One of the primest examples of the YouTube revolution is Human Giant, the New York sketch group that recently parlayed its hilarious online shorts into a primetime series on MTV. But unlike most of the, well, crap that goes viral online, these Upright Citizens Brigade improv performers actually deserve their success-Ansari is one of the country' hottest young stand-ups, Huebel slam-dunked small roles like Cingular' "Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man," Scheer is known for his snarky commentary on VH1' talking head shows, and director Jason Woliner appeared in Weekend at Bernie'
when he was a kid. The four funnymen took some time to tell us about their new show before it premieres next month.
How'd you guys all start working together?
Aziz: Basically, we kind of met performing together at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York. And that' where me, Rob and Paul started performing together. Then when we started having ideas for these short films, we met our director, Jason, and he worked with us on everything we did. We were big fans of his and we just decided that we should start doing stuff together officially and call it "Human Giant."
Paul: One night, we got sent out to a touring show at a New Jersey technical school. We were all going to be performing in this big cafeteria"¦and we just kind of started talking and we liked the same sort of stuff. We just became friends and we started. Aziz does this stand-up show called "Crash Test" every Monday night, and we started co-hosting with him and making shorts. People liked them, and then all of a sudden MTV saw the shorts online and let us do the show for them, which has been pretty cool.
Where does the name "Human Giant" come from?
Aziz: There' a line in one of our sketches where someone says, "Are you familiar with Michael Clarke Duncan, the human giant? We can get him to carry you around Hollywood wherever you want to go." And that name-Human Giant-just stuck in our heads.
Will the sketches on the MTV series be different than the ones that are online?
Jason: Some of our stuff that we've put on the Internet will make it onto the show, but it will be mostly new stuff. What's great is that MTV is letting us do whatever kind of short films we want-fake TV shows, bits with the three guys playing themselves, weird little clips-but it's all hopefully going to have the same spirit as the stuff we made on our own.
Rob: The stuff that we're shooting isn't really abstract"¦it' just not like really mainstream comedy. There aren't a lot of really traditional sketches, where it' like, "Oh, there' the crazy neighbor, I bet he' gonna say something funny!"
Paul: We've been working with these amazing executives over there who loved what we did online, and they basically just said, "Make this into a show." The only difference between what you've seen online and what you're going to see on the show is that there' 20 minutes of it in a row instead of five-minute chunks. I guess the other main difference is that in a lot of sketches and in a lot of these short films that we're doing, we play ourselves.
How does the writing process work?
Jason: We usually just hang out and joke around with each other, and when something makes us laugh-like how ridiculous someone like Mindfreak
's Criss Angel is-we try to figure out a funny angle on it and make it our own. We've also been lucky enough to bring in some of our really funny friends-like Patton Oswalt, Jon Glaser, Brian Posehn and Dan Mintz-to help us write stuff up and pitch in jokes. Writing with people that I'm such a big fan of has probably been my favorite part of getting to make the show.
Paul: It' interesting. You know, we've never had to write so much, ever. So we are basically like trapped in a room for hours at a time and we all pretty much have to agree on a sketch for it to go forward. Sometimes it gets a little frustrating because we all have to be unanimous, but at the same time, it means that if something does get through every one of us, then that means that it should be good"¦. The way that our process is, we're like a little family in there. We'll bicker with each other and fight about little things. Like, if we pitch and idea, it' like, "Wait, I saw like an element of that sketch on a sketch show in 1985, and so we can't do it."
What've you bickered about most?
Paul: It' normally the minutia that no one will ever, ever realize. A perfect example is, we did a sketch where we were cops, and there was an argument about whether we should wear clip-on ties versus actual tied ties. People were like, "It' not realistic-cops have clip-on ties so if someone tries to strangle them, the clip-on tie falls off." That' also kind of the fun: when you are sitting around the table and arguing about what' a better thing for someone to say, like if someone gets called a "pussy" or if someone gets called an "assjag." It' fun to argue about that. It' the best job in the world.
What' an "assjag?"
Paul: You know, I don't know. I feel like it' a term that I have popularized, not that anyone uses it, but I'm trying to get it into the vernacular. We have this one sketch I wanted to use it in, but I don't know whether or not it got in.
What other sketch shows have inspired you guys?
Aziz: After doing our show and seeing how hard it is to make one of these shows, then I'll watch Chappelle
or Mr. Show
. I always thought that stuff was great, but watching it now, you look at it with a totally different eye. You really are just in awe about how they were willing to pull those shows off.
Jason: My favorite show in the history of TV is Mr. Show
. I think it's one of mankind's great achievements.
Paul: Growing up, Ben Stiller
was like the best show I ever saw. And then I loved Mr. Show
, of course.
Rob: When I grew up, I was glued to the TV every Saturday night. My mom was a big fan of Saturday Night Live
when I was little, so me and my brothers would all watch Saturday Night Live
from way back in the day"¦. We like single-camera comedy stuff and I think we all gravitate towards-and I hate to use this term-alternative comedy. We don't really go too much for like mainstream stuff. I think we are attracted more to weirder, darker, more obscure stuff.
You guys mentioned that making Human Giant has been a lot of work. What' been the hardest part?
Aziz: It' really just everything, you know, because we're really involved in everything. We have to approve all the props, we have to cast and everything. We're shooting like 12-hour days. Then we have to write all this stuff. There' really just so much stuff. You never realize how much work it is"¦. I remember one time I saw Dave Chappelle do stand-up when he was doing his show, and he was talking about how exhausting it was. And I was like, "Wow, that' something else." And now that I'm a doing show, I know exactly what he means.
Paul: It has been the hardest I've ever worked in my life. And I would never want to complain, because it' the best job in the world, but all we do-me, Rob, Aziz and Jason-we just see each other pretty much 20 hours a day. So we are just like this old family"¦. We're just writing a ton of stuff. Like, we wrote 78 pieces for the show, and probably only 50 or so will air, and the rest will probably be spread out online. It' a lot-going from just a handful of stuff to 78.
Rob: We're having a great time and definitely not complaining about it at all, because at the end of the day, what would you rather be doing? Nothing. This is awesome. To have your own TV show and have someone else pay for it is a pretty good deal. It' a lot of work, but I definitely have an appreciation for other TV shows. There are so many pieces of the puzzle that have to come together. Like, we cast all these people to get the right locations, get the permits, get all the props made and get all the costumes made. And trying to do it under a certain dollar amount and on a schedule makes you want to stick a huge sword through your neck.
So what would you be doing if you weren't doing comedy?
Rob: Oh man, I used to have some really shitty office jobs. My first couple of jobs out of college, I had these really bad sales jobs. It was just the worst. Just the classic sitting-at-a-cubicle, on-the-fucking-phone-all-day, going-out-on-sales-calls stuff that any human would hate. Probably the reason I never complain about what we're working on-as hard as this-is because I wouldn't want to go back to that. But yeah, I'm sure I would be some office jackass. I would just be some douchebag in an office somewhere trying to fucking be funny and start the dumbass softball team.
Human Giant premieres Thursday, April 5th at 10:30 on MTV. Be there. Until then, you can become their internet friend at MySpace.com/HumanGiant