Throwing a House Party with Adam Devine

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Part sitcom, part standup showcase, Adam Devine’s House Party might be difficult to describe, but it’s a fun hybrid.

Mensch that he is, Devine created the show in part to give the up-and-coming comedians who perform on it a chance to display their acting chops. The show features short written scenes interspersed between standup sets, and for many of performers Adam Devine’s House Party is their television debut.

Season one was set in a gaudy Los Angeles mansion, but in Season two the party has moved down to New Orleans for even more debauchery.

I recently had the chance to talk to Devine about the upcoming season, his love of New Orleans, and the action movie he’s working on with the Workaholics guys.

You’re the host of the show but you don’t do a lot of standup on it. What’s your reasoning behind that?

Well since it’s such a hybrid show with all the narrative heads and story lines – I spearhead all of those – I didn’t want anything I would do to take away from the comics. They are all new faces new to TV so it was really about giving them as much standup as possible. When I do do standup I’ll write a special for myself and just do it that way. I don’t need to just do two minutes, five minutes on this show when really it’s a new faces standup show.

Do you still get a chance to do much stand up given all the other projects you do with acting and everything?  

Yeah I still do but it’s a lot less than I used to. But in the next few months I’m going on a big tour. So I’m going to be getting up a lot more and come January be right back at it baby just cranking down, which means standup, that doesn’t mean masturbating.

Thanks for that clarification.

Well I might be doing that on the road as well. It gets lonely.

[Laughs.] Clubs, theaters?

The plan right now is a theater tour about a month long. I’m pretty excited to get back out there. Last year I did a bunch of colleges and that was a lot of fun and you know performing in front of 1,500 to a few thousand people is a rush. Premium rush like that bike movie, but hopefully more entertaining.

You started as a standup right?

Yeah, I started as a standup. I actually started working the door and answering phones at the Hollywood Improv. I wanted to get into standup and I figured that was the best place to do it. I read this book on a comedian, well I’ve read a lot of books on comedians, but this one book in particular was an Andy Kauffman book that his best friend Bob Zmuda wrote and I read that in high school. He started at the Improv and then got Taxi and I was like “oh, I wanna do that.” So when I moved up to L.A. I found the Improv and then started bothering them every day for almost a month and they were like, “Get the fuck out of here we don’t have a job. How many times do we have to tell you that?” I was like, “Please” and did a lot of really cute eye-batting and wore my man blush and cuted my way in to a job at The Improv. I started doing open mics and they thought I was OK and didn’t suck. Every now and then when someone was running late I would bring a change of clothes and they would say, “Adam get up there.” I would run and change my clothes real quick and I would do five or ten minutes. After about a year of doing standup I got invited to the Montreal Comedy Festival and then from there I considered myself a professional comedian. I immediately quit my job and started making $50 a show. I decided to quit my job at the comedy club to make less money doing comedy. [Laughs.]

Is standup a first love for you?

I love it. I mean comedy is my first love. I really started doing comedy when I was like 14 or whatever eighth grade is – so yeah like 14. I would call in and do different voices on the radio and I would do a bunch of different voices on the local radio and it became the local hit or whatever. I would call in every day with different bits and different sketches. I would read the local newspaper and figure out specific Omaha, Nebraska bits that I could do. I feel like that was my first foray in to comedy and then at about 20 I found my way in to standup.

Let’s talk about the new season. Obviously you’re in a different location but you kept the format pretty similar to last season.

Yeah. I like it. The reason I created the show was because I saw a lot of these comics that I knew were so funny who were really funny comedic actors as well as standup performers who wanted to give it a shot as actors – for whatever reason people like to pigeon hole standups and say, “Oh standups, that’s what they do and comedic actors act comedically.” So I’m like, no a lot of these standup are great comedic actors and not all of them suck. Some of them do and we really figure that out. So I wanted them to have to opportunity to do their sets and have a few scenes where they can build their reel if that’s what they’re looking to do.

So there were some people you had to help out with the acting part of it who didn’t have a lot of experience acting?

We try not to give too much to each individual person unless we know they can act. That’s what’s nice about being a producer now is that there’s so much content out there. It used to be you’d wait to get a tape to come in the mail or it may not ever come in the mail. I assume. I’m assuming that’s what old guy producers used to have to deal with. I never had to do that.

Now we have the internet and all we have to do is go online and see some old sketches they’ve done and for the most part everyone is pretty great. And a lot of people really surprise you. They never had the opportunity to deliver lines and then they just crush it. You then end up rewriting the scene or just saying, “We can improvise this scene or keep it really loose.” Because standups who have issues improvising by themselves on stage sometimes that’s what they need because they can get stuck on the words and have a hard time coming out of their mouth like Samuel L. Jackson. Then you go, “Hey why don’t we just improve this? You know the basic scene. Put it in your words.” Then we can go from there. And then lot of these guys who may have seemed to be struggling a little bit you go, “Oh no they’re a great actor they just have trouble talking like I talk when I wrote the scene.”

