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Andy Daly will Review anything (as long as it doesn’t involve primates)

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In addition to being one of 2014’s funniest new shows, Review was also one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. It took a long time for the series—in which Andy Daly stars as Forrest MacNeil, a reviewer of “life itself”—to make it to air, but it arrived with comedic voice and a twisted sensibility intact. The first-season finale more or less detonated the show’s premise, but Daly and crew have drawn Forrest back to his true calling for a second round of poor decision-making disguised as academic inquiry that begins Thursday, July 30 on Comedy Central. Daly spoke with The A.V. Club about jumping back into Review, displaying his emotional state through his hair, and why he might be to L. Ron Hubbard what Hal Holbrook is to Mark Twain.

The A.V. Club: You waste no time in that first episode.

Andy Daly: Yeah, we talked about a lot of ways of getting into the season after the way things ended last season. We said, “Let’s throw him right back into the fire.” He’s back there, onstage, with A.J., ready and raring to go and fully re-committed to the show. [Laughs.] That seemed like the way to do it. No screwing around.


AVC: What were some of the ways of returning Forrest to the show that you didn’t pursue?

AD: We talked about the idea that when the show starts up again, Forrest has not decided to return to it—so that we actually see that happen. One of the reasons that didn’t appeal to us is this whole idea that the show that you’re watching is Forrest’s show. So anytime that we show a behind-the-curtain peer—like a conversation between Forrest and Grant—it has to really be justified as something that Forrest would show you, in order to help him explain the topic that he’s exploring. You know, everything is a review, so what would be the review and who would be doing the review in which we would see Forrest returning to the show? That all seemed annoying to contemplate and figure out, so we said, “Let’s just start him back doing it.” To the extent that we have an explanation of where he’s been and why he came back. We will get it, in little bits and pieces, in the actual reviews that he’s doing.


AVC: That answers the next question: How much are we going to see from Forrest’s time away?

AD: You’re not going to see any of it, because cameras weren’t following him at that time. But in our second episode, there’s a fair explanation in the context of something that Forrest is exploring, of exactly where he was and what he was up to and what happened between seasons one and two. It gets dropped into a conversation about something else.

AVC: It seemed like the story of Forrest MacNeil could’ve ended with the first-season finale, “Quitting, Last Day, Irish.” What was it like coming back to the character and to the show and starting from scratch for season two?

AD: It was a little daunting. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately: Our mindset, the way that we ended the season last year—we didn’t really think we were going to get a second season. [Laughs.] When I think about when we were writing season one, it was a somewhat different time for Comedy Central. Kroll Show hadn’t even premiered, let alone Inside Amy Schumer and Broad City. And Key & Peele was kind of in the early days—it was such a long time ago when we started writing this.


We’re writing a show about a fortysomething dude in a jacket and a tie with a wife and a kid, who really cares about them—and yes, is having some very extreme and exciting and outrageous experiences, but is talking about them in this very academic way. We knew we might not grab Comedy Central’s audience with this. We were not setting out to make a noble failure. It’s not that we didn’t care to get them. We worked hard: We put in some orgies and some car smashing. [Laughs.] Stuff that seemed “demographically relevant,” let’s say. But when it came time to end the season, we weren’t thinking a lot about how we would continue after that, because were were like, “Let’s just leave it all on the field and feel good if it ends here.”

The other side of that coin is you get a second season: Now what do you do? [Laughs.] We kind of set it up like, “Poor Forrest: As long as he does this show, he will suffer.” [Laughs.] And so that’s where we are. He’s back doing it, and hell yeah, he’s going to suffer. [Laughs.]


AVC: And now you’re making a show for Comedy Central where a show doesn’t end unless its creators want it to. We saw that with Kroll Show earlier this year, and we’ll see it with Key & Peele this summer.

AD: I can’t sign on 100 percent to your premise there: I think [Comedy Central] probably reserves the right to cancel a show. [Laughs.] It could easily happen. I’m not going to sit back and relax to that extent. But it’s different days there. It’s a great time to be working there.


