Jay Baruchel Interview: ‘Man Seeking Woman,’ Unusual Comedies, and Dating

Jay Baruchel Interview on Man Seeking Woman Season 1
Poster for FXX’s ‘Man Seeking Woman’

Do you like your romantic comedies a bit twisted? While recent attempts to revive romcoms on TV have fizzled on some networks (Selfie, Manhattan Love Story, A to Z), FX is having better success in the genre with Married and You’re the Worst. And now FXX is about to debut what is quite possibly the strangest romantic comedy ever to air on any network. On January 14, 2015 FX will premiere Man Seeking Woman, and after watching a sneak peek of the first three episodes I can honestly say this bizarre comedy is a must-see for those with a warped sense of humor.

In support of the show’s premiere, series star Jay Baruchel participated in a conference call to discuss how he got involved in the series, the concept, and what viewers can expect when they tune in to check out Man Seeking Woman.

Jay Baruchel Interview

How did you find out about this series and why did you sign on to star?

Jay Baruchel: “It was just one of those really fortuitous things. I got a call from my manager who said, ‘There’s this really awesome dude called Simon Rich and he wrote an amazing pilot based on his book of short stories and they think you could be the guy.’ I read it and it was one of these things where, the best way I can describe it is it had the sort of too-good-to-be-true kind of vibe to it. Sort of like when you meet, you know, or I should say when I meet a girl that I find attractive, I just right away assume that there’s got to be something more to it.

When I read it, it made me laugh out loud and that doesn’t happen very often. I had this burning urge to be a part of it. It was just like when you read something really good, the clock starts ticking. As soon as you read it, you’re just like, ‘Oh, no, okay, all right…I’ve got to get this going. Let’s find a way to do this.’ So, I’m just so bloody grateful that it found its way to me because it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of in any medium. So, yes, it was just randomly a script that got sent to me. They were cool enough to have faith and belief that I could do this and we made something pretty funny, I think.”

Were you looking for a TV project? Is the fact it’s so off-the-wall what appealed to you initially?

Jay Baruchel: “Well, yes. I mean, that’s definitely part of why it appealed to me but, to answer your first question, I wasn’t looking for anything. I really wasn’t. I’ve been sort of really fortunate enough to have been kept quite busy with my other gig, which is writing stuff with my friend, Jesse. I had sort of told my people we don’t need to hunt stuff down because I’m quite busy as it is. That being said, if awesome stuff comes to us, or finds its way to us, then I’m not an idiot. I’ll go out to read it.

So, yes, like I said, I wasn’t jonesing to do anything in particular and I just read this awesome script and that was that. I loved how strange it was and how truthful it was and how definitive and unique it was. You know, the sort of highest compliment that I can pay it is that it felt like something that came out of my head. As [strange] as that sounds, it’s just like you don’t often get to read stuff, as an actor, that feels like it’s something you would have thought of and this felt like that to me. So, yes, I leapt at the chance.”

What are your thoughts on how the women are portrayed on this show, besides the women who are actually trolls? Do you think this series, for lack of a better term, is feminist-friendly?

Jay Baruchel: “Oh, Jesus Christ, yes. I mean, listen, I think all of the characters, regardless of their gender, are pretty interesting and well-defined. There is obviously, because of the nature of our show and how strange it is, there are some archetypal characters at different times but, yes, I think 100%, I think that as you will see, if you keep watching, the title even becomes malleable. Man Seeking Woman, it happens to be the story of a man, but I think the stories are pretty universal so it could very easily be Woman Seeking Man.

Without giving too much away, it might turn into that at some point. But, yes, to answer your question, 100% feminist-friendly. I think it’s just friendly to smart people, I like to think. And, yes, like I said, I think all the characters are pretty well-defined.”

Do you see any parts of yourself or any parallels between you and your character?

Jay Baruchel: “Oh, always. Not just for him, but, ideally, for every character I play. I think if I don’t find a way to see part of myself in any character I play, then I’m sort of not doing my job completely. With some guys I play, it can hit closer to home than others. I made it through the minefield that is being single in your 20s somehow. So I have, let’s just say, I have plenty of experiences to draw upon for this. A lot of, yes, a lot of victories, defeats, ambitions, malaise. I have the whole panacea of living experiences I’d like to think that I can mine for this. But, yes, hopefully, any part I play has at least a part of me in him.”

Do you think the show covers the myths of dating or is it more about wanting to explore awkward truths, or a little bit of both?

Jay Baruchel: “Yes. I mean, I think it probably leans more to the second than the first, although we do try to sort of hit the nail on the head with some stuff. That being said, it’s not meant to be a guide of any sort so much as it is meant to be when you’re sitting amongst friends at a party and everyone just starts sort of venting and comparing sh** experiences. It’s meant to be that, but it’s also meant to be a celebration of the beautiful stuff, too.

