Ken Kwapis Q&A: ‘Happyish’ director
During our recent webcam chat, director Ken Kwapis admits that his new Showtime comedy “Happyish” has "a lot of things in it that are very provocative, outrageous and challenging for a lot of viewers but I think the real challenge is trying to keep it real, and keep it human. I never want the show to seem farcical.”He gives as an example a scene from the pilot directed when Bradley Whitford’s character “mentions casually that ‘you gotta hand it to Osama Bin Laden, the man knows about branding.’ It’s an outrageous line, but the goal is to not make it sound farcical; the goal is to make it seem like this is what these kind of guys actually talk like in the advertising agency. So that’s the goal, taking the most outrageous material and make it seem as real as possible."
As to the state of mind of the lead character played by Steve Coogan, Kwapis says, “it’s not that he’s unhappy, he is clearly ‘happyish.’ It’s just that he’s a malcontent and he’s searching for something truthful in his life, and something that will make him happy. So much of the theme of the show is our pursuit of happiness, and the price we pay for trying to be happy in modern life.”
As for the stylistic choices, “the rant that opens each episode is a way of introducing some thematic material. Episode three opens with Steve thumbing his nose at God… that episode questions the quality of God’s character. That episode deals with God, with mortality; and then to tie it in with products and the world of advertising, this episode deals with the insurance industry… Every episode has some fantasy element. So suddenly you turn around and see a CGI [Geico] gecko smiling at you.”
On whether companies want to be featured on the show set in the world of advertising, he reveals “I can’t say for certain, all I can say is we tried our best to create these products and make them as absolutely close to the real thing as we could… so that what we’re doing falls under the heading of ‘parody.’ So i can’t say whether those companies are happy or not about it, they may say ‘we’ll take whatever free publicity you give us.’”
Watch the full interview below to hear Kwapis talk about the process of having to reshoot the pilot in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing and tease an upcoming musical performance from Kathryn Hahn. Then use the easy drag-and-drop menu to tell us if you think the show will be nominated for Best Comedy Series.