AVC: When did you start prepping season two? What was the mindset then?

AD: We started writing just about a year ago—I think it was July 2014. There’s two things that can happen with season two: You can have all this fear of living up to the expectations of season one or you can feel sort of emboldened by having made a show that works, and you can feel like, “Hey, we followed our instincts, and our instincts were good—so let’s just keep following them.” As far as the creative work that ends up on the screen, we definitely did the second thing. I’m glad that we did, and Comedy Central was absolutely like, “Yeah, you guys follow those instincts and it works well—keep going.”


From a worry point of view, [Laughs.] I think I was probably more worried and anxious throughout season two than I was in season one. I don’t think you’ll see it on the screen—just know that, behind the scenes, there were a lot of days. One of our editors at a certain point was like, “I know you’re unhappy by the look of your hair.” [Laughs.] I get worried and I put my hands in my hair and I lose my mind for short periods of time.

AVC: What’s the source of that anxiety?

AD: Partly because I’m in every scene of this show, I’m so associated with what this show is and how it turns out and I just want to give a good accounting of myself. Even though it’s a very collaborative process and it is the result of an enormous amount of work from an enormous amount of people, I do feel a special kind of burden. It’s referred to as “Andy Daly’s Review” an awful lot—but there really is an awful lot of people who work on it. So living up to the expectations of season one, making sure that people who love season one are going to love season two, and being proud to have my name and my face on it is a big part of what makes me crazy intermittently.


AVC: You’re committed to making Review the best it can be, and it’s something that reflects you and work—how do you keep yourself from turning into a Forrest-like figure?

AD: That’s a really good question. [Laughs.] We’ve taken certain safeguards on the show to make sure I don’t get hurt to the extent that Forrest does physically. Although there were times that I was physically challenged to a greater extent than I am comfortable being in life. During the time that we’re writing and shooting the show, it’s fairly all-consuming, which is not great for a guy with a family. [Laughs.] I’ve thought a little bit about how to make things a little less stressful and difficult and time-consuming in future seasons, if we’re lucky enough to get them.


It would be really unhappy irony if my wife was to leave me based on how incredibly hard I’ve worked on Review. There would be no enjoyment to that irony at all. It would be a remarkable irony, but I wouldn’t be able to laugh at it.

AVC: Which of those physical challenges was the most extreme?

AD: In our fourth episode—which is a great, great episode, and people are going to love it and freak out about it—it’s one of those episodes where there are only two reviews [Laughs.] and the first of them takes up the bulk of the episode. It is “What is it like to be a cult leader?” We fully explored that concept and that topic. And then the second review of that episode is “What is it like to have a perfect body?” And that is one that pushed me to a true breaking point. What Forrest goes through to try to have a perfect body was very challenging.


AVC: The season two trailer makes that “perfect body” makeup look like a mighty arduous task to put on.

AD: I forgot that a visual of that is already out there, so I can talk a little bit more about it. What that is, is essentially a latex rubber onesie that goes from my wrists down to—it snaps [Laughs.] together at my crotch. And it goes all the way up to my neck line. And it was the hottest, most uncomfortable thing in the world. The climactic scene of episode four: Just try to understand that I’m covered in 20 pounds of latex rubber [Laughs.] and it was hot. That was a bit of a living nightmare.


AVC: Is that the most prosthetics you’re worn for a role?

AD: I think so. Back on MadTV, they used to love to put prosthetics on people, so I’ve had my face covered in prosthetics. I’ve never had my body covered in prosthetics—and by the way, I never will again! It’s difficult to predict the future, but I can predict that with total certainty. Mostly because the process of getting fitted for it involved three dudes covering the entire area that I’ve just described to you first with Vaseline, and then with plaster. And that was something I’ve been trying to forget and certainly will never live through again.


AVC: We’ve found where the line is drawn between Andy Daly and Forrest MacNeil: You can say no. Forrest is at the mercy of the show. At one point in the finale, as he’s doing something really, really terrible, he says, “I had no choice.” Do you think Forrest believes that?

