Bryan Safi Talks “Throwing Shade,” “Smash,” and Penny Marshall’s Predictable Hoarding Problem

Bryan Safi has entertained you in a bunch of seriously entertaining forums: He’s played Marcus Bachmann in some unforgettable Funny Or Die videos, hosted the “That’s Gay” segment on Current TV’s much-missed infoMania, performs at L.A.’s Upright Citizens Brigade occasionally in “Entertainment Hollywood,” and now he cohosts the uproariously funny podcast “Throwing Shade” with his infoMania costar Erin Gibson. He also won a Daytime Emmy as a staff writer on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which is impressive if you worship award shows. Which I would never do.

We sat down with Safi (@bryansafi) to shoot the breeze about pop culture, his podcast, and the real-life benefits of reality TV. Also, he has a crush on Chris Matthews. Pass it on.

AfterElton: I love “Throwing Shade,” and I hear you have another gig coming up.
Bryan Safi:
I’m on a new show starting in April called “Popspot,” and it’s one of those YouTube — I guess they have 10 new channels? Have you heard about this? — I’m hosting a pop culture show called “Popspot.”

AE: “Popspot” sounds like a posthumously released single by Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Or, like, hip-hoppy slang that she’d use frequently. “Pop spot!”
BS:
This is actually the last thing Lisa left in her will. For YouTube to create branded content and a pop culture show called “Popspot.”  I’m just happy to be fulfilling her legacy.

AE: Thankfully she wrote her will in that car that day.
BS:
Right then. Where was she? Honduras? She knew. With a van? She knew. What do you have to come back for when you’re in a van in Honduras?

AE: Having a van in Honduras is the same thing as a suicide note, to me.
BS:
She knew.

AE: So, you’re extremely funny. I love your rapport with your Throwing Shade collaborator Erin Gibson. Your relationship seems very understanding, quippy, and cool. What’s that like?
BS:
I think what’s so great about my relationship with Erin is it’s sort of a relationship I’ve always wanted. When I’ve watched even those Judd Apatow movies where I’ve never related to — bro humor? That relationship? That’s the kind of relationship I have with her. We don’t hug. We don’t touch. It’s sort of like we’re having a dude-bro-frat thing, and because of it, we’re supportive of each other, but we also love tearing each other down. That’s a horrible way of saying it, but we have a license with each other in a very unemotional way. But there’s definitely a love and support there. Our favorite thing is to make fun of what the other person is saying. It can come across as mean, but it’s also supportive.

AE: Now, because you’re so funny, I assume  you’re pretty bored with a lot of existing comedy. Is that the case?
BS:
I have to be honest. The thought of laughing exhausts me. Don’t you feel that way sometimes? I don’t ever really feel like seeing a comedy show. I don’t feel like watching something hilarious. I would much rather watch Barefoot Contessa or Downton Abbey. But I don’t know! I feel like I laugh pretty easily, but I don’t know how often I laugh genuinely.

AE: You’re right about the exhaustion. Laughter is sincerely not relaxing.
BS:
I tell you, at minute 35, I think, “I can’t anymore. No.” I think comedy should be 30 minutes, tops. At that moment I just want there to be a love interest, or somebody dies. Even if it’s a comedy show.

AE: All comedy should end with a funeral, for sure.
BS:
Or just a montage of people you love who are now gone?

AE: Right. One of my favorite things about you is that you’ve interviewed cast members from The A-List: New York. What kind of preparation did you do for that, and what kind of emotional debriefing do you go through afterward?
BS:
The main prep — the hardest prep work was watching the show. That was exhausting and abusive on so many levels for me. Beyond that, I realized there was actually no reason I could interview these people like I’m very interested. I figured the only way I could do it was to interview them as someone who wants to be like them, and make fun of them while making fun of what I want to be. This super disgusting, tan person. It seemed to be the easiest thing, and that way I could actually ask questions. “Reichen, tell me about your flight-themed jewelry.” I mean, who cares? It was an easier outlet to get information. They were all really, really nice though. I find this interesting about all reality stars, though, you ask them, “Did you enjoy it?” And they say, “No, I didn’t. I hated how they portrayed me.” “Well, would you do it again?” “Yeah, definitely.” That is so weird to me. Why would you keep doing something you hate?

 

AE: Those guys should actually behave worse, I think. Or more interestingly.
BS:
I think, honestly, horrible portrayals of people in reality TV make for more interesting characters on scripted TV. Like, The Real Housewives? They only added dimensions to female characters. I think discussing how awful they are is ultimately good, because it translates to something good and more specific in scripted TV. With The A-List, I was just bored. I was like, “Be worse! Be the honest-to-goodness dick you are!”

AE: That was on a card my mother sent to me once.
BS:
Was it a Maxine card? The only thing I’m aspiring to is that I want to be a Maxine writer.

AE: I think that can happen for you. On accident, even, in a Desperately Seeking Susan way. You find that you’ve mysteriously switched places with Maxine.
BS:
You have no idea how many times I’ve pitched that around town. I hope it happens.

