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I’M DYING UP HERE Q&A Dave Flebotte, Jim Carrey, Michael Aguilar, Tom Dreesen + Episode Guide

Maj Canton - June 4, 2017

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On Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 10pm ET/PT, Showtime premieres the edgy drama series I’M DYING UP HERE, which explores the struggles of “making it big” in the 1970s L.A. comedy scene. Every night, a group of up-and-coming comedians wait to perform at Goldie’s, the hottest stand-up club in town. But first they’ll have to win over Goldie (played by the always fabulous Melissa Leo), who rules the Sunset Strip with an iron fist and nurtures comedians with tough love. Stand-up is a drug for these comedians, and they’re willing to sacrifice everything to get their fix and, with any luck, a shot on Johnny Carson. They brave the pain of sharing their innermost thoughts and darkest secrets, hoping that someone, anyone, will laugh. The drama delves into the inspired, damaged and complicated psyches of those who stand alone in front of an audience ‘dying’ for fame. The series stars Melissa Leo, Ari Graynor, Michael Angarano, Clark Duke, Andrew Santino, Erik Griffin, RJ Cyler, Al Madrigal and Jake Lacy. Created and executive produced by Dave Flebotte and executive produced by Michael Aguilar, Jim Carrey and Christina Wayne, the series is based on the non-fiction book by William Knoedelseder.

 


 


 

Q&A WITH EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS DAVE FLEBOTTE, JIM CARREY AND MICHAEL AGUILAR
Courtesy of Showtime


Melissa Leo as Goldie, walking through Goldie's, the fictional L.A.-based '70s stand-up club in IDUH.

Question: Why did you decide to set I’M DYING UP HERE in the ’70s rather than the present? What was so significant about the era?


Michael Aguilar: To me, it's the birth of the most important era in stand up comedy. This is when comedy changed, when it went from set-up/punchline jokes to storytelling, to therapy, to creating characters. And it really took off. This was when Johnny Carson moved THE TONIGHT SHOW to L.A. The scene shifted from New York to L.A. Everything changed and these guys were the kings of the Sunset Strip. So it's a much more interesting time for us.


Jim Carrey: We were coming out of the '60s. We were coming out of Vietnam and Nixon. It was a very intense time and that helped give birth to a new attitude and a new desire to express yourself and say those edgy things and those edgy truths. It changed comedy.

Question: Are any of the characters based on real-life comedians?


Dave Flebotte: They are all composites of different comic personalities. No one comic is based on anyone.


Melissa Leo as Goldie

Question: Goldie is the one main character who isn’t a comedian. Can you talk a little about her relationship with the comics?


Dave Flebotte: Goldie is definitely a fan of comedy and she can spot talent. She's got an opinion, but she's a great businesswoman, too. And she knows that this is a symbiotic relationship.


Question: You have two strong-willed female characters who drive a lot of the story. Do you think things are better or worse for female comics/actors today? What kind of issues did female comics face back then?


Dave Flebotte: It's probably better for women now than any other time in comedy, but I'm sure there are still limitations and preconceived notions that have to be overcome. The proof is in the pudding. Women are every bit as funny as men. I see it on the stage and I see it in the writer’s room.


Executive Producer Jim Carrey

Question: How much of what happens in the show is based on Jim’s own stand-up comedy experiences?


Jim Carrey: There was a beam that could catapult people to the stars and that was THE TONIGHT SHOW. And we all came out and gathered around the heat of that and were hoping for the best. I had so many incredible experiences. The closet that Larry and Eddie live in is my closet. I lived in a closet when I first came to L.A. I met somebody at the Improv who said they had a room and it turned out to be a closet. For the first year or so I was here, I lived in that closet. And I woke up the very first morning that I lived in the house to walk out in the kitchen and find a beautiful young girl with no pants on making bacon. And I went, “Wow.” That line “Hollywood, brotha” is kind of how I described it. The whole thing just wraps up in that.

Question: What was it like to work with Jim Carrey on this series?


Michael Aguilar: Jim is incredibly generous. He would tell us stories and we’d almost see an episode come together. Big picture things about the emotions of it, the feelings and pressures of chasing that dream. Sometimes it's a specific detail, like the closet. Sometimes it's an attitude and the story will find itself out of that attitude. He was invaluable. And he worked with a lot of the actors, particularly the people who hadn't done stand up.


