From executive producer Bill Lawrence and show creator Adam Sztykiel, the NBC comedy series Undateable is about a group of friends who are close to finding meaningful relationships, but they just need a little help. Whether it’s due to their job, their appearance or how comfortable they are socially, everyone goes through a time in their lives when they’re undateable, and Danny Burton (Chris D’Elia) and Justin Kearney (Brent Morin) are no exception. While this group of friends attempt to help solve each other’s respective problems over beers, they lovingly give each other a hard time and always have each other’s backs.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, comedian turned actor Brent Morin talked about how stand-up got him this show, working with such funny people, going on a weird life journey with Chris D’Elia, adjusting to being funny on camera without the immediate response, why his singing became such a big part of the show, and why he feels it was a blessing to have his character get into a relationship, so early on. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
BRENT MORIN: Stand-up got me there. I was a production assistant at The Conan O’Brien Show, at the time. I was doing stand-up at night, and I did the Just For Laughs festival, where I got to meet Bill Lawrence. He was on the lot, so I left Conan and ran over and had a meeting with Bill, and we just hit it off. We’re both from Connecticut, we both love basketball and we both love musicals. There was a weird connection that we had. And then, that night, he came and saw me do stand-up. We had a drink and I played in his basketball game, and he came to me and Rick Glassman, ‘cause he met Rick that night at the show. He said, “I want you guys to come do this new show that I’m doing,” and he had a very open mind about the show, in general. He said, “You could probably make this show even funnier, so just have fun with it and improvise.” That’s a good freedom for comedians to have when you’re going in to audition for a sitcom. He said, “I don’t want to see anymore actors trying to be funny. I want to put funny people in it, and we’ll just build it.”
What’s it like to work with such funny people?
MORIN: I break a lot. These guys are so funny. People have said to me that it just seems like we’re all having a good time, and that’s ‘cause we know each other. I’ve known Chris D’Elia for nine years, and I’ve known Rick for six. We’re all best friends, so it’s really weird that we get to do this show. And we’re all different styles of comedians, too. We’ll always have a different idea for our character, which makes it so fun.
What’s it been like to go on this weird life journey with Chris D’Elia? Is it strange to work with him in this capacity?
MORIN: Yeah, it is. I met Chris when I was 19. People ask me how similar I am to Justin, in real life. That’s a common question. And I’m not really that similar to him. But what’s interesting is that, when I’m playing Justin and he’s playing Danny, it reminds me of when I was 19 and in college and I met Chris. When I was first starting stand-up, he was a year in and he took me under his wing with this other comic, Jason Collings. The three of us would go and play bowling alleys and bars, and we became best friends. In the same way that Danny is always giving advice to Justin, and then Justin is like, “You’re an idiot!,” and Danny says, “No, I’m not!,” it’s the same thing with Chris and I. It’s the weirdest feeling. It feels like we’re back in the bowling alley. It’s very weird, but it’s perfect. Let’s be honest, this is my first thing, so that pressure of having to be a co-lead of a show, especially for a live audience, on NBC and for a multi-cam sitcom, is gone. When I would look over to who I was acting with, it’s my best friend, so I wasn’t as nervous because we were in it together.
Are there specific challenges to being funny on camera, where you don’t have the same immediate reaction that you do when you’re on stage doing stand-up? Was that something you had to adjust to?
MORIN: Yeah. That’s something Bill really drilled into all of our heads. We’re so used to delivering something and getting a laugh, and the way we’d react to the no laughs was like how we’d react if a joke doesn’t work. Bill would have to be like, “You guys, you’re playing a character. If you don’t get a laugh, then it’s not funny and we’re gonna change it.” Bill was also adamant to tell the crowd, “Don’t just laugh for no reason. We don’t want that kind of annoying laughter. Laugh if it’s funny, and if it’s not funny, don’t laugh and we’ll rewrite it.” And then, we’d improvise and play.
With so many funny people working together, and you all being very different comedians, was there an adjustment period, in finding a rhythm, so that you were vibing off and with each other, instead of stepping over each other?
MORIN: I actually thought that would be an issue, but it wasn’t. In real life, Chris and Rick and I are Alpha male-ish. For me, Justin is definitely more of the straight man and Danny is the crazy one, and I found it very easy to fall into that role. But, we also wanted everybody to succeed. Chris would want my bit to work and, if it worked, he’d have to come up with something funnier. I was in a lot of scenes with Chris, and we never really stepped on each other because my character was more setting him up a lot. Trying to find a funny way to be that guy was the most fun for me. I think that we would all be butting heads, if we were similar comedians. All four of us, stand-up wise, are completely different, so we never really had that head-butting issue.
Justin loves to sing, any chance he gets. How did that become such a big part of the show?
MORIN: When Bill and I first met, we talked about how we like musicals. I grew up in a very musical house. My older brother was a classical concert pianist, and he played Carnegie Hall when he was in college. He would commute to his music college, so we would have opera singers living at our house. I’d wake up to people singing opera in the shower, which is the most annoying thing for a teenager going through puberty to ever hear, so I would just mock him and his friends, all the time. I had to go to so many operas and so many musicals, all the time, for my brother. I grew to like them, but at the time, I didn’t appreciate them and I would make fun of them. I started singing, just to make fun of them. It’s funny because I fell in love with music around puberty. I told Bill that stuff, but he didn’t know I could sing. So, I went in for the audition and the first scene was me singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Bill told me, “By the way, don’t worry about the singing. You don’t have to be able to sing. You can make it jokey.” He didn’t know I could sing, which was so cool. So then, I sang, and that was probably the biggest mistake I made. Then, it became a thing where Bill loved that I could sing, so he just put a song in, every week. And Chris hates when I sing. He gets so mad, and it’s the funniest thing ever.
The title of this show implies that these characters are all undateable, which isn’t really the case, especially for your character, who got into a relationship pretty quickly. Were you surprised that the writers decided to have that relationship happen as soon as they did?
MORIN: I feel like that was a blessing in disguise because Briga [Heelan], who plays my love interest, is great. They couldn’t find another girl to play that role that they really, really liked. She just knocked it out of the park, but she was already on Ground Floor. Bill brought her over, but she could only do a certain amount of episodes. They wrote in the idea of them getting together that quickly, based on the fact that we wouldn’t have her for a whole season. But, I think it was a blessing. The Ross and Rachel scenario is on every sitcom, and it takes years for something to happen. The best possible scenario for my character was to have something happen, right away. I don’t know if it will work out, but if it does work out, that’s a little bit of growth in Justin’s life. He puts the girls he likes on a pedestal, on a mountain, and to ask her out and realize that he could get somebody, that’s a whole new step for the character, for this season and for further seasons, that could be so funny. He’s still singing when he shouldn’t, fumbling over words, tripping over stairs, and still screwing shit up, but now he’s on a date.
The season finale of Undateable airs on NBC on Thursday, July 3rd.