Interview: Paul Scheer (Human Giant)
[Note: Following last week’s conversation with Aziz, Lindsay’s piece is the second installment of our apparent Human Giant trifecta. Keep your eyes peeled for next month’s steamy Rob Huebel pictorial. -ed]
After spending well over ten years as an active member in the crazy, mostly unstable, world of comedy it would be almost expected for many people to lose that childlike wonder and enthusiasm that we all start off with. It’s easy for some comedians to become jaded or even bitter after years of trying to make people laugh. I’m sure you know the type of people I’m talking about. You might know them. You may even be them. Now imagine the exact opposite of that, and you will find someone resembling Paul Scheer.
I met the comedian, writer and producer for coffee in the trendy Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles on a sunny December day, and didn’t know exactly what to expect. I had, of course, done my research, and have been a fan of his commentary on VH1’s Best Week Ever along with his zany loveable characters on MTV’s Human Giant and multiple other film and television cameos, but had no idea how to prepare for Paul Scheer, the guy I was meeting for coffee on a random day.
In Los Angeles, fashionably late is almost a lifestyle choice for many, so when the clock began to tick past our appointed meeting time of noon I began to think I was in for a good half-hour of waiting. However I became pleasantly surprised, and annoyed with myself for resembling that jaded bitter person mentioned earlier, as he walked quickly in at five past the hour apologizing profusely for being tardy. Needless to say, I began to realize I wasn’t dealing with your run-of-the-mill LA transplant. Dressed in a light jacket, green baseball cap emblazoned with a shamrock and glasses that I was unaccustomed to seeing him wear, he quickly sat down and smiled as I stumbled with my new digital voice recorder.
I was slightly tentative in asking about Human Giant, the popular sketch show on MTV for which Paul is one third of the cast along with Azis Ansani and Rob Huebel, because as far as I had seen it was in sketch show purgatory. In other words it was unclear whether it had been picked up for another season. “We have been picked up for a third season,” Scheer said with a broad smile before hastily taking off his glasses, “Sorry I get self conscious with these on,” he half mumbled, “but anyway, we’ve decided to do a movie actually. Azis was cast in The Office spin-off, so scheduling to write and shoot an entire season would be really tough,” he explained, with excitement still prevalent in his voice. “So we’re in the beginning of talks with a couple of production companies for a movie which is really exciting.” As far as the future of Human Giant the sketch show? “MTV is being really really great. They’re willing to work with us in the future, and are kind of allowing us to figure out our own time frame. We’ve been trying to think of some specials to do in the future. Actually, we were kind of planning on doing a live election special, but decided it would be best left to Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart. We’d look like a bunch of jerks if we tried to compete with them.”
It would seem that, considering he’s been working quite steadily for more than ten years both on stage and screen out of New York and Los Angeles with such powerhouses as Tina Fey, Billy Bob Thornton and more SNL alum than one can name, Scheer would be less apt to be star-struck. “Oh man, I’m star-struck every day,” he said unabashedly. “Like I shot The Year One recently, which is directed by Harold Ramis, who I have always been a huge fan of. So, we’re shooting a scene, and Louisiana’s weather is crazy, like one minute it would be eighty degrees then the next it would be snowing. Michael Cera and I are shooting a scene in the middle of this like muddy swamp area, and we’re only wearing little briefs with these toga things and we’re freezing. Literally, there were medics keeping an eye on us to make sure we’re not getting hypothermia, and Harold just starts talking about a cold night in New York when he was shooting Ghostbusters and getting slimed. Michael and I were in total awe of just listening to him talk about filming this movie that we both love, and I just thought, ’okay, that was all totally worth it because Harold Ramis just reminisced about filming Ghostbusters to me.’ It was awesome.”
At this point in our conversation I couldn’t help but wonder if there was anything that could get this guy down. When he first arrived he mentioned that he had been sick, and congestion was slightly audible in his voice, but aside from that he hadn’t even slightly hinted at anything that could take his visage down to less than a friendly smirk. He spoke enthusiastically and genuinely about everything, and as endearing and refreshing as it was to listen to someone with such a palpable lust for life, I wanted to see what would happen if we delved a bit deeper than the surface. So, like any hard-hitting journalist would, I asked him to talk about Criss Angel. Because we all know that’s where the grit lies.
One of the more popular sketches on Human Giant, and my personal favorite, is “The Illusionators”, which as you can surely imagine, is greatly inspired by the Criss Angel persona. Paul and the rest of the Human Giant guys caught Criss’s new Vegas show Believe recently, and in asking for his review I thought Paul was literally going to jump out of his seat. “I still have the ticket stub in my wallet,” he said with the enthusiasm of a young man who had just seen his first boob. “Seriously, I encourage everyone in America to see this show.” He must have detected the surprise on my face as he continued. “Really. It’s amazing. I mean he’s doing everything! One minute he’s telling jokes, then he’s doing magic, and there’s dancing and this crazy Cirque du Soleil stuff. Man, it was so good.”
So now that we know Criss Angel has a huge fan in Paul Scheer, what does Criss think of “The Illusionaters”? “Well, [Rob, Azis and I] had met him before a while back when we were in Vegas, and we ended up at the same place as him. Criss was sitting in the VIP area with this big group of girls, of course, when a security guard recognized us and asked if we would be interested in meeting him. I was kind of nervous to see what he would think, but he was a super nice guy. Ya know, he shook our hands and was like, ‘I haven’t seen “The Illusionaters” man, but I am a big believer in imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.’ So that was a relief. Then when we saw him after his show this past time again, he was surrounded by the ladies, this time looking at jewelry, and he had seen [The Illusionators], but was still a really cool guy.”
For someone who seems to have an insatiable appetite for all of life’s experiences, I was expecting Paul to come up with a laundry list of things he was looking forward to for 2009. However, when I asked he kind of froze up. Not because he has nothing to look forward, but because “Oh geez, I don’t want to jinx anything,” he said more stoic than I had seen him the entire time he had been sitting with me. It came as a surprise that a man that was so forthcoming with his love for Criss Angel would keep to himself so much on anything, but not wanting to jinx anything, especially in these times, is understandable. So I cut him some slack and asked him to in five words or less solve the financial crisis. Upon hearing this he gave out a great sigh, began to count on his fingers with a few groans and grunts in between. “I want to make sure I can say what I need in the allotted words,” he explained. “Oh geez,” he continued, “Okay. No wait-okay. Use chewing gum as currency.”
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: start buying stock in your favorite brand of gum, because if Paul Scheer rules the world we’re all going to need all we can get.