Jim Carrey: And then I left them alone and they did amazing things. They're an incredible cast and they really captured the feeling of the era and the camaraderie and the competition and the smart ass quality of being a comic. Oftentimes it wasn't who was funniest on stage, it was who was funniest at the bar or in the parking lot. That's what mattered to comics. They've so captured the feeling and I'm super proud to be a part of it.


Executive Producer Dave Flebotte

Question: How do you go about crafting the stand up routines for the characters in the show?


Dave Flebotte: We give the writers a paradigm of each character. Writer Jerron Horton and Al Madrigal contribute a lot to other people’s routines and work with the other performers who aren't stand ups. It's the hardest part of the show, I think. The line we have to straddle is making it funny for today's audience but keeping it true to the ’70s perspective.


Question: What do you want audiences to take away from IDUH?


Jim Carrey: The amount of balls it takes for people to stand on stage and tell things they wouldn't tell their best friend, but it's somehow okay to tell a packed house of strangers, where all that comes from, what fuels it and that it's hopefully funny as shit.



 

Q&A WITH STAND-UP AND TECHNICAL CONSULTANT TOM DREESEN
Courtesy of Showtime


RJ Cyler as Adam, Michael Angarano as Eddie and Clark Duke as Ron in I'M DYING UP HERE.

Question: What was the L.A. comedy scene like in the early-to mid ’70s?


Tom Dreesen: The comedy scene in L.A. at that time was full of energy and excitement. Nineteen-year-old Freddie Prinze had made his first appearance on THE TONIGHT SHOW in December 1973. He was a huge hit that night and within weeks it was announced he was going to star on a sitcom called CHICO AND THE MAN. Comics from across the land began to move to L.A. in hopes of getting that same kind of break. There were a few little clubs where you could get up and do stand-up but none like the Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd. It hosted good-sized audiences that also included talent coordinators from all the top TV shows, not to mention agents and managers who were looking to sign new talent to their fold. It seemed like every night some comedian was elated over getting discovered.


IDUH Consultant Tom Dreesen

 

Question: What did it mean for a comic to make it to THE TONIGHT SHOW? Why was it so important?


Tom Dreesen: The question is, “What did it mean for a comic to score on THE TONIGHT SHOW?” The answer is everything. I did one appearance and CBS signed me to a development deal the next day. Talk shows like Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore were all calling you. Shows like DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT, THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, SOUL TRAIN and AMERICAN BANDSTAND all wanted you. Game shows like THE HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, THE $20,000 PYRAMID and MATCH GAME all wanted you as a celebrity contestant. Casting people were contacting you to come in and read for parts. The real key is can you follow that first appearance with more successful appearances? So, the pressure was to keep coming up with new material. I eventually did 61 appearances and honestly have never stopped working since that first TONIGHT SHOW. I have known comics who only had one good shot. Some two or three. Some were lucky to parlay that couple of good shots to a series role and others just fizzled.

Question: What was it like to perform on THE TONIGHT SHOW?


Tom Dreesen: There’s no describing the first appearance. The pressure is enormous. In those days, 20 million people watched the show. Las Vegas bookers, Lake Tahoe, William Morris agents, etc. Besides that, your mother has everyone in the old neighborhood watching so you can’t even go back home if you bomb. However, once you become a regular it was a pure joy to do. You would be a guest with big stars who you had admired growing up back home. It was almost surreal sometimes. When Johnny would call you over to come and sit with him it was proof that you had arrived. There was always pressure to score on that show but it lessened as you became more seasoned.


Ari Graynor as Cassie in I'M DYING UP HERE.

Question: It seems that women have always had a tough time in gaining respect in comedy. What’s your view on that?


Tom Dreesen: When I first started out women had a much tougher time than they do today. I’ve thought about this a lot and this might be an over simplification but a stand-up comedian is in a control situation. You have to take control of that audience almost immediately. When I started out, men were predominately in all the control situations: heads of state, CEOs, evening news anchors, talk show hosts, etc. The truth is, audiences want you to succeed. Their biggest fear is you’re going to bomb and that makes them so uneasy because they vicariously bomb with you. In those days when a woman walked out on stage to make you laugh, most people were not used to seeing women doing stand-up and were hesitant to laugh at first because they feared for you. But if they took command immediately – like Totie Fields or Joan Rivers – the audience would relax knowing she’s going to be alright.


Question: As a consultant on IDUH, what advice did you give the producers and actors to help them accurately convey the period?


