can get behind that universal idea of people who have the same goal in mind, but are approaching it through their generational experiences, the colors of whateverís gotten them there, and the eras that theyíve grow up in. And I think thatís what makes the show so relatable, so human, and ultimately, so funny.

Bill: Oh, awesome. And my follow-up would beóyour impersonation of Billy Crystal is not to be cheesy, itís marvelous. And was that something you always had in your bag of tricks as a partósomething you just pull out every once in a while? Or was that something you just put together when you started working with Billy?

Josh: That was something that when they said, ďCameras rolling,Ē literally came out of thin air. I mean, it really was. The beauty of getting to work with Larry Charles, who of course is the mastermind behind Borat and Bruno, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Seinfeld, the beauty of getting to work with him is that he keeps the cameras rolling long after the scripted pages are done. And so you arrive at gems like that where youíre sort of stuck with each other in a car or whatever the situation may be, and all of a sudden that will come out.

Bill: Awesome. Well thank you so much, and thank you for making my daughter laugh.

Josh: Oh, my pleasure. Give her a big kiss for me.

Bill: Thanks, I will.

Moderator: Thank you. Our next question is from Karen Moul with 55 Vision. Go ahead, please.

Karen: Hi, itís great to talk to you today. My question is a bit of a two-parter. You are Co-EP on the show, so could you tell us a little bit about how much input you have into the direction of the program? And second, could you tell us a bit about working with FX? Theyíve allowed you to set the show at their network, which maybe sets them up for a little bit of humor directed at them. And can you tell us about that?

Josh: Yes, absolutely. In terms of being a co-producer on the show, I definitely have a voice in the process, but it really is a collaborative effort. Billy, Larry, Ben Wexler, and Matt Nix created the show and brought it to me as something to be a part of, so I tend to defer to them on their vision. And when I agree or disagree, my sentiments are always heard and always listened to. In the process of creating storylines, I'm always allowed to voice my opinion and be a part of that conversation. Itís a very collaborative effort.

And then with regard to the FX of it all. Look, I think itís safe to say that in this golden age of television, they, along with some of their competitors like HBO and AMC and Netflix, are setting the gold standard for what great television should look like. Whether itís what I think is arguably the best comedy on TV, Louie, or a short-scripted series like Fargo, which I thought was extraordinary, or The Americans, or Justified, there is this incredible lineup, that to even be a part of that conversation is an honor.

And in terms of their collaborative nature on this, they are of the opinion that whatever the creative team wants to do, they trust them enough by virtue of giving them a series to be on their air, that they can make the series that they want to make. And thereís rarely, if ever, any interference, which is very unusual if you know anything about television.

They sort of just let you do it. Even by the way, if it is taking the p*** out of them, which theyíve been very tolerant of. Itís an unbelievably collaborative network to be a part of and they have gone above and beyond the call of duty with regard to letting us do the version of our show that we all imagine doing.

Karen: Well that bodes well for a great season. Thanks so much.

Josh: You got it. Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. And next we have Anushika Ganegoda with Mike the Fanboy. Go ahead, please.

Anushika: Hi, Josh. Thank you so much for your time. I'm excited to talk to you today.

Josh: Thank you so much.

Anushika: So how much of the show is actually improvised compared to scripted?

Josh: You know, the scripts pretty much always come in very strong, so thatís always a great foundation to go off of. Having said that, I canít really think of a situation where thereís been more leeway to improvise. Like I said, given Larry Charlesí direction, he sort of set the tone in the pilot and the subsequent episodes that he directed, nine of which he directed, that the cameras stay rolling long after the scripted material is done.

Like I said, he was a part of Curb Your Enthusiasm which has built their entire series around the nature of improvisation. So for us it always comes down to has the scene run its course, or is there more story and more relationship to discover by allowing us to explore without any scripted pages. And usually, in more cases than not, weíre given that freedom and that opportunity to explore.

Anushika: Awesome. As a follow-up, working with Billy Crystal, do you have a favorite episode or a scene that you would like to share with us?

