The new truTV comedy Those Who Can’t features the comedy troupe The Grawlix in their first ever TV series. Andrew Orvedahl, Ben Roy and Adam Cayton-Holland are The Grawlix, and Maria Thayer joins them as teachers in the workplace comedy set in a high school.
I got to meet the cast of Those Who Can’t after their panel for the Television Critics Association in January. First, I spoke with Orvedahl and Roy about some of the elaborate slapstick stunts in the episodes. Those Who Can’t premieres Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 10:30pm ET/PT on truTV.
Andrew Orvedahl and Ben Roy Interview:
There’s not a lot in the classroom, is there? Is the show mostly about everywhere else in the school?
Andrew Orvedahl: “It’s definitely not centered around the day-to-day teaching, although I guess there’s probably the most gym. My character is the P.E. coach. We probably get the most scenes of him actually doing coaching and P.E. things, but as far as the history classroom and the Spanish classroom, we definitely don’t spend a ton of time in there. It’s more out in the school world.”
Ben Roy: “I think that’s largely because our strong suit and what we really like is interacting with each other and it’s difficult, when we teach different classes, for us to all be together in one classroom. So a lot of the scenes take place, we try to start scenes or things like that in the classroom, show little bits of it but most of it happens outside of the classroom, amongst school or amongst faculty.”
So far whenever there’s something in the classroom or in the gym, it’s a major stunt. Is there always a big stunt in the classrooms?
Andrew Orvedahl: “I wouldn’t say always. There’s definitely some moments. I would say it’s almost always inappropriate, whatever’s going on. We never really have any dry moments in the classroom. It’s always something ridiculous, even if it’s great teaching. We have an episode where Kyle Kinane’s teacher is being an incredible teacher, but he’s so incredible that it’s ridiculous on the other end of the spectrum. He’s in a costume and he’s so over the top with his teaching. As far as the physical stunts, they’re just sort of sprinkled around.”
Ben Roy: “I do think when we started planning the show, we were not quite sure how much we were going to use the stuntman until we started writing. Then we were like, ‘Man, it’s fun to see people fall from ropes.’ If you don’t find enjoyment, I don’t think I want to know you.”
Andrew Orvedahl: “Those guys are the true heroes. Some of the things that my stunt guy did, I was like wow and it was nothing to him. He was so cool about it. I’d be like, ‘Have you ever done this before?’ He had to drive a scooter down the set of stairs. People had wanted me to do it and I was like, ‘No, I could break my neck. There are so many intangibles, I’m not going to do it.’ So the stunt guy did it, he was getting ready to do it and I was like, ‘Have you ever done anything like this before?’ He’s like, ‘No, but I’m excited to try it.’ I’m like wow, we’re so different. It looked so painful. He just eats it down the stairs.”
Ben, did you trash the classroom yourself?
Ben Roy: “Yeah, I totally trashed the room myself. They tried to pad me up and things like that for the fall off the stool, so they gave me these butt pads. They really try to avoid any kind of injury as best as possible.”
Andrew Orvedahl: “Our stunt coordinator pointed out too, it feels like they’re overprotecting you but those stunts do add up. I definitely had the bulk of the tumbles and silly physical sh*t. She was right. As the weeks go on, you’re like, ‘I am f***ing sore everywhere all the time.’ Because you’re doing a lot of weird falls. You’re just falling on linoleum, you’re falling down stairs, so the padding does make sense. At first you’re like, ‘I don’t need pads for something this easy.’ Then by week four you’re like, ‘Oh, I need a pad for everything.’ There’s a scene where we had to crawl out of this teacher’s lounge and I requested knee pads. Adam [Cayton-Holland] and Ben were like, ‘Knee pads, dude, seriously?’ I’m like, ‘I think you guys are going to regret not having knee pads.’ Sure enough, we’re crawling around for like the 48th time, they could not get the shot. We’re on this linoleum floor on our knees. I’m not enjoying it and I’m wearing knee pads. Those dudes are just covered in bruises the next day. It was ridiculous, so you never know when a little padding will be helpful.”
How long did it actually take to trash the classroom?
Ben Roy: [Laughs] “The original tirade I think I went on probably lasted two minutes or so. I can’t imagine we would’ve shot much longer than that, but none of that was scripted or anything. It was just written in the script ‘Shoemaker trashes classroom.’ So I just went off and started pulling everything off the wall and chucking everything over my head and I tried to pull the legs off a desk, but it’s surprisingly difficult.”