Tom Dreesen: When Dave Flebotte and Michael Aguilar came to me and told me about the show, I said “I love the idea – what do you want me to do?” They said because the book I’m Dying Up Here featured you so much, we want you for ‘verisimilitude.’ I said, “great, I’ll do it,” and then excused myself and went to the men’s room and pulled out my cell phone and looked up the word ‘verisimilitude’. So that’s what I do. I look at the scripts and make suggestions that authenticate that era, such as the vernacular, attitudes, hopes and fears, attire, etc.


Episode Guide

 

 

If you want to know nothing about the episodes at all, skip this section. Provided by Showtime, this episode guide includes general episode descriptions and specific plot details, including guest stars.

 

Episode 101: "Pilot"
Debut: SUNDAY, JUNE 4
The stand-ups at L.A.’s hottest comedy club, run by the formidable Goldie, react to rising star Clay Appuzzo’s big Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson appearance in unexpected ways. Comics Cassie and Bill are most affected. Eager to join L.A.’s burgeoning comedy scene, Boston transplants Eddie and Ron are surprised by their unorthodox accommodations and young up-and-comer Adam is forced into a compromising situation by his manager Carl.
Guest Stars: Dylan Baker, Robert Forster, Cathy Moriarty, Brianne Howey, Jon Daly, Dennis Haskins, Armen Weitzman, Ginger Gonzaga with Sebastian Stan and Alfred Molina

Episode 102: "Midnight Special"
Debut: SUNDAY, JUNE 11
Goldie taps Bill, Ralph and Edgar for an industry showcase at the club. When Bill lands a coveted spot on Midnight Special, his cantankerous father Warren and sister Susan fly in for the show, leading to surprising family drama. Adam is invited to help Goldie with some handyman work at her house and becomes one of the few people let inside her personal life.
Guest Stars: Stephen Guarino, Jeffrey Nordling, Ginger Gonzaga, Glenn Morshower, Obba Babatundé, Amanda Quaid, Brianne Howey, Rick Overton, Tommy Snider.

Episode 103: "The Cost of a Free Buffet"
Debut: SUNDAY, JUNE 18
After defying Goldie, Edgar tries desperately to get back into her good graces. Cassie tests out some controversial new material, to mixed reviews. Adam, Eddie and Ron join forces to take down a ventriloquist. Bill tries to keep his ornery father Warren and sister entertained on their vacation. Goldie is forced to make a tough decision when her oldest friend Judy comes to town.
Guest Stars: Glenn Morshower, Stephen Guarino, Jon Daly, W. Earl Brown, Ginger Gonzaga, Amanda Quaid, Judy Gold, Vince Nappo, Tim Guinee.

Episode 104: "Sugar and Spice"
Debut: SUNDAY, JUNE 25
Goldie’s ex-husband shows up and asks her for a favor. A hot female fan shows her love for Eddie in an unusual fashion. When Bill takes Cassie to an exclusive party at the Riot House, she has a revelation. Adam meets his comedy idol and his friend Barton Royce. Cassie wrestles with what it means to be a woman in the comedy world.
Guest Stars: Stephen Guarino, Jon Daly, Obba Babatundé, W. Earl Brown, Ginger Gonzaga, Jere Burns, Sarah Stiles, Vince Nappo, Brandon Ford Green, Tony Amendola.

Episode 105: "The Return"
Debut: SUNDAY, JULY 2
At her weekly poker game, Goldie pitches an idea, which her lover/lawyer Eli believes he can sell. Nick returns to Goldie’s after a long and mysterious hiatus. His arrival causes friction between Cassie and Bill. On Barton’s referral, Adam starts a new handyman job and quickly learns that there is more to the gig than was promised. A visit from Ralph’s Vietnam buddy forces him to confront things better left buried.
Guest Stars: Dylan Baker, Jeffrey Nordling, Glenn Morshower, Jocko Sims, Amanda Quaid, Ken Lerner, Sarah Hay, Rick Overton, Tommy Snider, Sandra Lindquist.

Episode 106: "Girls Are Funny, Too"
Debut: SUNDAY, JULY 9
Nick gets a life-changing booking. Adam questions Barton about his unusual accommodations. Bill tags along with Sully on a sales call that doesn’t end well. Eddie and Ron go on a painful double date. Goldie and Eli sell a comedy special that affects Cassie.
Guest Stars: Dylan Baker, Stephen Guarino, Jon Daly, Obba Babatundé, W. Earl Brown, Ginger Gonzaga, Jeffrey Nordling, Sarah Hay, Richard Kind, Brianne Howey, Andrea Rosen, Steven W. Bailey.