Josh: You know, I would say that there is this great birthday episode, which I am not sure if you guys were able to see in your screeners or not. But thereís this episode that really speaks to what the crux of the series is about, which is this generational disparity that exists between two guys who are after the same goal, but approach it differently.

And it wasnít only hysterically funny episode, but it was a very poignant one. And Billy was so fearless in it because he really had to call upon some of his own experiences, not only in his career, but throughout his life. That I think are, for lack of a better word, the foundations of insecurities or fears or whatever they are. And that episode was trulyótruly speaks to the potential of what this series ultimately can be, and it was a really amazing experience to sit back and watch a master do what he does best.

Anushika: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Josh: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. We now have a question from Lynnie: Thieme with twocentstv.com. Please go ahead.

Lynnie: Hi. I was first introduced to you in theatre. And I wonder if you have a favorite genre to work in, be it theatre, film, television, voice-over work, if thereís something that really calls out to you above everything else?

Josh: Well look, I think they all have their pros. They all afford an artist opportunities to flex his or her muscles in different ways. For me, my beginnings were theatre, and nothing will ever replace that as my first love. I think that thereís something very empowering and special about being on a stage without a safety net, and not having editing to fall back on to save your performance, but having to prove yourself eight times a week to an audience who can read between the lines and know if you are phoning it in or not.

That to me is still the biggest thrill. Having that once-in-a-lifetime moment with an audience which night-to-night will never be the same. Itís a veryóitís the foundation for my love of wanting to do this all in the first place. So if I had to pick one that would be it.

Lynnie: Thank you very much.

Josh: Thank you.

Moderator: We now have a question from Brandon Katz with Headlines and Global News. Go ahead, please.

Brandon: Hey, Josh. Thanks for your time today, much appreciated. Youíve been a part of a lot of really, really successful entertainment endeavors over the years. But your TV resume is a little hit or miss, as youíve said yourself in a few interviews. I was wonderingó

Josh: I think youíre being way too gracious.

Brandon: Well what about The Comedians sets it apart and is such a success?

Josh: Look as Iíve said before, I've been very unlucky in love with TV. I think that TV, especially when it comes to comedy is a tough nut, if not an impossible nut to crack especially in the current age of seen it all, been there, done that mentality that viewers approach television with. Thereís only so many different ways you can tell the same joke.

Whereas in drama and serialized shows, you sort of have a hook to lean on. You can hook the viewer in an episode-to-episode, keep them guessing as to whatís going to come next. In TV you donít necessarily have that luxury.

So yes, itís been a downhill battle and I didnít really want to come back to TV. I had no ambition of wanting to return. I'm not a glutton for punishment. But I was really taken by, when I saw the suite of series, they sent me the entirety of that series. I was taken by this storyline of these two guys who had so much in common, and yet nothing in common, had the same goal in mind, but had very different ideas of how to approach that goal.

Again, I've had an opportunity to work with a lot of older comedians and learn from them. And the idea of turning that into a series was, I thought, very unique. Other stories have touched upon it, whether itís The Comeback or Curb, or Larry Sanders, but theyíve done so with the prism of it being about the behind-the-scenes machinations of that. And I donít really believe that thatís what our show is.

I think that our show is that on the surface. But really what itís about is these two guys who are trying to figure each other out, and are coming at it from being colored by their personal experiences and their generational experiences. You always sign onto something with what about it excites me, and what about it intrigues me, and that was the point of entry for me.

And of course working with a master like Billy Crystal is not something you generally turn down, if like me, youíre always looking to keep learning and to keep learning and to keep discovering.

Brandon: And should viewers expect anything new comedic-wise from you that [indiscernible] youíve been a big song and dance man in the past. Are you going to show off any other acting chops?

Josh: Oh, absolutely. Look, as ironic and strange as it is to say, by virtue of the fact that I'm playing Josh Gad on this series, and a heightened version of Josh Gad, you will be seeing a side of me that I donít believe youíve ever seen before.

