In 2011, four sketch comedians took their YouTube channel to Comedy Central with Workaholics, a show about three (sometimes four) ridiculously absurd telemarketing slackers. The writers, creators, and stars Blake Anderson, Anders Holm, Adam DeVine, and Kyle Newacheck have somehow pushed every bizarre topic possible, from Wizard Rap to making their own jerky. At San Diego Comic-Con 2012, we took a moment to sit down with the team to find out how they come up with their catch phrases, which of them is the best (and worst) actor, and if their wizard dreams will ever come true.
Kyle Newacheck and Blake Anderson
Kyle Newacheck: Everybody turn your phones on silent. If I hear a cell phone go off I'm going to be angry. Just kidding.
Q: What if it's the Workaholics theme? Or what if the ringtone is the Wizard Rap? Is that all right?
KN: That's fine. That would make me, actually, very stoked.
Q: Who wrote the Wizard Rap?
KN: We all did.
Blake Anderson: We all wrote our own raps. Kyle was on the beat.
KN: I did all the beats.
Q: When it comes to your work, do you do a lot of improv on set or is it all written?
KN: With the album it was all written, you know. That isn’t really free-styled.
BA: With the show we have a pretty tight script and then we take a couple takes, and then Kyle lets us play around a little bit.
BA: He's a great director.
KN: It's way more fun.
BA: Probably the best director in Hollywood.
KN: Oh, thank you, Blake. Thank you.
BA: Besides maybe…
KN: Darren Aronofsky?
BA: Paul Thomas Anderson.
KN: Yeah, PTA.
KN: But yeah… we go in with a script. And because we write the stuff and perform it, we write it how we speak. But then on the day we'll find funnier things. And then we just keep going. We just keep going and finding funny, funny, funny, until the time's up and we gotta move on to the next scene, you know?
BA: Heck yeah.
Q: Kyle, was the fact that you're more of the “fourth guy,” the drug dealer that just occasionally comes in - is that more a product of your own personality and the character you wanted to play or the fact that you wanted to direct and couldn't be in front of camera all the time?
KN: Well, it’s kind of both. I mean, really…
BA: Kyle sucks.
KN: …I'm a bad actor, so that's number one. Blake will be the first to say that I'm the best director in Hollywood but the worst actor in Hollywood, and that makes sense to me because I never wanted to act.
BA: We know.
Q: I felt some real emotion in the episode where the guys leave you for the new drug dealer.
BA: Yeah. He did okay in that one.
KN: Well, thank you, Blake. Wow, wow!
BA: I'll give him that episode.
KN: Listen to that.
BA: But the rest are doo-doo.
KN: Just wait. I'm working on it.
BA: Yeah. We put him in classes. He'll be taking acting classes.
KN: Yeah. So that'll be good. But I direct first and really, it was at first a web series and I played the drug dealer at the door. And then we did a pilot, so I said “Well, I guess I'll play Carl again.” And then we got picked up. And it was like “Well, I guess I'm gonna do this.”
BA: It's the way it happens.
KN: Yeah. But, a lot of times when I'm on screen we get another director in there, which is helpful.
Q: When you heard you were coming back for another season, did you already have episode ideas prepared?
BA: Well, we do most of our shows episode-to-episode. We come from an internet sketch background so I think we're kind of like, you do a funny episode and whatever is funny, that is what we want to do. We haven't really dipped into, besides maybe a little bit here and there, who the characters are. Yeah, we do some development for sure. But, for the most part it's just basically like…
KN: It is one-offs.
BA: Yeah. We like people to be able to tune in and not be lost, you know?
BA: So you can watch an episode and you can laugh and you can say “I like that show. “ And you don’t ask, “What did that joke mean?” “Who's Alice?” You just watch.
KN: And then also having the running jokes. Like the “tight buttholes,” where the first time you hear it, that's awesome. And then you go back and watch other episodes and you're like, oh my God, these dudes have been saying tight butthole...
BA: ...way too much.
Q: Are you moving more away from the office environment-based plot lines? The first season focused mainly on scenes in the office, but the new episodes seem to have your characters branching out.
KN: I think it's just all about the story that we want to tell, you know? Sometimes we have a good story that we wanna tell inside the office. But the more adventurous stories seem to always take place outside of the office. And I know I’m a fan of those adventures.
