Jon Daly has quietly been one of America’s funniest and strangest comedians for the past fifteen years. Like many others, Daly cut his teeth at the UCB Theatre in New York, playing alongside the likes of Jessica St. Clair, Scot Armstrong and Jason Mantzoukas in the legendary improv group Mother, and as half of the rap duo Cracked Out with Brett Gelman. There he proved himself as a comedian capable of doing anything for the right laugh.
Since moving to Los Angeles around a half-decade ago, Daly has worked regularly across the comedy spectrum performing as a series regular on Amazon’s Betas, in a featured role in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and in guest appearances on what feels like every great sitcom of the past few years. It was on Kroll Show though where Daly’s distinct brand of humor was able to find the audience it deserved, with Daly standing out as an actor in roles as varied as Wheels Ontario teacher Coach Teacher, and Rich Dick Wendy Shawn, and contributing as a writer on all three seasons.
Now Daly has struck out on his own with The Adult Swim Golf Classic. In it Daly plays his near-namesake golfer John Daly, paired with actor Adam Scott playing his namesake golfer Adam Scott in a throwback head-to-head golf shootout. The results are hilarious, and at times strangely dramatic. The special drops on Adult Swim this Friday, just in time for Masters weekend on the PGA Tour. We spoke to Daly about the project and the world of golf.
Paste: What was the genesis of the Adult Swim Golf Classic?
Jon Daly: Well it’s kind of the second iteration of this John Daly obsession, for lack of a better word, that I’ve had since I was twelve years old. He won the British Open, won the PGA, and his name was John Daly, obviously, so I was like, “oh my god! He’s a famous person, he’s a golfer, and he’s crazy!”
So it all started there. Then, when I was becoming an actor, while my name is J-o-n and his name is J-o-h-n, when I was Googling my name, there’d be more hits for his name, because he’d been famous for 30 years. Basically my Google search was taken up by his Google search.
So I made this website called JonDalyIsJohnDaly.com, and you can still go there, it’s still up, it’s a lifetime project. I got in four hours of makeup, made myself into John Daly, bought all of his clothes, and took candids of myself on a golf course. So this website is a menu for the dissemination of these images. And now John Daly’s Google image search is him as himself, mixed in subtly with me as himself. So it started as a method of taking back my own Google search.
Then I was trying to do something else, and I do The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Adam Scott, and on set he told me he was having the same problem with the golfer Adam Scott
Paste: Was that right when Scott was blowing up?
JD: Yeah, Scott won the Masters right after that, and continues to be a champ. So not only did I know this actor, but it’s the difference between John Daly who is this older, brash, outspoken guy who makes country records and smokes and drinks openly on the golf course, and this young, handsome champ. Scott is just an Australian, super athletic dude. So I thought, what should we do with that? We should play golf.
So I pitched it to Adam, and then two and a half years later, we’re making it. [laughs]
Paste: This is both a period piece, but also it isn’t, it’s much weirder than that. How did the specifics of the world you created for the special develop?
JD: I was going to make it modern day, but then I started watching this show, Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, in order to get the story structure of that. It’s a really brilliant show and they make each golf game into a mini-story. Like a nature documentary. And then I was like, “this is so much funnier.”
I had a lifelong obsession with televised golf. As a kid I played hockey, but my dad was a huge golfer, and I would fall asleep every Saturday and Sunday afternoon to televised golf. It was just so boring and there was so much air between things. It’s so funny to me. The pace and the nothingness of it. It cracks me up. Televised golf now? It’s a pale version of televised golf in the ‘60s which was so dry.
Paste: So the ideal version of televised golf happened sometime in the past, and we’re living in the wake of that now?
JD: Yes, and seeing John Daly in this special with all of his shenanigans, as a piece of real golf history, as if it was part of the annals of history was just—and I guess he is… More golden. You’re watching the history of sports unfold in front of you, and it’s this guy being such an idiot.
The whole thing is so dumb obviously, and it’s a fantasy, so we made it really feel burned in amber. Like the mosquitos in Jurassic Park. In a golden glow.
Paste: Was it hard to get the Trump National as a location? Or do they sell that to the highest bidder?
JD: First of all, we shot it at Trump National, and that was back when shooting something at Trump National was funny, and not scary. [laughs] So now, there’s this added element of, “ugh.” It makes the special a touch evil. But how can you predict that?
But it’s as on-brand as you can imagine. If you want to use Trump National as a location, all you have to do is say the name Trump National in your thing, and they will give it to you. And it is one of the best golf courses out there. It is amazing. It is also exceptionally difficult, with how bad we both are at golf which is funny.
As long as you say Trump National they’ll give it you, so we shoot it like it’s St. Andrews. I was like, “let’s make it a commercial for Donald Trump’s golf course,” unfortunately. But what are you going to do?
Paste: That’s not the worst thing about Donald Trump becoming almost our president.
JD: I genuinely think he could watch this special and call me, and be like, “thank you. Hey, you wanna be on my staff?”
Paste: What was your level of golf experience coming into the shoot? It didn’t look… Great… But had you played at all? Did you shoot some warm-up rounds beforehand or go in ice cold?
JD: I play like once a year with my dad, who is a really good golfer. So besides random par-3’s or going to a driving range that’s it. Me playing 18 holes of golf? It’s terrible, it’s tiring, I’m not good enough to have fun doing it.
Paste: But did you get competitive as the match in the special played out?
JD: Yes, I absolutely did.
Adam is even less experienced at golf, but he had this weird beginners luck on the first hole where he just, with as difficult as Trump National is, shot par. He just hit on the fairway, chipped onto the green, and putted it in, having never played golf on a real course before. And I was like, “oh my god, this guy is going to beat me, and I do want to win this.” So you’re watching us really play, as stupid as it gets and as many hacks as we take. You are watching us really play. And I wanted to destroy him. [laughs]
Spike Friedman is a writer based out of Los Angeles. His work has been featured at Grantland, Deadspin, The Stranger, Daily Dot and others.