Jay Baruchel Talks MAN SEEKING WOMAN, How it Defies Conventional Genre Labels, The Absurd Comedy, Playing it with Sincerity, Filming in Toronto, and More

     January 14, 2015

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From the mind of acclaimed author Simon Rich comes the new FXX series Man Seeking Woman.  The show stars Jay Baruchel as Josh Greenberg, a heartbroken romantic on the quest for love.  However, don’t expect Man Seeking Woman to be your average RomCom.  The series has a distinctly absurdist take, depicting the triumphs and perils of single life in a way never before seen on TV.  Not sure what I mean?  The first episode sees Josh headed on a blind date with a literal troll and it only gets more bizarre from there.

While on set Baruchel took some time to speak with Collider and a few other outlets.  He talked about how Man Seeking Woman evades conventional genre labels, playing the weird moments with sincerity, the state of Canadian filmmaking, why he thinks this is the funniest show in the world, and more.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

man-seeking-woman-jay-baruchel-2I’m curious, for a show this unique and with so many delightfully bizarre qualities, how would you pitch it to an audience? 

JAY BARUCHEL:  I’ve been having a lot of trouble doing that, and I’ll just say this, whatever descriptions are out there now on the internet don’t come close – they nail about one-tenth of what the show is, which is kind of a cool thing because it’s a bit of a mystery.  People are probably expecting just a straight ahead romantic comedy and there’s nothing straight ahead about this.  But I’ll say painfully earnest, embarrassingly truthful and like a cartoon come to life.

What’s your approach to the surreal moments?  That’s happening for real, right? 

BARUCHEL:  Yeah, they’re not dream sequences at all.  We only get away with them if those moments are played incredibly earnest and real and small.  It kind of mitigates the craziness and I think it gives us license to go even crazier.  So we had to kind of figure out what the recipe was and we kind of realized that it was supper funny to have – in our minds anyway – to have these really crazy fucking super broad elements counteracted by everyone talking like they’re in an indie comedy.

How much of your own experiences have you brought to this role? 

BARUCHEL:  Oh, [laughs] countless.  I’m 32, so I somehow made it out of my twenties – by the skin of my teeth.  I’ve been channeling every good and crummy romantic experience for as long as I’ve been having either.

man-seeking-woman-jay-baruchel-eric-andreEveryone on set today has talked about how collaborative the show has been, and that you guys have a lot of room for improv.

BARUCHEL:  Thank god, yeah.

Is there anything in particular that you feel like you’ve brought to the show?  Other than the obvious. 

BARUCHEL:  When I say thank god, I shouldn’t have said it, because if we were completely word perfect, this show would be just as funny regardless because we have really strong material to start from.  I’ll say this, I got a Carnivale reference into the show, which has now become referenced in more than one episode and it was just an ad-lib I tried once on the day.

Are you a big Carnivale fan?

BARUCHEL:  Big enough.

Did you see the finale?

BARUCHEL:  No!  That’s why I put it in there.  I literally have two episodes left to watch.  I watched them all throughout – we watched them while we were making a movie called Goon that I wrote, and then we got busy making that movie, and the trio of us that were watching them have never – at this point we feel like we would be ruining it if we finished it.  So no, much to the chagrin of whoever hires me, I jut will always try to put my spin on things at some point.  Whether or not they’re just humoring me or using it to make the show better is up to them.  I’ll just say they really create a pretty special atmosphere where we all feel kind of free to contribute and it’s a good place to man-seeking-womanwork from because we all kind of see the same show, and I don’t know – it’s just uncommon on a TV show, especially one this big that we’re approaching it like we’re doing a play – a small play – where we’re all just kind of throwing ideas in and coming up with lines for each other and shit.  Yeah man, I forgot what it’s like to be psyched to show up for work every day and that’s how it kind of is here.

Simon was saying that they kind of torture you a lot. 

BARUCHEL:  Yeah!

And we got to see it earlier with you skating.  Do you get beat up a lot? 

BARUCHEL:  I get the shit kicked out of me on this thing.  I started kind of doing a tab of what I’ve gone through thus far and yeah, it’s been a cavalcade of electrocution, being covered in semen, being seduced, throwing myself into fucking boards. Yeah, I just have gotten the shit kicked out of me, as any single person has.

You’re kind of known as a guy that likes Canada, is proudly Canadian, and likes to shoot here.  How much influence did you have that the show was shot here? 

BARUCHEL:  Oh, come on man, I can’t answer that.

Was it in your contract?  I mean there was a whole movie kind of based on that concept, so you kind of open yourself  up to it a bit. 

BARUCHEL:  No a hundred percent, but when it gets to what’s in my contract…I’ll just say that yeah, I really wanted to work close to home and we’ve been lucky enough to do that.

Follow up, how angry are you that this isn’t in Montreal? 

man-seeking-woman-lizard-2BARUCHEL:  Oh god, no.  Listen, this is close enough.  This is more than close enough.  I’m a 45 minute flight away from home.  Yeah, I just was like, “You know, it would be pretty cool if we did it up here since we’ve got some of the best crew in the world here and some of the worlds funnies people, and I guarantee-”   And everybody was like, “Well, they don’t do a lot of American half-hour comedies north of the border.”  And I said, “So?  What’s your point?  Maybe now they will.”  I’m real psyched about that, that maybe we’re opening the country up so that it’s not just for Supernatural and Suits.  That all sorts of cool shit can be done here to, because why the fuck not?