BA: And also, speaking from our internet background, we've always had big imaginations. Sometimes it’s cool to have those office walls and see what you can do within the office. But then, a lot of times when we're thinking up episodes we realize some stories are just beyond that.
Adam DeVine and Anders Holm
Adam DeVine: I lost my voice. That is why I sound like this. In case you guys are like, “He did that f***ing weird voice the entire. I don’t know what he was trying to do.” Actually Blake Griffin, who is like my favorite basketball player, direct messaged me saying he was a fan. And so I freaked out and for like an hour straight, maybe more, about three hours I just kept screaming that Blake Griffin is my homeboy.
Anders Holm: Yep.
ADV: I was drunk.
AH: But at least it's true.
ADV: It is true.
Q: It seems like on the show you guys are always battling about who's best friends with who. But honestly, it seems like Adam and Blake are really best friends and then Anders comes in and out with some regularity.
AH: I see what you're doing.
ADV: You’re pitting us against each other.
AH: But it doesn’t bother me, because we are not our characters. I don't get sad in public.
ADV: I wish you'd just started to cry right now, that you didn't say anything. It's just, cue the music. Celene Dion just bursts in.
AH: You'll find out in the tenth episode this season why these guys are closer than I might be.
Q: Will we find out the origins of any famous Workaholics catch phrases?
ADV: In the show we like to talk how we actually talk, you know? Like “tight butthole” and “stay torqued” and “let's get weird” and all that kind of stuff is just how we talk. And so, sometimes we talk more like that and then other times we feel like we are kind of done saying that stuff.
Q: Do you do any re-writing while you're shooting or improv on set?
ADV: We improv quite a bit.
AH: Thirty six percent is what we calculated.
ADV: But we like to like shoot the scene and get it how we've written it, and then kind of go off and do some weird stuff. And a lot of times that's where we find our most natural performances.
AH: Find the funny.
Q: So, when you start hearing people using the phrases and words that you guys use and then put on the show, do you feel successful?
ADV: Well, we don't want it to be a cheesy thing until we're like “We have to say tight butthole three times” or “What's the new thing that we have to say?”
AH: I mean, for us, we just keep on talking. We're in a room together for like ten hours a day. You just start saying stuff and it catches on.
ADV: That's like “butt-hurt.” We had [an] episode a few weeks ago where our co-worker dies and we find her dead. But we think she's asleep and we tea bag her and draw on her face and cut her hair and tape it on her. And then the paramedics come rushing in and Alice, our boss tells us “She's dead, you idiots.” We end up in that episode saying how butt-hurt we are that she's dead twenty times. And it wasn't because we wrote butt hurt in the script twenty times. It was like on set we really thought the word butt-hurt was really funny so we kept saying it and saying it. And people were like “They're really forcing butt-hurt on us.”
Q: How much time do you guys have in production? Is it a quick turnaround?
AH: No. We write it all first. So we have about twelve weeks to write ten episodes. Then, we got twelve or thirteen weeks to film.
Q: We know you guys started on the internet; what was it like being contacted by Comedy Central? What were your reactions, and did you guys expect Workaholics to be a hit show?
AH: It went somewhere else. We didn't know they contacted us at first…
ADV: They contacted our YouTube channel and we never check the e-mails on our YouTube channel. So it was sitting there for like weeks or maybe a month or two. And then we finally were like, oh my God. Comedy Central hit us up. And we kind of thought it was like for internet stuff because people were kind of contacting us and asking “Do you want to do some internet stuff?”
ADV: Yeah. And we were excited about that so we contacted them and they said, “Come in. We wanna talk to you.” And we went in. But at that time we were shooting for our gangster rap wizard crew, The Wizards. And we were really excited about that so we kept pushing. We're like “What if we did a wizard show?” And they were like “No. We don't want a wizard show. We do not want you guys dressed as wizards.” And we’re like “But we could do a wizard show.” And they were like “please don't pitch us wizard shows.”
And then we had a meeting with the junior execs and they were like “Don't pitch the wizard show.” It went to the Vice President. We pitched the wizard show. And they were like, “Alright, great, but we don't want the wizard show.” And then we went to the President of the network and Seth Cohen, who's one of the executives that found us, kind of took us aside and said “Don’t you f***ing pitch that wizard show. We’re pitching the Workaholics idea. Do not pitch wizards."
'Workaholics' airs on Comedy Central Tuesdays at 10:30PM ET.