Comedy Central’s Review is one of the darkest shows on television, which makes it all the more surprising that its creator and star, Andy Daly, is one of the nicest guys in comedy. For the unfamiliar, Daly plays a professional critic named Forrest MacNeil, who reviews life experiences for an unseen audience in a mockumentary-style show. “Life — it’s literally all we have. But is it any good?” he asks at the start of each episode.
Ahead of Review’s third and final season, which premieres March 16 at 10 p.m. ET, Vulture spoke with Daly about comedy personas, story ideas that were too dark for television, whether Forrest is trapped in purgatory, and the show’s endgame.
I just watched the first three episodes of season three. It’s horrifying, in the best way.
Did you just say it’s horrifying?
Yes, but in the best way.
[Laughs.] Thank you!
Your M.O. seems to be friendly weirdos who may also be the devil.
I’m very aware that I have kind of a Howdy Doody look. The first read about me is that I’m this happy, normal, Midwestern guy. But that has never been my comedic sensibility. I’ve always personally enjoyed being shocked. It just became a very natural thing for me to do to start off presenting myself as just the essence of normality and undercutting it. If you look at the comedy album that I put out in 2008 [Nine Sweaters], you can see me playing with that again and again. Regular guy comes out onstage, he’s revealed to be Satan incarnate. It’s just something I never seem to get tired of.
How did you come across the original Australian version of Review?
It arrived on my doorstep in an envelope from my agent. There was no explanation on the envelope at all, it was just these DVDs. I popped them in and watched them out of curiosity and it was immediately obvious to me, “Oh, I’d have a lot of fun playing that character.” I immediately started having ideas of who my version of a guy who did that for a living might be. Just a little different from what Phil Lloyd did in Australia. Luckily, then I got a phone call that there was some interest at Comedy Central about maybe adapting this for America, and would I be interested.
What do you think Forrest’s show within the show actually is? What network is it on? Who is it for?
We talked about that a fair amount during season one and then decided to forget it, in a way. Like, what network would do this show? We decided it’s sort of what A&E used to be. It’s not quite PBS, but it’s one of those cable channels that was aspiring towards high-minded content. Maybe National Geographic.
The thing that I kept thinking of — I think it was on Turner Classic Movies — was how Robert Osborne used to appear in a leather chair with rows and rows of bookshelves behind him. That is the kind of show that Forrest thought he was signing on for. A very high-minded anthropology experiment. Really putting life under the microscope like no one has before. And he’s wrong. He’s wrong because, from the get-go, the show was always meant to be something flashier. He was given this co-host who’s not on board for the incredible importance of the show as Forrest imagines it. Forrest’s conception of the show he signed on for is not what Grant or the network had in mind.
He seems to think his job is more important than it actually is. He thinks what he’s doing is too important to quit.
We loved the idea of Grant being the guy to jump in and push him forward, but it’s also important that Forrest is self-motivated. Grant is really just there to sometimes stiffen his resolve.
They lay out the thesis in the pancakes episode, where Grant says “[eating 30 pancakes] could be your penicillin.” The idea that whatever Forrest is doing, it might be the most important thing he’s ever done.
That anyone has ever done!
Have there been any ideas that were too dark for the show?
In season one, we had an idea where Forrest was going to solve a crime, and he was going to investigate the disappearance of a 17-year-old boy. The joke is that he ends up on the doorstep of these parents, who have been missing this kid for like 15 years, and he gives them all this false hope that he’s going to solve their crime, because he has to for the segment. He ends up destroying their lives in the process. I think we ended it on a hopeful note, but it was so sad because it was too real.
For the longest time, for season three, we had bestiality on the wall. I don’t know why we were so sure we were going to do that. There was a spot in the season where we needed Forrest to have a horrific experience. We ended up going with a different horrific experience. Thank God.
Any credence to the purgatory theory? Is Forrest MacNeil actually dead?
Well, we talked about it a lot. Here’s what I think I can say: More than the notion of purgatory, we started to talk about the story of Job. The Forrest story is a Job story, and we talked to varied degrees about turning up the volume on that for season three. We didn’t want to really hit it over the head, but it’s there. And it’s something that we can perhaps discuss after the season has aired.
Is this going to be the last season?
Yes, that’s what we have been told, yes. At some point in season two, [Review executive producer] Jeff Blitz had an idea for how to end the story of Forrest MacNeil. We changed it a little bit, but it’s still in there in some form. So you’ll see that.