AE: I’d like to write up Hallmark cards that look like the Maya Angelou ones on the outside, but then you open them up to find it’s a gag gay porn thing.
BS:
I don’t know why I’m thinking of this right now, but have you seen New Years Day or Valentine’s Day? Maya Angelou wasn’t in either of those, but I feel like they’re something she’d be in? Like maybe she closes the book at the end?

AE: Like Peter Falk in The Princess Bride, sure.
BS:
Maya Angelou kind of wants to be an actress, right? I’ll send Hollywood a message that she needs to star in ensemble comedy.

AE: I Googled you just now, and one of the first available keywords is “Bryan Safi Marcus Bachmann,” thanks to your FunnyOrDie sketches. What’s it like to be so associated with that name?
BS:
I mean, what could I love more? I just realized the other day that the entire time Michele Bachmann was campaigning, you never heard him speak. They never let him in front of a mic. You only heard past interviews. So everyone knew, even in that campaign, what was going on and what they were afraid of was real. I just put two and two together the other day. One victory I had with that is they showed a clip of me on Hardball with Chris Matthews, and they kept cutting around me because Chris Matthews kept saying, “I can’t show you Marcus Bachmann. It’s so brutal! So brutal!” Honestly, there are times — and this is going to be weird — but there are times that I have a little crush on Chris Matthews. It’s how assertive he is. There’s something about it that I like. It’s not even how much what he’s saying, but how he’s saying it.

AE: Interesting. I have the cliched pangs for Anderson Cooper, but it’s because I think he’s the last dashing guy in the Anthony Perkins tradition of… you can see the pain of the hiding in his eyes.
BS:
I can’t believe you just compared Anderson Cooper to Anthony Perkins. I think it’s dead-on.

AE: Are there old eras in comedy that you miss? I think about how Cheri Oteri is doing all the time.
BS:
I really miss regular talk show guests on talk shows, the way Teri Garr or Sandra Bernhard would be on Letterman, or Jennifer Tilly on Letterman. On the old show, they’d never really promote anything. They were just there to be funny, and not even in a stand-up way — it was just a conversation, a funny conversation. I’ll give credit where credit it’s due, because I like this new attitude that even Andy Cohen has on Watch What Happens Live. This, “F*ck it. I don’t know what we’re doing. Anything? This’ll be something. Who cares?” I like that attitude. I like how loose that show is. I can’t say I’m a major fan of his, but I like the idea of “You’re here because you’re funny, and we like you.” Like, the other night Jenna Jameson was on and Robin Bird was, like, bartending. I just miss people talking, Louis.

AE: There is a dada Hollywood Squaresy celebrity tableau to that show, yes. Do you have a vote for the single worst celebrity?
BS:
Oh my god. Oh my god. Give me a second. Who’s yours?

AE: I’d say Donald Trump. If you’re going to be the face of capitalism in the Western world, own it. Don’t be offended and a jerk when someone suggests you might suck a little.
BS:
I’m gonna say — and I don’t know why I’m even saying this — Ryan O’Neal? I don’t even know why! I don’t even know why. Here’s what it is: There was a brief period for like three months when Lea Michele and Ashton Kutcher were on press tour for New Year’s Eve [which co-starred O’Neal] for like three months. That was maybe the darkest time of my life. Did you see this video Lea Michele made about horse-drawn carriages in New York? First of all, the only reason I got turned on to it is because of a tweet she sent to Mayor Bloomberg. [Laughs.] It was like, “Mr. Mayor, I cannot be in your fair city while this is going on.” And it was a video of horsedrawn carriages, but just the fact that she said “Mr. Mayor” killed me. She was talking about the animal abuse of horse-drawn carriages, and she acts the sh*t out of it. The only two people I have Google alerts on, besides like the Marcus Bachmann types, are Lea Michele and Debra Messing.

AE: You do seem pretty fixated on Debra Messing, judging by your tweets.
BS:
Yeah, right. It’s because of her Valerie Cherish [Lisa Kudrow’s character from The Comeback] thing. She had a show in the ’90s, her jokes are the ’90s, and now she has another show and just… wears fabrics and drinks as much tea as possible on the set of Smash? Her tweets are like, “I’m abroad right now and my world is turned upside-down!” It’s always a little bit — telling you she’s traveling and telling you she’s frazzled.

AE: I wonder if Anjelica Huston is dismissive of her on set in that Comeback way.
BS:
Did you know that Anjelica Huston is, I guess, renting an apartment from Penny Marshall in New York? Yeah. So she’s living in New York for the show in Penny Marshall’s apartment, except I guess Penny Marshall is a hoarder? Anjelica Huston had to rent a storage unit and put a bunch of Penny Marshall’s stuff in it. I’m going to guess that none of this is a surprise to you. Like, of course Penny Marshall is a hoarder.

AE: It’s not fair that I have to respond to this news spontaneously. I need to process this in a darkened room for a minute. It’s not shocking, but it’s wild.
BS:
I love everything associated with Smash. Except the show.