IR Interview: Tom Papa For “Baked” [Food Network]

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Fun, Rules & Marriage: The NBC Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

NBC has weathered some turmoil over the past months as the structure of returning full bore to the restructured pertinence of scripted programming reflects in many of their aggressive pilot strategies. With new shows like “Parenthood” moving into the fray and “Parks & Recreation” gaining traction in an increasingly powerful Thursday night line-up, the process of recovery within a constantly malleable structure continues.

Parks & Recreation With the new season approaching, the show, always in the shadow of “The Office”, is beginning to make strides and find its own identity.

Michael Schur, one of the exec producers, admits there was an arbitrary pause in their first season. Their set is very simple with a big building and a big long hallway. The role of Chris came through on a technicality and now seems to be one of intense loyalty to the fans. It comes down to when the story calls for it, comedic license can be taken.

Nick Offerman who plays Ron, the boss, said initially, during the auditions, all Shur said was that this guy had a really big mustache. And that is all he said.

Amy Poehler jumps in quickly for her few-words co-star saying that she believe Ron liked her character Leslie because he made her job easier. It became for her all about that co-dependent relationship. She admits that she likes that there was a slow build to the heat. She says “it felt very genuine…like a fine wine”. Even when they were tweaking the rules of the characters, she said Leslie’s fundamental beliefs remained the same.

Greg Daniels, who also exec produces “The Office”, says that the moment when Nick’s character stood up and defended Leslie created a sense of optimism in the show’s trajectory because that began a type of “grudging relationship”. For him the idiom that describes it is “more nope…less dope. Initially the stories were structure within Leslie being responsible for predicatments but found it worked better when she was simply placed there. Most of the time when the camera catches Leslie’s eye rolls, she doesn’t even know it’s happening.

Amy volleys back in that it is because “we have the sweet freedom to improvise”. She then jokingly says though that when they give Aubrey Plaza, who plays the sullen and effortless secretary April, money, she throws it back at them yelling “Keep your dirty money!” Aubrey responds in monotone fashion, saying that she “does like these people sometimes” and that she “doesn’t hate everything” but “this her reality”. She deadpans the fact that they shot a scene a couple days ago and she didn’t even know they shot it.

Aziz Ansari who plays the always schemiing co-worker Tom, runs at a nice clip. He says that it surprises him what kinds of lines of his character people quote back at him. He lets loose with another zinger that he “likes dickin’ around and wastin’ my time” but that he “throws in little jokes here and there”. He said that The Roots compared the Parks cast to the WuTang Clan calling Amy “The RZA” and Ron “ODB”. When asked about maybe some cross-over into “30 Rock” or other such shows, he mocks that “it would be a terrible idea”.

The Marriage Ref Jerry Seinfeld returns to television in a format where he hardly needs to be on-screen and admits it was brought to his mind by his wife. Again the angle that brings simple perceptions like this can always make the best ideas.

Seinfeld, for his part, says that what he has learned in talking about the show, is that it is impossible to explain or even nail down what kind of show it is. In trademark style, he puts the question to the media as a challenge. Some of the arguments they encounter on the show are familiar. Some are not. It has to feel like something that is already there which is what most excites him about the scenario. This show is basically about married couples having real fight in their home. The selected panel will watch the argument and comment. He posturizes that sports simplicity is what is missing from marriage. He has lived in his apartment in NY for 10 years and he and his wife have had new differences of opinion. He says that “we are not going to fix your marriage”. One argument for example, involves a couple where the dog dies and there is an argument whether or not to stuff it. What they do is end the argument once and for all. To make another sports analogy, Jerry says that he likes it when an ump blows a call at a game.

His wife again is the one that actually said he should do this show. The crew that works on location is the one who did “Supernanny”. As far as if the panel should be experts, Seinfeld says that is not their thing calling it “more about laughing at yourself”. They won’t be approaching certain subjects like kids or things like that because “that shows that the marriage is really in trouble”. In true Seinfeld fashion, he makes another analogy, saying that he was thinking about the AOL/Time Warner deal the other day and saw it not as a screw up but just that “the timing was wrong”. For him “sometimes it can be the right idea at the wrong time…that’s show business”. In terms of how that figures into his comedic approach, Seinfeld simply says “I’m a stand up comic. There are no rules. Once you have the cameras, it is on you.” He makes the concession that it was the critics that kept “Seinfeld” on the air. In his estimation, there are no refs in show business but, in marriage, everyone has an opinion on it. He said his uncle used to pull him aside and say “Jerry…don’t get married” but reflects that “now experiencing the conversations Jess [his wife] and I have, I thought it was funny enough”. That is why it was his wife’s idea and not his.

Seinfeld then talks about the host of the show Tom Papa whom he calls “a very dangerous man” and “an addictive human being” reflexively calling himself jokingly “like a drug dealer on a school playground” because “the more you get, the more you want”. He says all of his comedian friends love Papa. Seinfeld likes him because “mainly he’s funny and we share a marriage perspective in that it is funny”. In terms of interesting arguments shown on the show, Jerry mentions one couple in which the guy parks his motorcycle in the living room. However, even when Tom approaches them, Jerry says that the man doesn’t raise his voice. In true sardonic style, Seinfeld says “the prizes are not going to be that good” but that the drive “in making the show is making you laugh”. He uses his still popular sitcom as a reference point saying “when I was doing my TV show, people would come up to me and say ‘this would be great on your show, and I would walk away. On this show though, it works”.

Tom Papa, shiny with a glint of mischief in his eye, sits right next to Jerry with the simple idea that “this show is about surviving”. In his mind, the way comedians think is “whether this one is right or this one is wrong”. His role in this experiment is that “if you are married and have trouble, it is the judges’ call is to convince me which way I should go”. His angled perception that when a husband and wife are in a fight, the husband is always trying to find out what the fight is about. Reaction is all about instinct and this show Papa perceives, like Jerry, is sports oriented. For Papa, “ultimate power is quite a responsibility” but says that ” he is just there to be funny” which “is a role very natural for me”.