As Forrest MacNeil, the host of Review, the show-within-the-show seen on Comedy Central’s Review, writer-actor Andy Daly delivers a darkly comic star turn as a critic who doesn’t review “food, books, or movies,” but, rather, gives star ratings to “life itself.” The performance may surprise viewers who only recognize him from his minor, though memorable, role as emasculated Principal Cutler on Eastbound & Down. But those familiar with lecherous theatrical director Don DiMello, talentless would-be Sha Na Na member Hot Dog, and other characters he’s portrayed on podcasts such as “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and the “Andy Daly Pilot Podcast Project” know that “dark” is a language the chipper, slightly professorial Daly speaks fluently. As the first season of Review comes to a close tonight at 10 p.m., Vulture checked in with him to see how he’s faring as we reach the culmination of MacNeil’s first viewer-dictated journey into the badlands of cocaine, orgies, and even divorce.
Given what Forrest has gone through this season, it seems like his career may not really be a sustainable lifestyle.
Well … it’s a very unpredictable job, isn’t it? Whatever people throw at him, he’s going to go whole hog and never turn down anything, throwing himself completely into it, whatever it is. Anything could happen. He could end up in jail … or he could become a millionaire! [Laughs.]
If he didn’t have the show, would he still review life experiences?
Forrest seems to enjoy this process, believe it or not, as miserable as it is. He continues to feel that he’s really good at it and that this is a service to society. So yes, I think there’s a good chance that he’d continue to be a life reviewer. It’s like a drug addiction. It’s destroying his life, but he can’t give it up.
Is there any hope for him?
The whole show is like a game of roulette because there’s no telling what’s going to come up for him to review. So every time he’s about to get a new assignment, it’s full of hope. There’s always reason to think that something might finally break his way. Of course, he has a knack for sticking his thumb in perfect situations and making all kinds of things horrible, but who knows? Maybe one of these days that won’t happen!
One character who suffered for Forrest’s art was his father-in-law (played by Fred Willard), who died in a spectacularly painful Review segment.
It is too late for Jack Walthall. No hope there. As we said on the episode, “He died doing what he loved: almost getting into space.”
The slapstick of that death scene felt like a Super Dave Osborne sketch. Is he an influence on the show? It seems like there’s a little Albert Brooks in Forrest as well.
He’s based very heavily on the main character from the Australian show that Review is based on (Review With Myles Barlow). There’s definitely some Albert Brooks from Real Life in him. I sort of modeled the voice a little bit on the dog, Mr. Peabody … I wanted to bring some of that academic, superior lilt to his voice. I had never thought about Super Dave before, but I loved those bits and the immediacy of how violently bad it goes. [Laughs.]
We haven’t heard much about Forrest’s life before the show.
It’s hard to justify bringing in any information that is not relevant to Forrest’s topic at hand. He was a film reviewer who, at some point, became incapable of sitting through more than half an hour of a movie without falling asleep. Then he started plagiarizing his movie reviews and he was disgraced. And now — in the great American tradition — he’s trying to fail upwards doing something that it’s impossible to fall asleep during.
In one episode, a glitch causes the internet name “the real Lisa Ching” to be mis-punctuated as a question that Forrest valiantly tries to answer. Do you ever feel like “there all is aching”?
Absolutely. [Laughs.] My favorite thing about that segment is Forrest’s wrap-up. Before he’s interrupted with the note that explains the clerical error, he has made a real stab at sharing some important wisdom with his audience on this completely absurd and wholly inscrutable topic. I think without correcting the mistake, he would have had a perfectly acceptable segment for his show.
You alternate between doing broad characters on podcasts and digging in deeper on Review. How does that mix work for you?
I’m totally enjoying both. I think of those as two very different styles of comedy. In Eastbound & Down and Review, my characters are a little more grounded and you’re supposed to invest in them a little more so that we can take an active interest in what happens to them over the course of multiple episodes. Characters that I do on “Comedy Bang! Bang!” or my own podcast are in a more absurd, sketch-y universe, and they go farther faster into the darkness.
Hot Dog has a hopeful quality to his particular darkness. Is he ever going to fulfill his dream of joining Sha Na Na?
[Laughs.] Of all my characters, that’s the guy. I’d want to see his movie. He’s one of my only characters who’s not a complete monster.
Forrest isn’t a monster, though the show does get pretty bleak.
Based on Twitter comments, a lot of people think it’s the bleakest thing on television.
Well, they haven’t seen the finale yet.
When the show has run its course, will the last experience for Forrest to review be what it’s like to die?
It’d be a pretty good way to end. I haven’t thought about it, because that’s decades from now. [Laughs.] I’m not there yet.
Or maybe what it’s like to go on to a feature-length film. That would be another good way to go.