AD: I do, only because he believes this is an incredibly essential public service that he’s providing. He has come to believe without him doing this work, the world would be lost. [Laughs.] People would have no idea how to live their lives. He feels it’s that important—that’s why he feels he has no choice.


But it’s funny that you say I have the ability to say no. That’s a good point, and I should probably exercise it more often. [Laughs.] Forrest and I are very similar in the sense that Forrest took on this project, and really at any point he probably could say, “Hey, wait a minute: No, this is not that important. I should stop.” I feel like I’m kind of exactly the same way. The only time I ever draw the line in the writers’ room is when it comes to monkeys or working with any kind of primates. And you’d be surprised how often it comes up, that I have to say, “I’m not working with any kind of monkey or chimpanzee or orangutan. That’s not happening.” That’s the one time I ever put my foot down.

The rest of the time, I never really think about the fact that I am going to be doing these things. We have a review in episode three, “What is it like to be a little person?” So we just said, “We’ll Dorf On Golf it. We’ll put a pair of shoes on my knees.” And everybody in the room was like, “That’s going to be horrible. I don’t even know how you would do that.” And I was like, “What do you mean? Put a pair of shoes on your knees.” [Laughs.] But everybody was right and I was wrong. You can’t just put a pair of shoes on your knees and walk around all day. That’s not going to be a fun day. But we did it! [Laughs.]


But also: Forrest this season has a couple of vetoes, which you learn in the first episode. He is allowed to veto two reviews that seem too confronting to him.

AVC: But is Forrest the kind of person who’d actually use those vetoes?

AD: I don’t want to spoil anything, but to him the idea of deploying one of his two vetoes runs against everything he belives in, and he certainly would not do it lightly. Let’s just say that. [Laughs.] I think it’s something he would take very, very seriously.


AVC: Is there anyone around Forrest at this point who has his best interests at heart?

AD: Generally, the attitude of the people around Forrest is like, “Okay, if you want to, you can.” It’s never clearly stated whether Grant created it and hired Forrest, or Forrest created it and hired Grant to keep him honest and make him do it. We fooled around with both of those backstories, but regardless: It’s very clear that Forrest is self-propelled to do all of these things, and I think everyone around him has this hands-off attitude of like, “I wouldn’t, but if you want to, I’ll help.” [Laughs.] To that extent, they all do feel like they have his back. But no, nobody seems to have his back in the way that you or I might hope somebody had our back if we decided to do something stupid. [Laughs.]


AVC: Are there any new characters who enter Forrest’s orbit in this season?

AD: Intern Josh now has a girlfriend. The very hilarious Hayley Huntley plays his girlfriend, and she’s sort of hanging around and helping to bury him—literally at one point. [Laughs.] And Lennon Parham also comes along and recurs for a couple of episodes in a certain capacity.


AVC: Having spent all this time in the dark and depraved world of Forrest MacNeil, and playing characters onstage and in podcasts who have cynical and evil outlooks, what does an Andy Daly do to blow off steam? What do you do escape those aspects of your comedy?

AD: That’s funny, because my life when I’m not immersed in the kind of work that you’re describing is the polar opposite, because it’s mostly me hanging out with an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old girl. [Laughs.] Yeah: I have two daughters, they’re 8 and 3, and they have no idea what I’m up to as Forrest MacNeil or L. Ron Hubbard or Don DiMello. It’s a completely different lifestyle offstage.


AVC: How much research went into your appearance as L. Ron Hubbard on The Dead Authors Podcast?

AD: I did an enormous amount of research. I wanted to get it right. In fact, I requested to do L. Ron Hubbard probably two years ago, at least. I’m not saying I spent those two years researching, but I did read and listen to Going Clear and watched the documentary and read the Wikipedia page, of course. I took a lot of notes and thought a lot about whether he was a lunatic or a con artist. Those are basically your choices. [Laughs.] I almost feel like I could do that as a monthly show: Conversations With L. Ron Hubbard. I could tour around the country like Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain. I could do that for the rest of my life—it was great fun.