Perhaps it was the simple excitement of getting back together more than two years after the cancellation of their show, but the cast and creator of HBO’s Bored to Death had a straight-up love-in at last Saturday’s SF Sketchfest. Jonathan Ames, Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson gushed over each other and the show as if each were giving their own version of a best-man speech. Or maybe it was, as Galifianakis insinuated, the prior-to-showtime ingestion (on Ames’s part, at least) of the show’s fourth most prominent character: weed. Hard to say.
Danson called his role as magazine editor George Christopher “the best part I’ve ever had,” and Schwartzman called his three years with the show “the best time of my life.” So it’s no surprise that the gang wants to get back together for a Bored to Death movie. Ames said he’s presently on page 96 of what he expects to be a 120-page script. Unfortunately, few other details were revealed to the crowd, aside from Galifianakis suggesting that he would be replaced in the film by “the actor from Thor.” (This guy?)
Yet while there was little talk of the future, there was plenty of reflecting on the past. Straight away Ames explained that the show’s origins actually stemmed from his first and only experimentation with a particularly strong drug. “My mind was full of color and I wanted to do it again,” he said. He knew that was a bad idea, though, and instead, he locked himself away in his apartment for a month, “played a lot of Internet backgammon,” and thought about listing himself on Craigslist as a private detective. Rather than actually following through, he wrote a short story about it.
Schwartzman, who had previously met with Ames to discuss a film version of the novel Wake Up, Sir! was among the first people in the industry to receive a copy of the story that eventually became the series. Schwartzman said he needed to visit a Kinkos to print it, and recalled “driving through the rain with my wife — then girlfriend, at the time — reading this story to me aloud as I drove.”
With the show’s star in place for the pilot, Ames approached Galifianakis about the role of Ray, which was inspired by comic artist Dean Haspiel. “I was the natural choice because Dean was fat,” Galifianakis lamented. The addition of Danson happened more serendipitously, and though the pot-craving New York socialite was initially supposed to be a much smaller role, it grew into a recurring character after his very first scene in the pilot.
The panel moderator Martin Gero, who was a writer and producer on the show, explained how Ames put forth a particularly challenging mandate for comedy writers who joined the staff: the characters need to be kind to one another, and don’t use sarcasm. Ames corrected Gero that it wasn’t so much a rule against sarcasm, but more that he simply struggles to register it. “I’m color blind to sarcasm,” he said, calling it not quite Asperger’s but something like it.
Not very surprisingly, most of the day’s biggest laughs stemmed from Galifianakis, who early in the show pressed Schwartzman to ask Danson whether it was intentional or a coincidence that his 2013 Christmas card said, “Cheers, Ted & Mary.” He also said Danson got his role in the show as part of an adult Make-a-Wish program, and told a story of bathing at a Korean massage parlor and having the masseuse at the parlor look at him and ask, “You cold?”
Actually, there was a healthy amount of penis talk.
The two deleted scenes screened also focused on male genitalia. One involved Galifianakis getting bathed by Olympia Dukakis and the other was a scene of Galifianakis’s character Ray catching a character played by Ames in his girlfriend’s bed, then chasing a fully nude Ames around the room. Galifianakis had said he would only do that scene if he got to grab Ames’s cock, so that’s what happened in the scene. Ames said it instigated a series of e-mails between he and HBO execs with the subject line “Cock Grab.”
A round of audience Q&As concluded with a fitting question from the city of San Francisco: “Can you discuss the portrayal of marijuana in the show?” Ames made it clear the drug played a sizable role in his life and creative process during production — George Christopher’s line in season one about seeing a dandelion turn into a tiger’s paw was an actual vision Ames had while stoned in a Russian bath house. Schwartzman added that people to this day will approach him on the street and hand him pot. Hopefully Schwartzman handed some of that over to Ames. Those last 24 script pages of aren’t going to inspire themselves.