Did you catch the new show on Comedy Central this week? Big Time in Hollywood, FL is brought to you by Ben Stiller as producer, but it is the creation of Dan Schimpf and Alex Anfanger. They met at NYU, Alex in acting, Dan in film, hence Alex costars in the show they created together.
In the premiere you met Jack (Anfanger) and Ben (Lenny Jacobson), hotshot filmmakers, only they still live with their parents and their films aren’t as competent as they imagine they are. You saw their parents (Kathy Baker and Stephen Tobolowsky) cut them off, and the scheming begins. You’re in store for even more craziness, including Cuba Gooding, Jr. as himself. I met Schimpf and Anfanger before they presented a panel to the Television Critics Association. Get to know them below as you follow their show Wednesdays at 10:30 PM on Comedy Central.
Nuke the Fridge: Only one of you wants to act?
Dan Schimpf: Yeah, only Alex.
Alex Anfanger: I guess so. Dan, can we get you to do it?
Dan Schimpf: You know, I was thinking about taking some acting classes and get in the game. No, I’m terrified of being in front of the camera.
Alex Anfanger: And he’s a genius behind the camera.
Dan Schimpf: Not for me, I don’t know. But this guy, he’s great. As long as he does his thing, we’re all good.
Alex Anfanger: Thank you, Dan.
Nuke: Are these characters based on yourselves, or people you knew in film school?
Alex Anfanger: A little bit of both, I would say,
Dan Schimpf: I think we’re a little self-deprecating. I think we were in our mid-20s when we wrote the script initially. We were struggling to find our way, and the idea of wanting to be something big but not seeing any route to getting there really guided those characters.
Alex Anfanger: It started also with us writing this script in my parents’ house. So it must have been greatly influenced by the fact that we were in my parents’ house writing the script. I’m not like Jack I would say. Jack is a horrible human being in a lot of ways. Also I’m so close with my parents but I think we just wanted to write what we thought was really funny. So we started with these tremendously cocky filmmakers who have no talent. We thought that would be funny characters to set up a really epic story. At the heart, what we always wanted to do was make an expansive story that really built episode to episode. And then we found these idiots to be at the center of that. We thought that they would be the best vessels to tell that story.
Nuke: Is the plan to always open the show with a fake movie?
Dan Schimpf: Not always. Our cold opens kind of shift. The first couple are kind of like that and then we start to play upon that theme. They’re always stylized but not necessarily always movies. That changes throughout the course of the season.
Nuke: Are the posters for their fake movies all spoofs of real movies?
Alex Anfanger: They’re not. They were just created based no the titles. We came up with the titles first and then we wanted to figure out the funniest imagery to go along with that. But they’re inspired by, I would say, like ’90s type movies.
Dan Schimpf: More the genres than a specific poster, I would say.
Nuke: Wasn’t one of them Forrest Gump?
Alex Anfanger: Oh, that one? Yes.
Dan Schimpf: Yeah, I guess the blind man sitting on a bench. Forrest isn’t necessarily blind but the bus stop image for sure, yeah.
Nuke: Was Cuba Gooding, Jr. your first choice as the celebrity?
Alex Anfanger: Yeah. Cuba was a joke to us because we were like there’s no chance in hell we will ever get Cuba Gooding, Jr. So we would talk about him as an amazing person for the role.
Dan Schimpf: Our type was a Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Alex Anfanger: When we were writing it, we wanted a celebrity to play that role.
Dan Schimpf: So we wanted somebody to both have a real dramatic dark side to him, but also understand the comedy in that role. We didn’t want to go with somebody who was known for comedy necessarily.
Alex Anfanger: The main thing was kind of an amazing dramatic actor is what we hoped to find.
Dan Schimpf: And also we liked the idea of somebody like Cuba because he’s so much different tonally than everybody else in the show. So we thought he’d be perfect, but I think Alex and I never actually thought he would do it. When you call somebody like that, we don’t really have any connection to him. You only assume that they’re going to be like, “No, it’s a crazy character.”
Alex Anfanger: We assumed that nobody would do the show.
Dan Schimpf: And only more insane things happen to Cuba Gooding, Jr. on this show.
Nuke: Was he a good sport?
Dan Schimpf: He was amazing. Like, down to earth. You’ll see as the season goes along, we have him do crazy things and he was always just like, “Okay.” And didn’t blink.
Alex Anfanger: So excited and down for everything. We talked to him early on. We met him in a hotel because we were like, “He’s never, ever going to do it” but casting reached out to him. He thought the pilot was hilarious and he said he would talk to us. We went and sat ant talked to him at a hotel and took him beat by beat through his whole arc. At the end of it, he said, “That’s hilarious. Talk to my agent. Whatever it is, I don’t care. I’m in.” HGe was so enthusiastic and such a pleasure to have. We’re so lucky with the whole cast.
Nuke: Did you write the part of the actor in the pilot for Ben Stiller?
Alex Anfanger: No. We wrote the first draft of this script way before we had met Ben. The original draft was written five years ago. It was a part that we were really excited about but we didn’t have anybody in mind, and I think we never imagined a celebrity playing that role . Then when we started working with Ben, we sent him the script and I wrote, as a pathetic attempt, “I’m sure you’re really busy, but obviously we would absolutely love you to play Jimmy Staats.” He wrote back, “I would be honored to portray Jimmy Staats. Darkness is my only friend.”
Nuke: Would the plan for a second season be to start a new story, or would the same story continue?
Alex Anfanger: It would continue.
Dan Schimpf: By the end of it, we like the idea of really going down through the rabbit hole with these characters. We like the idea of immersing ourselves in this one universe, telling a story that gets progressively crazier, never resetting and letting the world expand around them. Alex and I are really obsessed with the idea of universes, really building something out from the smallest concept. I think that’s what really attracts us about this idea and why we want to keep rolling downhill as much as possible.
Nuke: Do these guys ever make it to Hollywood, CA and mess around?
Dan Schimpf: We kicked around that idea for the future.
Alex Anfanger: We haven’t settled exactly but at some point, we imagine they’ll at least be visitors in Hollywood.
Nuke: Have you had any crazy Hollywood experiences since this all started?
Alex Anfanger: Everything that we talked about. To be honest, the moment when Ben e-mailed us is a crazy experience. And then I went and did Walter Mitty and have been doing readings with them, meeting all these people. I feel like every day that I’m working with them is kind of a crazy Hollywood experience. Getting Cuba to be on our TV show was mind blowing. It was the weirdest experience of my life.
Nuke: Did you guys move out of the house after college?
Dan Schimpf: Interestingly enough, my senior year you have to make a thesis. I think I spent every dollar that I had and then some to make it and then I had to move back home immediately after college because I was in debt. I would shoot wedding videos on the side just to make enough money to move back into the city. So for the first year or two after college, I was back home.
Alex Anfanger: I never moved back. My parents live in Los Angeles. I was still in New York. I moved to a much cheaper apartment and was living in Brooklyn with two friends, just scraping by, doing different jobs and doing some really terrible off Broadway theater and just trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, how I could continue to be an artist and not try to kill myself. That’s the main goal.