So it’s like romance for lack of a better word – this whole stupid thing, there’s nothing like it. You’re happier than you’ll ever be. You’re sadder than you’ll ever be and, often, stuff in the middle. It’s something that applies to each and every single one of us and so I like to think that when people see this thing they will see at least one thing they went through. Ideally, a whole bunch of things they went through because I this show is about human nature and what it is to be single and to be one of these social animals we call humans.”

Have you worked with Simon on developing the characters? Is it a tightly scripted show or is there some leeway to improv?

Jay Baruchel: “If we shot the entire show word perfect, it would be every bit as funny as it is now, I think. But I think that’s part of Simon’s genius is that anybody who has ever read anything he’s written is that he slaves over his choice of words and his choice of punctuation. That being said, he knows that this is a collaborative medium, so he always wants us to find our own way into stuff, too.

So what you have is, I think, a pretty lovely balance of pretty strong, structured storytelling with some pretty incredible jokes, fused with our riffs, a bunch of which make it into the finished product. But this is Simon’s baby. My job on set is to help him tell his story and to do my best to breathe life into this character he wrote. I’m always chiming in. Whether or not they’re just humoring me, or actually listening to anything I say, I always chime in on any set I have. I just can’t help it. It’s the way my mind and my mouth work, so I’m always pitching ideas and pitching jokes for myself and for other people. Again, this is whether or not they get used and whether or not they’re just humoring me is another question. But, no, we have a pretty amazing staff of writers on this show so we’re well covered.”

Is there an overall character arc other than seeking love for the show or is it more just kind of slices of life throughout the season?

Jay Baruchel: “Yes, both. I mean, there’s definitely both. Again, without giving away sort of the stuff that we know, also they keep me in the dark about certain stuff, too. I think Simon Rich is the only person who knows exactly the complete arc of the show right now. But yes, we kind of know where we want him to get to but the other thing is living and dating.

These are cyclical things, right? Whereas a movie ends in three acts and a lesson is learned and that’s very finite; you sometimes have to learn the same lesson. You sometimes find your place and think you’ve got it, only to realize that it wasn’t meant to be and all these different things. So without sounding too much like it’s a cop-out answer, really both. Yes, definitely both.”

Are you looking forward to hearing people’s reactions when they realize how insane or hilarious some of these sequences actually are?

Jay Baruchel: “Yes, man, really. I can’t wait for the world to see it and everything that means. So that means, hopefully, they find themselves surprised at how much they end up giving a sh** about the plot and the characters. I am really excited to see the world react to, yes, how f***ing weird everything is.

Yes, I’m so thoroughly convinced that there’s really nothing like it on television and I think it will find its own little spot because I don’t know that any of the promos that we’ve aired yet, or anything we’ve shown about our show, I don’t know that any of it does it justice. It’s the kind of thing that you won’t know what it’s like until you watch it.”

How does it feel playing with this version of reality in Man Seeking Woman on the small screen after just having played with surreal things in reality on the big screen in This Is The End?

Jay Baruchel: “Oh, yes, that’s neat. I hadn’t actually thought of that. Yes, I guess maybe it just sort of speaks to my taste and what I find interesting and the generation I was a part of, or I am a part of, I should say. I don’t know. I love cartoons, I guess. The Simpsons is pretty much one of my top three favorite things ever, in any format, and so to me Man Seeking Woman, at times, feels like a live action version of The Simpsons.

It was neat when my mother, I showed her some episodes and, she said that of her own accord. I told her that, well, one of our writer/producers is a fellow called Ian Maxtone-Graham who worked on The Simpsons for 17 seasons. So, yes, I think I love it.

The answer to your question, what’s it like is I adore it. You never get bored. There’s always something new and interesting to find a way to play with and all acting professional, or otherwise, seem to come out of, seem to be born out of play acting when you’re a kid, whether you play house, or cops and robbers, or whatever. When you get to find a way, in adulthood, to show up to work every day with monsters, and aliens, and Hitler, and all sorts of crazy nonsense, yes, you feel like a kid again.”

Have any of your own dating experiences been incorporated into any episodes or are there any that you hope will be in future seasons?

Jay Baruchel: “Oh, yes, definitely. Definitely. Definitely. I’ll say that this first season, there’s stuff that happens to Josh that happened to me, but without Simon knowing that. I think that’s kind of part of the fun and part of the point of the show is that we find a way to distill these kind of universal experiences and truths into these really messed up little half hours. You can’t be on the set of our show and not join in the complaint fest at some point, right? Just given the nature of what our show is about, there is definitely a bit of group therapy to it where, yes, considering the subject matter, everyone can’t help but chime in with all their own experiences, some of which are funnier than others and some of which we hope to find a way to make fun of next year.”

-By Rebecca Murray

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