Columentary (title sadly not pending) is a weekly feature, in which I’ll listen to the commentary track of a sitcom, and divulge, through pretty pictures and less pretty words, the behind-the-scenes secrets the creators, writers, and cast discuss about their show. If you’ve ever wondered what Jason Lee was thinking while recording his 85,035th voiceover for My Name Is Earl, this is for you.
Episode: “Contemporary American Poultry” (S01E21)
Original Airdate: April 22, 2010
Episode Plot: In an elaborate mafia movie (and Sixteen Candles…) parody, chicken finger-fever hits Greendale, with Abed, instead of Jeff, calling the shots.
Players Involved: Dan Harmon, creator; Gillian Jacobs, actress; Joel McHale, actor; and Danny Pudi, actor.
The four players involved have morphed together into a “robot that will give you commentary for this episode.” Harmon is the head, Pudi is the forearm, McHale is the feet, and Jacobs is “the dick.”
This is one of Pudi’s favorite episodes. He was a “big fan of Goodfellas growing up, and many other mob movies.” I’d like to throw in my two cents and say, If you’re NOT a fan of Goodfellas, there’s something emotionally wrong with you. I’m not being hyperbolic.
After joking that there’s “a slight Goodfellas influence on this episode,” Harmon says he sees it as more of an homage to Martin Scorsese’s entire career. “There’s a lot of Casino elements…there’s also a lot of Godfather, too,” unless he means Godfather: Part II.
McHale: “We should get Joe Pesci on the show.”
How did Jacobs transform the polarizing Britta of the pilot to the absolutely lovable, identifiable Britta of the second-half of season one and beyond? “Early on, I did a lot of telling Jeff when to behave better, and we did that a lot. And then I was the butt of a joke, and I was like, ‘Oh, OK, diversify.’ And then I kept being the butt of the joke, and it became about me being humorless, and then it became about me responding to the fact that people found me humorless, and then I feel like we discovered the fact that she’s petty, the fact that she’s insecure, the fact that she’s egotistical, and that she’s competitive…Being the reasonable, sensitive one without any flows isn’t all that fun after awhile.”
Everyone goes on a tangent about how the British aren’t as classy as they appear, and Jacobs add, “They throw your tea into the harbor.” Everybody immediately criticizes her and questions her education — it’s unclear whether she never finished fourth grade or is acting like Britta. Also, I want this newspaper. The dek and pull quote are amazing.
Pudi: “I wanted to see the rest of that interview.”
Jacobs: “Those things were very greasy.”
Jacobs, referring to Harmon: “This is an incident where you were watching on the live feed and came down to set, and had them rearrange the entire set.”
Harmon: “Because it looked like more of a chemistry lab.”
McHale: “It looked like Enter the Dragon.”
Harmon: “I’m sure I saved the show.”
McHale: “This is the second time where I’ve worked with a monkey where they go, ‘Do not look at the monkey. Don’t go near it.’”
This is one of Harmon’s favorite scenes:
*Annie pretends she’s a backpack-wearing robot*
Jeff: “This is insane.”
Britta: “More insane than programming them to replace auto workers?”
Jacobs: “I love that board.”
Harmon: “That should be on my wall…You have no idea how much of a tradition it is for the art department trying to jump in on the comedy business, and you have to give them notes. I’ve literally never once given a note. I seek guidance from them.”
McHale: “I like doing scenes with [Pudi] and Chevy because it’s nice not to have to look down all the time.”
Pudi: “I drank six root beer floats that day.”
WHERE DID THE SIGN GO???
Jacobs: “I think he liked that hat.”
McHale: “How much did it cost to buy this song [“Layla”]?”
Harmon: I don’t know the dollar amount. It’s expensive. You got an episodic budget, you get a music budget. I’ll pull a number out of my butt. If you want a moderately well-known song, you pay $50,000 to put it into your episode, basically.”
Harmon: “That was a cool discovery on the set…it wasn’t in the script that he has this Fonzie-ian power [over the rest of the study group]. We kind of discovered that.”
Harmon: “We had to do a lot of computer generated corrections to this. This gag did not play out. We had to add a shirt…The gag’s not clear. It’s hard to watch two guys go down and then come back up, and know that they changed clothes. So we had to make that clear. It was a computer shirt.”