You have final say over the performers on the show?

I work together with Comedy Central. But yeah Comedy Central really kind of gave me the reins and let me curate the show. And I’m cool with them. They’re really rad. I mean they had a few people where they were like “this person needs to be on,” but it wasn’t an issue because that was a person I liked anyway.  The two times it happened, I was like, “Yeah I agree.”

How did you decide on New Orleans and how much time did you end up spending there?

Oh I love New Orleans – it’s my favorite place in the world. I did this movie Pitch Perfect and we shot it in Baton Rouge and while we were down there shooting every weekend I would go down to New Orleans and just party. The first few times I went down there I was like, “oh my god this is the most talented city I’ve ever been to.” Then the more you go there you’re like, “No there’s just a lot of crazy people who you’re convinced are talented when in fact they’re just going “debadebabeda” [Does impression of a voice] and you’re like, “god he’s good.” But it’s cool to just be there and in that environment.  There’s something just real fun about the city so when we were doing Season Two they were like, “Do you want to do it here like in the valley in a big house here in Los Angeles?”  I’m like, “No. If the cameras go to New Orleans then we actually get a big tax break in New Orleans.”  So we gathered the troops and went down there.  It was so much fun.  We were there for three weeks.  It got pretty bonkers.  We shot on six stages, five standup gigs, and four bands performing.

So did you have to detox when you got back to L.A. after three weeks in New Orleans?  

Oh I just went right in to shooting Pitch Perfect 2 immediately following that so I went back to Louisiana and before that I was shooting a movie in Baton Rouge as well. I was there in Louisiana for almost two solid months.

I’m surprised you’re still alive.

I know. Well when I shot Pitch Perfect (the first one) I gained like 25 pounds in the two and half months I was down there just because I was down there eating and drinking like I was 16 yearsold. I took in alcohol that fast. I’m a weak old man now and that will turn into neck fat. This year I was able to hold it together a little bit. I didn’t treat myself to oysters before every meal so that helps.

I saw in the credits that Denis and Penny’s Son Inc. produces the show. Is that your production company?  

Yeah.

Are you looking for new stuff to produce now?

Yeah, I just don’t want to overextend myself. I don’t want to put my name on anything I’m not really pumped about. So I’m busy doing Workaholics right now and we wrote a movie together that we’re looking to shoot next year. Then I do my House Party show too. In the future I definitely will.  I have a list of ideas that I would like to pitch, but as of right now I’m trying to keep a steady pace instead of going full-on sprint mode. My comedy legs get tired.

But is that sort of the logical progression for someone like you who started acting and maybe further down the road getting more into producing and helping create shows that you’re not acting in?  

Yeah, it’s pretty cool because that has been my plan and my goal since I was really young. It’s great. It’s really cool that it’s all sort of happening.

So now Workaholics is in the off-season. You guys are writing it right now?

We’re about three weeks away from shooting the next season. Then we’ll shoot through January and then hopefully it will be the number one show on television and we get to do season five.

Can you tell me more about the movie you guys are going to be shooting soon?

Well it’s still up in the air. Movies take forever. Television’s cool because once they buy the idea you have an airdate and you have to make it. There’s no waiting, you gotta do it. In movies until you’re shooting the movie there’s a million different things to slow the process down. We’re in the process of selling the movie now and we’ve got a lot of studios and people that are interested so it shouldn’t be too difficult but we are early in the process. We’re hoping to shoot it early next year in March, hopefully. It’s kind of like Die Hard. It’s starring the three of us, we work at this hotel that’s in this big gaming convention with all these celebrities that show up and terrorists take over the hotel and we’re just huge video game nerds and want to be video game programmers ourselves so using our video game knowledge and our knowledge of the hotel we first try to escape but then man up and try to fight the terrorists.

You had me at “it’s kind of like Die Hard.” It sounds amazing.  

It’s going to be super fun. The script is just really crazy. It’s got really cool celebrity cameos. It should be a lot of fun if we do get to do it.

Would you guys want to direct it or would you bring on somebody?

Kyle will direct it. He’ll direct it and we’ll produce it. We’ll do it like we do everything else. We don’t know any better.

Adam Devine’s House Party starts with a special premiere episode tonight at 10:30/9:30c on Comedy Central before moving to its regular late-night slot on Thursdays at 12:30a/11:30c.

Phil Davidson writes about, performs, and produces comedy.