There is a cynical prism that I donít usually do in my work that is sort of the foundation for this bizarro version of myself. Heís a guy with a healthy ego, heís a guy who is absolutely clueless when it comes to certain social behaviors. And I'm excited about showingóletís just say a somewhat uglier side of myself. And itís dangerous, itís tricky, but itís also enormously rewarding. I think that, I do think itís going to afford viewers definitely someóthe opportunity to see me in a different light than theyíve seen me previously.

Brandon: Great. Thanks so much for your time, Josh. Looking forward to it.

Josh: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. And we have Nicole Carrington with Hello! Canada. Go ahead, please.

Nicole: Hi, Josh, me again.

Josh: Hey.

Nicole: Hi. I wanted to touch on a little bit about the Beauty and the Beast and your role in that. I wanted to know whether or not your kids are excited about it, or what kind of films theyíre into.

Josh: Yes. Look, I've worn out the Frozen welcome in my house, so I needed something to win back their affection. And Beauty and the Beast, itís funny, because itís just as much for me as it is for the kids. It was my Frozen, I like to call it. I was kind of that age when I first saw that movie, it was everything to me.

And like Little Mermaid and Aladdin and Lion King, it was one of those movies that I saw over and over again in the theater and was memorized by the songs, by the storytelling. And so to now bring those characters to life in a way only Disney can do, I'm really excited about it and I'm excited that itís going to give me the opportunity to do my first live-action musical, which I havenít been afforded before.

Nicole: Apart from this one, what other films resonated with you as a child?

Josh: Besides Beauty and the Beast?

Nicole: Yes.

Josh: Well, I mean, it depends on the genre. Look, I'm a child who was reared from the nipple of Amblin films, right? I literally grew up watching Goonies and Gremlins and all those Spielberg movies over and over and over again. I grew up watching all the second golden age Disney classics.

I grew up watching movies like City Slickers and movies like Princess Bride over and over again. It sort of runs the gamut of what shaped me. But it always goes back to those perennial films like Back to the Future and those movies that I grew up with, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars. That all sort of defined my love, especially for film.

Nicole: Great, thank you so much.

Josh: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. And our final question will come from Cody Schultz with Hidden Remote. Go ahead, please. Cody, is your phone on mute?

Cody: Hello. Can you hear me now?

Moderator: Yes, we can. Go ahead.

Cody: I'm sorry, I'm not sure what that was. Hi, Josh. Thanks again so much for speaking with us today.

Josh: Thank you.

Cody: Do you have any fun on-set stories that you can share about your co-stars with us?

Josh: Do I have any what stories?

Cody: On-set stories?

Josh: On-set stories that I can share about my co-stars? You know, I will tell you that my first day on set with Billy was a very strange, surreal one because not only am I acting alongside this guy whoís an idol of mine, but I have to sort of insult him to his face without the safety net of calling him by a different name.

And so on the very first day of shooting the pilot, we had to have a conversation and just be at ease with each other and tell each other, okay so now I, Josh Gad, fake real Josh Gad, am going to say things as fake Josh Gad that are going to be a little bit insulting to fake Billy Crystal, but I want you as the real Billy Crystal to be okay with it. So it was a very surreal first day where we had to make a pact and come up with the rules of the game.

I remember we had this scene that takes place in a restaurant where I come in and Iím sort of like, ďItís so great to meet you.Ē And I said to him usually when you meet each other, youíre not sure what the other person is going to look like, but I've been seeing you a lot on Starz Family lately. And it was this quick zing that wasnít scripted or anything and I'm like, this is going to set the tone. Heís either going punch me in the face right now or heís going to go along with it.

And once he went along with it, I knew that I was in a safe zone and that the sky was the limit in terms of what we can do. And the fact that we were going to sort of Thelma and Louise style, take a jump together down this rabbit hole and go all the way.

Cody: Alright, thank you so much.

Josh: Thank you.

Stephanie: So that concludes our conference call for today. I want to thank Josh very much for participating, and all of you for calling in and asking questions. As a reminder, we will send out a transcript within 72 hours. And again, The Comedians airs this Thursday at 10 p.m. only on FX.

Thank you, Josh.

Josh: Thank you guys so much. Have a great one.

Stephanie: You, too.

Moderator: Thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive TeleConference. You may now disconnect.

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