Just a quick follow up to that.  Why do you think that Canadian comedy and sitcoms are so subpar? 

BARUCHEL:  I don’t know that they all are.

You don’t think so? 

BARUCHEL:  No.

I’m just projecting on you my own feelings. 

BARUCHEL:  No, I hear that.  You can come up with a bunch of examples, but for each one of those I’d say Kids in the Hall and Trailer Park Boys.

Yeah, but that was HBO right? 

MAN SEEKING WOMAN -- Pictured: Maya Erskine as Maggie. CR: Matthias Clamer/FXXBARUCHEL:  That was CBC.  I promise you.  They tried to shoot a pilot for HBO, but that was about it, but no it’s CBC, 100%.  And Trailer Park Boys is 100%.  That’s not even made in Toronto or Montreal, or Vancouver, that’s in fucking Halifax for god’s sake.  But no, listen, I think though that there’s often a disparity and that comes down to we don’t have the same resources to play with that they do down there and I also think that there’s a bit of  an old boy’s club up here, and I think that once you’re in you’re in for good and regardless of the quality you’ll still get to make your thing.  So the key, the gag, is finding a way to get the good people in there.  I think that we’re sort of showing more and more that we can compete.  I think Trailer Park Boys have proved – that opened the door for Goon, and Goon was #1 here when it opened.  So yeah, there’s been a lot of shit movies here.  There’s been a lot of shit movies in the States too, man [laughs].  A lot of crappy TV down there too.  But my friend Jacob Tierney put it perfectly.  He said, we have to get to a point where watching Canadian movies and TV doesn’t feel like homework.  It should just be good, period.  And there’s different ways to get to that.  We’re scratching the surface of that.  I don’t think cutting funding to the CBC is the right way to do that.  I think it’s quite the opposite, if anything.  If you look at how much each taxpayer in Britain pays into the BBC versus how much we pay into the CBC, it’s nothing.

The lowest in the world I think, or one of them. 

BARUCHEL:  Yeah, and that’s a shame because the CBC’s all of ours.  Yeah, it gave the world a bunch of great stuff.  So it’s this weird thing where you’ve got to walk a tightrope of patriotism and creativity. ideally the two can inform each other.  It just doesn’t always work out that way.  I think it seems like we make more crap because we make less stuff period.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to send you off on a rant there. 

MAN SEEKING WOMAN -- Pictured: Britt Lower as Liz. CR: Matthias Clamer/FXXBARUCHEL:  Sorry, I didn’t mean to go on one!

When it comes to Man Seeking Woman, everything we’ve seen on set today has been great and the pilot is really wonderful. 

BARUCHEL:  Oh, thanks.

But it might be sort of a strange thing for people to jump into. 

BARUCHEL:  Yeah, there’s a learning curve.

What are you most excited for people to see and what do you think they’re going to respond to? 

BARUCHEL:  I know what I’m excited for them to see.  I have no idea what they’ll respond to.  I’ve been in this crazy business for 20 years and I have never figured out what the formula is to what people are going to like and who likes what and all that stuff.  They made four of those goddamn Transformers movies, for God’s sake.  So I have no idea what people will respond to.

What I’m most excited for them to see is a show they’ve never seen before, and it’s bloody rare to be able to say that.  In my career I can count on one hand how many times I’ve done something that’s without compare.  So it’s kind of scary and exciting that we’re sort of blazing a new trail and we’re going to show something that, like I said, they’ve never before.  But more than anything, I think we’re working on the funniest show in the world right now, and I just can’t wait to go get out there and go toe to toe with whatever’s on network TV right now because I think we’ll smoke ‘em all.  I really do.

man-seeking-woman-jay-baruchel-4What’s the difference between a show like this and what’s coming out on Network TV?  You obviously have more freedom.

BARUCHEL:  Yeah!

We’ve been talking about the Japanese penis monster.

BARUCHEL:  Yeah!  I just think that it’s that chicken and egg thing of lowest common denominator shit.  Are you giving people what they want?  Or is that what they want because they haven’t seen anything better?  And I don’t know the answer to that, by the way.  It’s not for me – if someone feels a connection to a show that I think is repulsive it’s none of my goddamn business.  They connect to it.  Lord knows I like stuff that a lot of people hate, so I’ll just say that you can sort of get real flowery and build it up in lots of different ways, but all that matters is – is it funny?  And do people give a shit enough to keep watching?  And by that criteria  I know that we have more heart than most stuff on television, and I know we’re just funnier, we go harder without being mean.  That’s the other thing.  In this day and age there’s sort of real soft and there’s real mean, and we’re not a show about, or for, or made by bullies.  There’s nothing mean about it.  It goes to some very dark, fucked up places, but never once is it making fun.  It’s just better.  It’s just better.  And I think it’s there for the taking.  Like, we’re in a kind of golden age of television and yet I don’t know how much that applies to – There’s not a ton of shows on TV that make me laugh.  I can name one new show – newish – current show that makes me laugh, that’s about it.

Which is?

BARUCHEL:  Workaholics.

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