Despite the world’s uncertain times, nothing is uncertain about Blake Anderson’s success. The comedy aficionado has two fresh premieres on his television horizon: Season Two of the Adult Swim show “Tigtone,” of which he’s an executive producer, and a regular role on the new Hulu series “Woke,” which drops this fall.
During our chat by phone, Blake talks about his early beginnings creating YouTube sketches, lessons in success learned from “Workaholics,” and unlocking his brain with cannabis.
As a kid, did you know you wanted to pursue comedy as a career?
Blake Anderson: When you’re growing up, you’re not thinking, “Oh, I want to be funny for a living.” It’s just kind of the personality you’re given. But things definitely clicked for me in junior high. I was taking an exploratory elective, introduction to theater, and there was a day we got to do improv in class. I just remember being a natural at it and making the whole class laugh. I didn’t have to memorize lines or anything, I could just go off the top of my head. I thought, “Whoa. This feels very right.” I was always a goofball class-clown or whatever, and that experience put things into a format and an actual performance. I was like, “This is where it’s at. I think I want to do comedy as an actual thing.
You felt aligned.
Blake Anderson: I realized I was entertaining the class and making them laugh and it was all coming from me. I was creating. That feeling was something I wanted to bottle.
Is that what motivated you to form your sketch group, Mail Order Comedy?
Blake Anderson: Yeah, it was organic progression. From junior high, I went to high school and joined the improv team. I didn’t want to apply to a university because I was too stupid, so I decided to go to junior college in Orange County. [Orange Coast College] had an improv class you could take there, so I enrolled in that, which is where I met Adam [DeVine] from “Workaholics.” He was in the improv class with me. We both noticed each other like, “Oh, this guy’s funny? Fuck this dude. I’m the funniest kid from my local school, who is this?” But we decided to form an alliance.
Adam ended up moving to Los Angeles because he was smart enough to know that Hollywood was not going to discover you in Orange County. We were kind of ignorant to the fact that The O.C. isn’t a hub for entertainment. Anyway, we started filming sketches for YouTube and things spiraled from there.
Was there a plan for the videos or was it more, “we find this funny, we’re going to shoot it.”
Blake Anderson: We all had our day jobs and were living check-to-check, but we also made a point to be very disciplined to set aside a day during the week or weekend to film sketches. We’d write out ideas on index cards and tape them on the wall and would run through the list. We were our own employers, so we had to be self-disciplined about it and took it pretty seriously. Of course, these were bare bones sketches, we didn’t have any sort of budget or anything.
Ders [Anders Holm] wanted to be a writer, so we would really focus on creating stories with beginnings, middles and ends. This was back when Internet videos were three minutes long instead of thirty-seconds. We were all about telling stories. That was kind of what we felt we were pretty good at, the thing that separated us from just like irreverent comedy that didn’t say anything. We liked to think we were better than just funny cat videos.
Were those the videos that gave birth to “Workaholics”?
Blake Anderson: An executive over at Comedy Central had seen some of our videos on the Internet and the show was roughly based on those. When [Comedy Central] called us in, they were one of our first major pitches. We came in there all ignorant, letting our nuts swing, without really knowing it was such a big moment, and knocked it out of the park. We ended up getting a pilot presentation and were given more money than any of us had ever seen. When we saw how much they were giving us we were like, “We could make three movies with this.” Our sketches before that, we wouldn’t spend more than twenty-five-bucks on a sketch.
From a creative perspective, what did the budget increase allow you to do that you were previously unable to do?
Blake Anderson: We literally didn’t have to hold the microphone anymore. [Before], if you were in a sketch, you were off camera holding the microphone. We had to do everything. [The money] gave us a chance to actually have a crew and focus on writing and acting as opposed to every other position. A set involves a lot of people, so just having a team around was like, “We can actually accomplish real tv shit now.”
And was it a seamless transition from making sketches to eventually making the show?
Blake Anderson: It was definitely trial by fire, sink or swim. We had been training ourselves on YouTube, but no one had written a tv show before. Comedy Central smartly made us get a showrunner—Kevin Etten—who was our showrunner for the entire series. [Kevin] had worked on “Scrubs” and a bunch of other shows, and he definitely helped us with [the writing] part of the format. As far as being on set, Kyle [Newacheck] had never directed anybody outside of us or people at his film school. Then all of a sudden, you’re on set and you’re in control of fifty people. We didn’t know any better. You just step up to the plate and you either swing and miss or you knock it out of the park. We never had it in our minds to fail. We were just working as hard as we could to try and make a good tv show.
At a certain point when you’re up to bat, your instincts take over and you’re not in your head as much.
Blake Anderson: I think that’s the thing with most of life. You train, you train, and you run through scenarios and build up abilities and all that, and I feel everyone gets their one time to step up to the plate and go to bat, and as long as you have all your skills, hopefully that’s your time to shine. We knew [the show] was a huge opportunity and it was what we had been working toward, so we knew we had to crush it.
What’s your relationship with cannabis?
Blake Anderson: It’s a positive thing. I use weed to zone out and go in my own space, but I’m not really a “smoke weed and write a script” guy, nor am I ever high on set. I’m more like, “smoke weed and listen to lots of dope music.” I use it as a creative release, or will just get super stoned and play an old video game that I could beat with my eyes closed. If I’m smoking weed, I kind of want my brain to sizzle.
What about the high makes it worth it to you?
Blake Anderson: It just lets you access the parts of your mind you might be silencing inadvertently. It allows you to go into those thoughts and corners of your brain that you can’t access when you’re completely of sound mind.
Like I said, I don’t write scripts [while stoned], but being high can unlock ideas you can then build off of maybe the next day or whatever. It’s definitely helpful to the creative process.
Do you have a preference of sativa vs indica?
Blake Anderson: I actually don’t. My brother has a small little garden that he plants every year so I just run off that. Kyle also jars up some pretty good weed as well. I’m all about that homegrown. Whatever you’re growing, I’m down.
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