Andrew Orvedahl: “That’s what I love about that scene is how ineffectual it all is. You throw the globe, it doesn’t break.”
Ben Roy: “If you have kids, it’s like when you find your toddler child in the middle of this rampage they went on because they didn’t want to go to bed. It’s totally like he just had this childish temper tantrum, wound everything around it. I want to write more of that. Destroying things is always a lot of fun.”
Did you actually get to climb up to the top of the rope?
Andrew Orvedahl: “You know what, I didn’t even have to climb up. Because of TV magic, they put a wire on me and then Peter Panned me up there so I just held on to the top. I don’t think I ever made it to the top of the rope as a kid. I mean, it’s high. I had the safety wire on and I had the rope but I was still like, ‘Man, this is unpleasant.’ But no, I didn’t have to climb but I was really up there suspended on a wire.”
How did the three of you get together as a comedy group?
Ben Roy: “We all lived in Denver. I had moved there from Maine. Andrew and Adam grew up there and we all started doing standup at Comedy Works in Denver around the same time. I think just over time, we kind of gravitated towards each other because we shared a sensibility and a work ethic. We wanted to make videos and create web series and try to travel a lot. We were on the road a lot trying to be in New York and L.A. to build the presence of ourselves. So it was just a small enough scene at that time, it’s huge now, but at the time it was small enough where if you shared a sensibility, you probably just naturally gravitated towards each other.”
Andrew Orvedahl: “I think there was a quarterback class of good standup comedy, young people in Denver and we were all in that class. It was a fun time. They’d already had amazing standups but it was a cool new crop for sure.”
How did you find Maria Thayer?
Ben Roy: “We were doing this show called The Grawlix which is the three of us. It’s a live show we did. We were doing it at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland. We got into a van with her, a shuttle to a show and she was in the front seat. Andrew was kind of geeking out because he loves Strangers with Candy and Eagleheart. You made a comment, if we ever have a TV show, she’s got to be in it, or something like that.”
Andrew Orvedahl: “And here we are.”
Ben Roy: “We were making the pilot and she was one of the people we immediately all thought of.”
Andrew Orvedahl: “She came in and auditioned. We saw literally 93 actresses. They were all great. There was not one who was not great. It was towards the end of looking for this character and she came in very last minute and read for it and we’re like, ‘Awesome.'”
Ben Roy: “She just personally gelled with us. Maria’s just so easygoing. She’s just very affable, fun to be around and I think she immediately gelled into being part of the group.”
Was the protest scene fun to do?
Ben Roy: “It was hot.”
Andrew Orvedahl: “There were a lot of moving parts on that one. Luckily, that director, Peter Lauer, he was just an ace. It definitely made it a lot less painful. The worst part for me was after the scooter crashes, I’m laying on the pavement. The pavement was so hot, it was like a griddle. I just had to lay there in between takes, so they gave me an umbrella to hold over myself so I’m just sort of frying on the sidewalk like an egg holding up this umbrella. It came together great. For as many weird little things as are going on in that scene, Peter made it all cohese right there in front of the school.”
Ben Roy: “I think he managed the continuity issues that could’ve come out of that as well as anybody could, where you have a line of people picketing and turning in a circle and you’re trying to film the person in the middle of it from different angles trying to make sure it doesn’t feel like it’s completely disjointed. For me, the hardest part was we filmed in Van Nuys and Van Nuys in the middle of the summer, as you know, is a furnace. It was crazy hot that day. Keeping from burning over those two days, but you needed that to feel like it was a real strike, so it turned out well.”
Is there a big incident every episode, or are there some of what you would call bottle episodes?
Andrew Orvedahl: “There’s usually something big.”
Ben Roy: “There’s usually something driving the plot.”
Andrew Orvedahl: “We’ve definitely put the pedal to the metal with these storylines in the first season. They’re packed with story and there’s a lot of jokes. Yeah, things usually snowball into something even more ridiculous than you thought it would go. I’m trying to think of an exception.”
Ben Roy: “One that could be an exception to that rule, or kind of a bottle episode, is we do have a horror episode. Even then, something is happening. There’s not like an event or anything and it’s more character driven in that one. I think because we have the second season coming up, I think that’s a direction that we’re going to play with a lot more is really playing a lot more character moments.”
Andrew Orvedahl: “There’s a volleyball tournament episode that is perhaps the most ‘day in the life of’ maybe. That one though is still pretty outrageous. I’m coaching the volleyball tournament. It definitely ends in a ridiculous way for sure but for the most part it’s kind of real.”