There’s always just the right amount of Adam Pally in the universe.
The break-out comedic star of Happy Endings transitioned seamlessly into a similarly snug-fitting role on The Mindy Project. Now Pally is working again with Happy Endings’ co-creator (David Caspe) to make a hip-hop centric exploration of the American Dream’s diminishing returns.
In Champaign ILL Pally plays a member of a huge rapper’s posse, alongside Detroiters star Sam Richardson. When their best friend and blank check winds up dying suddenly, Pally and Richardson are forced to move back to their hometown of Champaign, Illinois. They reconnect with people they have no connection to, start living in their childhood bedrooms, and realize quickly that they’re ill-equipped to handle the real world.
Starting Dec. 12, the entire ten episode season will drop on YouTube Premium, marking one of their biggest forays into culturally relevant adult comedy. Paste recently talked to Pally about what viewers can expect.
Paste: What is it like to be back in a creative partnership with David Caspe again?
Adam Pally: We started on this four years ago. We wanted to do something together and it took awhile for the industry to allow us to do something this big. We both did some other projects but then we focused on doing this together. It’s fun to work with family.
Paste: What kind of opportunities do you have in making this show for YouTube instead of traditional television? What does this open up for you from language to story structure to…
Pally: You can do anything on television at this point. We aren’t in George Carlin’s “Seven Words” world anymore. I saw…. I saw a butt on, like, Big Bang Theory. The best part of YouTube Premium is how they let you take on the form in any way you want. We have episodes in our run that are longer or shorter. One episode is done all in one take. We explore a narrative while also doing sitcom and bending the genres. It’s ok to have a show right now and be able to call some part of it the first of its kind.
Paste: How long was production on this?
Pally: We shot it over the summer. Standard shoot. We shot it like a movie. It didn’t feel too long or too short. Probably a year process in full.
Paste: I’m not sure if you’ve seen this, but since the trailer for the series was released, the mayor of Champaign, Illinois was asked to weigh in on the series. And her statement shows that she really has no idea what this show will be about. Is this show even meant to be set in Champaign, or is it more of an Everytown, USA?
Pally: I’m very familiar. Not to be an old man, but it feels like there’s some millennial entitlement to it. These people are all very young and they feel like it is lying to them in some way by naming the show after a town and not shooting it there. But also not putting them in it. That’s the real… I interacted with a few of them and their real beef is that they’re not in it. Which is a very tough lesson. It’s tough to find out you’re not in something. It’s a lack of education. It feels dumb to me that they don’t know Star Wars wasn’t shot in space.
Paste: Do you think the show shits on Champaign?
Pally: No. It was that idea that any place that is not the top of the world is not the top of the world. As awesome as everyone keeps telling me Champagne is… and I’ve driven through and it is not the top of the world. It’s okay. It’s okay for Champagne to not be the best place ever. But we’re not shitting on Champagne. We’re just saying that Drake doesn’t live in Champagne.
Paste: How do you make a white character that thrives in the hip-hop community, but the joke is not that he is white? It is about how entrenched he is in actual being relevant to the scene?
Pally: First, both me and the character are not white: we’re Jews. For all Jews that think they are white, when shit hits the fan, it will be proven that they are not white. That’s number one. Number two, there are a lot of Jews in hip-hop. Specifically the Beastie Boys. What we wanted to show, especially Sam and I, we’re fans. I love the culture. I wait on line for Supreme. My wife and I went to see the Drake and Migos tour weeks ago. I named my son Drake. I love it. The way that I show love about something is to write about it and show how funny it is. That’s how we came up with the character of Ronnie. It doesn’t have anything to do with race, except for racial scars that remain unresolved, from education to gentrification. But the way to combat that is to show your love honestly.
Paste: And these characters in the crew aren’t hangers-on. They have specific roles and they’re good at what they do. Did you talk to people in hip-hop support positions like the guy who makes sure the Game Boy always has batteries or the guy that makes sure someone calls his mom everyday?
Pally: I’ve seen a little bit of it, just being around some people. I got to talk with some people who have been very open to answering my questions. Age comes into it. Part of the way a young culture grows and becomes what they want to be is that they just become that thing, no matter what it is. An example would be that 2 Chainz has his own weed. He has that company because he had a guy whose job was to roll his joints and procure his weed. That guy had a real interest in marijuana so he hooked up with a farm in California. 2 Chainz has a new young guy handling the rolling now, but the old guy now runs the weed company. I have so much respect for these real guys, and the characters on our show are different because they just haven’t figured it out yet. And that’s unfortunate, when the star in their solar system dies.
Paste: Adam, what are the dream roles for your future crew? Who do you want in it and what do you want them to do?
Pally: I don’t. I have children. I don’t want people to have anything to do with my job. I already have too many people asking me questions and I’m just like “Shut up. I don’t know how much I’m paying my manager. Shut up.” I don’t know. I would like to bring my crew… down. I would like my crew to be me, and my wife, and my dog, and my phone?
Paste: Your show brings up an important issue in society that no one else is discussing honestly: the importance of have a good cream sectional. Thank you for bringing attention to this.
Pally: You gotta have a cream sectional. When you’re on a cream sectional and you spill your cream it just disappears into a cream sectional.
Paste: There’s a lot of shows about having to give up on your dream and move home. How do you make a show about refusing to give up on that dream without it becoming too depressing? Or is the point that your main characters have dreams that are forced to adapt?
Pally: We’re all pursuing a dream each and every day and then we have to make compromises. We have plans and then the rest of the time we’re making compromises for why it can’t be that. That’s very compelling. These guys got a taste of everything that they’d dreamed of and they did not find out that it was not what they wanted. They had it. And when it goes away, they’re forced to ask what parts of that do they actually want back?
Paste: How much convincing did it take to get Keith David to put on a fat suit?
Pally: It was not a lot of convincing to get him to get into the fat suit. Once he had done it once, it took a lot convincing to get him to put it on again the next day.
Paste: What is it like working with Sam Richardson?
Pally: It’s a dream come true. He’s such a movie star in the making. But as a friend he also tells it like it is. I need people like that. He’s so amazing on Detroiters and I cannot wait to watch him grow in his career and go on to do whatever he wants.
Paste: How do you get into a scene together?
Pally: We do the work. We do the work. The night before we go out together and drink a bottle of wine and eat a chicken parm. No, we just try to keep it loose and we speak the same language. Sometimes you just meet people and think “Did we go to camp together?”
Brock Wilbur is a writer and comedian from Los Angeles who lives with his wife Vivian Kane and their cat, Cat. He is the co-author (with Nathan Rabin) of the forthcoming book Postal for the Boss Fight Books series.