Ben Wexler Q&A: ‘The Comedians’ co-creator
"We took great pains to make it feel like this is the real Billy Crystal we just happen to be watching behind-the-scenes. He was brave enough and game enough to portray himself as a little bit more of a curmudgeonly guy than he really is in real life, which makes the show funny," reveals showrunner Ben Wexler about the new FX comedy "The Comedians" in a video chat with Gold Derby.
The series stars Billy Crystal as a fictionalized version of himself. He is a veteran comic trying to start his own variety show for FX, but the network will only greenlight the project if a younger, hipper comedian (Josh Gad as himself) is on board. The result is "The Billy and Josh Show," with comedy sketches and musical numbers.
Many people had made offers to Crystal over the past three decades to have him return to television after previous success on "Soap" and "Saturday Night Live." On the difficult task of getting Crystal to sign on to "The Comedians," Wexler says they were both circling the original Swedish program which provided the new model for FX. He adds, "Lucky for all of us, we liked this project he was interested in doing. That was, frankly, serendipity. I think the fact we all got together and made a show we really love and are proud of is icing on the cake."
Unlike the tensions and animosity found in the initial episodes of this first season, the actual pairing of Crystal and Gad worked right away. Wexler says, "It was kind of like watching two guys who had known each other forever. It was this amazing comedy team was being born in this room when the two guys sat down. Billy's joke (after Gad left) was 'Cancel the call to Jack Black.'"
For the 2015 Emmy Awards, the show will compete for the first time as Best Comedy Series, a category where FX has already had nominations before for "Louie." Crystal will be on the ballot as Best Comedy Actor, while Gad will compete as Best Comedy Supporting Actor.
Before becoming the executive producer and co-creator of "The Comedians," Wexler was a writer and producer for "Arrested Development," "Community," and "The Michael J. Fox Show." He began his career as a writer/performer for the sketch comedy group "Off-Off-Fairfax" in Los Angeles.