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Adam Scott on Greatest Event Guilt, Wearing Short-Shorts, and Directing Parks and Recreation

Photo: Adult Swim

After his second Greatest Event in Television History, a remake of the opening credits to Hart to Hart, Adam Scott explained to us at length why it put all other TV greats to shame. He made a compelling case for his work alongside Amy Poehler, and at the time, we believed it to be his best. But now here he is rolling up with a fourth Greatest Event, this one co-starring Paul Rudd and some serious eighties coifs. How will his latest (premiering tonight at midnight on Adult Swim) stack up against the previous editions? We put the question to the man himself. During a phone chat Wednesday, Scott also talked about his recent tragic experience with short-shorts, having to keep the Greatest themes a secret, and directing the penultimate episode for Parks friends Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones, which also airs tonight.

This is the fourth Greatest Event in Television History. Why is this time the greatest?
Well, it’s an excellent question. Maybe it’s because this time we had a lot less time to make it. We were essentially out of money, so the fact that we even finished was the greatest event in television history.

You really ran out of money?
Yeah. Each Event is different, but we usually have a bit more time. This time we had four days to do everything, including the stuff with Jeff Probst, because we had no money and no time. It was also 112 degrees in the building we were shooting in back in September. I felt so terrible for asking all these people to do this profoundly dumb thing in that heat. So it was rushed, but, you know, something like this shouldn’t take longer than that.

If the sitcom theme you’re remaking is what I think it is — and as you’ve requested, I won’t print my guess here — it is longer than all the other ones you’ve done.
That’s right. It’s double the length of all the other ones. This one’s over two minutes. So, yeah, we had that to deal with, too. Have you really guessed it?

There appears to be a consensus in the comments sections of stories about this edition.
I don’t know. I’ve seen a lot of wrong guesses. [Laughs.]

Well, if it’s what I think, your character will be wearing plenty of short-shorts.
Usually with the time period we’ve been sticking with — they’ve all been in the eighties — guys’ shorts were really short. They didn’t leave a lot to the imagination. I’m not going to say whether I had to wear short-shorts or not, but I will say a couple of years ago, I bought a pair of OP shorts. Like, ironically. I thought I’d wear them in the summer and be cool. I put them on and my wife was like, “Yeah, you cannot do this.”

That’s nice that she looks out for you.
Sure. And for herself.

Paul Rudd was actually in the first Greatest Event, acting as the director of the Simon and Simon remake. It was revealed that he quit because he found you and Jon Hamm to be “the lamest assholes in the world.” Are we going to hear about how that was resolved during the preshow?
You know, I don’t think it’s even acknowledged. [Laughs.] All fences have been mended.

But for real, was it as simple as just asking Paul to come back and do it again?
Yeah. He said he wanted to do another one so I took him up on it. It’s hard to ask your friends to do something, especially when it’s not for just a couple of hours. It’s four or five days of actual, kind of hard, sometimes really tedious work. I’m lucky everyone’s been so cool about it, but the entire time I’m always worried about how sorry they are that they said yes. Because we’re trying to get these very specific, one-to-three-second shots, and it’s like, “Why are we doing this?” I’m wracked with guilt the whole time.

Any special guest stars?
[Silence.] This “keeping it a secret” thing is so stupid. It’s my own fault.

I think people have fun guessing.
It’s fun for seven people. I’m convinced there are seven people who give a shit, and everyone else is not aware the show exists. For whatever reason, I’m just hung up on keeping things a secret.

That’s cool. Stand your ground. Let’s talk about Parks and Recreation! You directed this week’s episode. How did that come about?
Over the summer, I asked if they weren’t all booked up with directors, if I could direct one. Again, I didn’t want it to be a thing where they felt like they had to. I just really wanted to and I thought it would be really fun. They were nice enough to let me. Usually, when actors direct an episode, you try and get one that you’re not in a ton, but the way it worked out, I’m in this one a ton.

Right. Leslie and Ben are fighting a lot in this one! What’s it like having to give your fellow actors orders?
It’s not that difficult. We’re all pitching jokes for each other all the time, so we’re very comfortable. I do remember the first times Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman directed episodes, I thought, Oh no. Are they gonna direct me? Are they gonna say something to me, and then I’ll immediately think, Have you been waiting to say this to me for three years? Like, finally they’re going to tell me to start being better? But it wasn’t like that at all. I actually love it when one of the other actors directs. What I really liked about getting to do it was going out, looking for locations … all the stuff they do ahead of time. You realize there’s a huge amount of work that goes into this show before the spoiled actors arrive on set.

You had to juggle a lot of moving pieces in this episode: Half of the action takes place at a busy farmers’ market, and the rest at a kid’s birthday party where Andy’s performing. Which was trickier to pull off?
The farmers’ market was a large set piece because there was a dance number, and there were all the actual moving parts of a market. The cool thing is they had actual vendors from Indiana with their stands up. If you look closely, you can see actual Indianans. Is that an exciting tidbit?

Sure. You guys care about the details.
Now people won’t have to watch the DVD commentary because it’s all here in this interview.

How did the child wrangling go?
The kids were great, and frankly, the wilder the better. One of our ADs, Stacey, kept them from tearing the house down and destroying Chris Pratt. Having them a little crazy was perfect, though. It was a bunch of 6- and 7-year-olds loaded up with sugar contained in a small space with Pratt playing guitar. It was the perfect storm.

You loaded them up with sugar?
I think they somehow found the craft services table because they were jacked up.

What will Andy be singing to the kids?
He comes up with a bunch of new songs on the spot. It’s very funny and lovely and adorable. Bert Macklin sneaks in there a little bit. There might be a song about farting still in there. I’m not sure if that made the cut. There might also be a song about picking your nose. One of the things I think we had to cut out of the show is particularly funny. Mark Rivers, who does all our music, worked on all the songs with Chris and he’s totally amazing.

Not to bring it down, but this is also Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones’s second-to-last episode. Was that less fun to work on?
No, I found their story line in this episode really moving and sweet, and as we were working on it, I kind of felt like it was preparing me for them leaving. It’s really beautifully written and a nice prelude for their exit. I didn’t want to screw it up. It was sad that they were getting ready to go, but it was also therapeutic for us. We’d all been bracing ourselves, and their story in this episode got us all ready for it. Hopefully by the end of the episode everyone will feel okay and like they’re ready for Chris and Ann to start their new lives.

Adam Scott on Greatest Event, Parks and Rec