Malcolm Barrett and Jonathan Slavin – the funniest people on TV!


For those of you watching BETTER OFF TED, you know what I know – that this show is one of the funniest I’ve ever seen, and the cast is one of the most likeable casts ever assembled.  For those of you not watching BETTER OFF TED, you should probably never talk to me again.  Or start watching tonight, with the Season 1 finale, and then we can be friends again!

I had the chance to talk to Veridian Dynamics’ head scientists, Phil and Lem (the amazing Jonathan Slavin (right, in the picture) and Malcolm Barrett (left)) in celebration of tonight’s finale, and they have quickly moved to the top spot on my list of downright enjoyable conversations with incredible people.  Read on to find out why, and why you should be watching! 

Hello you guys!
Malcolm (M): Ooh listen to the excitement in her voice!

I am very excited.  There is incredible excitement in my voice, because you two are ridiculously good.
M and Jonathan (J): Aw!!
J:  Amrie’s my favorite.  You are the best person we’ve talked to so far! [editor’s note, I may have been the first…. ha!]

See that’s the goal!  I love the show.  I watched the Pilot six times before it aired because I was obsessed with it.
J: Aw!
M:  Wow!

I know, it’s probably a little sick.
M:  No it’s fine!
J:  No judgment here, you’re safe!

One of the things I noticed is that you guys have this easy chemistry.  Was it something that came very naturally, had you known each other before?
J:  We actually, surprisingly, we knew each other because we had auditioned for a fair amount of the same roles before.  I was really aware of Malcolm’s work, and thought he was great.  We knew each other from waiting rooms.  You go to a Network and a Studio and stuff to get a part, and you’re usually down to the last 4 or 5 when you do that.  When I saw Malcolm there, I was very much hoping that the casting would work out this way that I would get to be Phil and he would get to be Lem!  Don’t tell him, but he’s sort of insanely talented, and I’m kind of a fan!  If you could keep that between you and I, Amrie, that would be awesome.

M: I was hoping he wouldn’t get the part.
J:  That’s because you don’t like Jews.
M: That’s mostly true.
J: Totally.
M:  Or animals.
J:  Or gay people.
M:  Or gays [laugh at each other].  I hate….
M and J: Gay Jewish Animals!!
[uncontrollable laughter all around]

What a way to start the morning.  That doesn’t lead anywhere into my next question.
M: Good segue!

Ha, yeah.  What drew you to these parts?
M:  I think me and Jonny like quirky characters.  We just like characters, people who talk weird, or act weird, or who aren’t exactly who you think they might be.
J:  I don’t want to go to work every day and just talk.  Just something easy.  I have worked with Victor Fresco before, and I’m just such a huge fan of him and his writing.  I don’t think that anybody does what he does on television.  I don’t think that anybody tackles comedy with that particular voice. And so I was very, very excited at the prospect of working with him again.

My favorite scene in the pilot is when you guys are in Linda’s cubicle, talking about going back to that other cubicle – I’m going to go back, probably twice.  I just love the delivery.  I wondered – is there any improv, or is it pretty much all laid out for you?
M: Victor doesn’t let me improv at all [laughs]
J:  It’s like, I’m thinking of changing this uh to a the, is that ok, it’s like, No.  Go ahead and say uh.
M:  I come from some improv stuff.
J:  He has, but he wasn’t very good at it.
M:  I wasn’t any good, but I’d come from doing it. [laughs]
J:  He was in countless improv groups.
M:  Saturday Night Live told me to stop calling. [laughs]
J:  You did Commedia Dell’arte in the streets of Rome, didn’t you?
M:  I did, during a summer I was backpacking. [laughs]
J:  Youth Hostels…
M:  What was the question? [laughs all around]

What’s coming up in the finale?
M:  The finale, well, you’re better at this…
J:  I am,  I am so much better…
M:  You’re like a lot better….
J:  Now there’s all this pressure, though, Amrie, if I suck at this, that’s bad.  The finale episode is company morale is suffering, so Veridian sort of mandates that company morale needs to improve.  So Portia’s character, Veronica, needs to become more likeable and people need to feel free to express their individuality, however, Veridian takes it upon itself to express people’s individuality for them, in four non-offensive themes, which are Classic Cars, Space, Green Bay Packers, and Cats.  So everyone comes to work and their cubicle is decorated appropriately, and then people start to break up into gangs based on what they’re with, and hilarity ensues!
M:  You can guess that within 10 minutes of any of our episodes, hilarity is going to ensue.
J:  Something mad-cap happens! [laughs]

That’s what I explain to people about why they should be watching!  There’s something that will make your jaw drop and get you laughing hysterically, every turn.
M:  Every episode, yes, every turn.  We try to pack as many jokes as possible in.
J:  Even when the story completely suffers.
M:  Yeah, as long as me and him are funny, that’s what I rely on.
J:  Let Lem and Phil be Lem and Phil!
M:  Let us do our job, man!
J:  People are trickling towards the show now, and I think when people give it a shot, and they watch an episode or two, people really, really do respond to it.
M:  You watch it, you like it!

That’s 100% true.  I’ve not heard someone say I watched BETTER OFF TED and I don’t like it.  It’s that I didn’t watch it yet. And then they watch, and it’s like Oh my god, that show!
M:  It doesn’t matter if 5 people like it.
J:  Did you go to math school?
M:  It works out in the end. [laughs]

My brother watches, and now he points out all these little things like, remember when this happened, and that happened, and I think it’s hilarious that he’s so hooked, because he doesn’t fixate on shows normally ha!
M:  Somebody recognized me!  She was like, you’re the guy from the show.
J:  I got recognized at the Skechers outlet yesterday [laughing out loud all around]
M:  That’s the life.
J:  Oh the glamor!

Why should people tune in?  Why should people find this show?
M:  People should find it because we do something crazy every episode.  Every show is funny.  We do have every episode, there is something that will shock and/or offend you and/or make you laugh?
J:  The reality is that it’s funny, it is accessible and it is really smart.  America doesn’t respond well to being dumbed down to.  People like smart shows, people deserve smart shows, people deserve smart comedies and this is one of them, yet it still manages to be really entertaining, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
M:  And it’s ridiculously relevent.  Anyone who has ever worked for somebody that didn’t care for them can relate to this show.
J:  I’ve never worked for anyone who didn’t want to tickle my back.
M:  That’s because you’ve only worked for Santa.
J:  Oh he was great!  He had an eating disorder though.  Crazy.

You guys are fantastic!
[laughing all around]

I just want to keep the recorder rolling, and see what you come up with.  No questions needed, just let you guys go!
J:  Like in 5 minutes, it would be like a danger thing, and you could never broadcast.  I shouldn’t even go there.  Nothing is off limits at this point! [laughs and laughs and laughs]

I hope people respond and we see more, because I’m definitely going to cry if this show goes away!
J:  It’s not going to.  We believe it’s going to be great, and we look forward to launching the second season and talking to you again!


They did a bunch of other interviews yesterday, most notably with Natalie at E! and it sounds like they’ve already shot 5 episodes beyond the 6 that aired, so there’s a built in chance we’ll be seeing more of our Veridian Dynamics friends in the coming months and years.  I certainly hope so!  Do your part, tune in (and get all of your Nielsen box friends to do the same) tonight on ABC at 8:30, right before an all new episode of DANCING WITH THE STARS!



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