The IFC comedy series Brockmire originally started life as a viral short on Funny Or Die, and has since gone on to follow Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria, who created the character and executive produces the series), the famed major league baseball announcer who suffered an embarrassing and very public meltdown live on the air, as he tries to reclaim his career and love life in a small American town. As he calls games for the Morristown Frackers, Brockmire has to figure out how best to navigate his relationships with Jules (Amanda Peet), the strong-willed owner of the team, and Charles (Tyrel Jackson Williams), the enthusiastic intern who really doesn’t know much about the game of baseball.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Hank Azaria talked about how reassuring it is to already have a second season pick-up, how Brockmire went from Funny or Die to IFC, how much the character evolved, shooting awkward sex scenes, what he’s most looking forward to with Season 2, and how many seasons the see the series going. He also talked about what it’s meant to him to have been a part of The Simpsons for nearly three decades now, and how much he’s learned, as a result.
Collider: First of all, congrats on the Season 2 pick-up! Having been in the business as long as you have, how nice of a feeling is it to have a network stand behind you like that?
HANK AZARIA: It’s quite a rare thing. Although, it happened on Huff. They announced our Season 2 pick-up before we premiered, or as we premiered, but Huff was so difficult to make that it was almost like, “Guys, are you sure? It’s really hard!” This is hard to make, too, but in a much more fun way.
How did Brockmire evolve from Funny or Die to IFC? Had you been looking for a bigger platform to continue with this character?
AZARIA: I was looking for any platform to continue with this character. I always thought, from the time that I was a teenager and through my 20s, 30s and 40s, that this character might lend itself as the center of a comedy, but figuring out how took me a long time, ruminating on it. Just even getting to the short phase, eight or nine years ago, I felt like I had cracked something. And then, it was really when Joel Church-Cooper and Tim Kirkby got involved that it got solved, as more of a long-form piece. It was their sensibility combined with mine that made it something beyond just a sketch.
You’ve said that this was an idea you’ve had in your head, since you were a teenager. Have you ever had another character stick with you for that long?
AZARIA: Not quite that long, no. I have to give my agent credit, too. About ten years ago, I walked into my agent’s office saying, “Guys, I sort of need to restart. I have a bunch of characters that I feel like I want to play, comedically, and that I’ve been kicking around, in one way or another, for awhile. But I’m not on SNL, nor am I going to be.” And they were like, “Well, Funny or Die exists now.” That was a novel idea, ten years ago. Now, it’s more the norm than not. I remember my agent saying, “Do one of these characters there, and if it’s popular, maybe it can develop into something.” I met with Mike Farah, who was the head of production at Funny or Die and now he’s the CEO. For Mike, I auditioned seven or eight different characters that I had, and he singled out Brockmire as something that would be fun to develop into a short, so that’s what we did.
How has Jim Brockmire, his background and his story most changed, throughout the course of doing the short and then doing the TV series, or is he pretty much the same guy you always saw him as?
AZARIA: He’s pretty much the same guy. By the time I walked into Mike Farah’s office at Funny or Die, I knew the idea of this guy having a meltdown on the air is what I wanted to do. I identified that as one of the comedic premises, along with, do guys like this sound like this in their personal lives? What I did with that short, I wrote it with a bunch of friends and what I had to offer with this character was well-observed and pretty funny, but basically a joke. It was a sophomoric, prurient and funny thing. The character’s alcoholism, to me, just existed as an excuse for him to flip out. But Joel is the one that saw the deeper layers of the guy and treated it as though it were real. What if a guy like this really existed and was a tragic, modern figure? I saw him more in a joking way. I credit myself with, once Joel wrote that and Tim shot that, I was ready to act that. It wasn’t what I intended, originally, but I’m thrilled that that’s where it went.
Have you ever gotten to a point where you wished you could just honestly lay it all out there, in the way that Jim Brockmire does?
AZARIA: Don’t we all? There have been a lot of characters like this. It’s always rich fodder, if you can find a new take on a character who cannot tell a lie. There are a million examples of this kind of character, at the center of something. However a character gets there, it’s fun to break through societal etiquette and tell people what you really think. When you do it in a baseball announcer voice, it’s the same thing with how Brits can say anything with that lovely accent. Brockmire has nothing to lose. He’s at the bottom. It’s terrible, but that’s also a powerful place to be. To quote Janis Joplin, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,” and that certainly applies to Brockmire.