The Hollywood Reporter’s annual roundtables with potential Emmy nominees are always a fun watch. This year’s chat with “the comics” – Modern Family’s Ty Burrell, Bored to Death’s Ted Danson, The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, The Office’s Ed Helms, How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris, and Parks and Recreation’s Aziz Ansari – is no exception. A few of my favorite moments:
• In Clip 1, Danson says he’s about to cry just talking about the idea of having to perform “a joke” in front of an audience. He expands on that in the written Q&A accompanying the videos.
Danson: I can bury myself in a character in a funny situation and have a ball. But after so many years of having to be funny when it’s written “this is funny,” it scares the crap out of me.
Burrell: Were you getting tired of that [on Cheers]?
Danson: No. It’s a young man’s game. “Funny” is being delighted and surprised at what’s coming next. I knew what was coming next for me after 16, 17 years, and I can’t imagine that other people didn’t. I found myself not finding myself amusing and finding other people way funnier. So I’d much rather go in the other direction. There, I said it.
• In Clip 2, Burrell admits that he’s afraid of the moment he becomes not funny: “I’ve never been one of those people who’s, like, driven by my deep knowledge of how good I am… It’s like, Am I going to suck… today? And then that makes me work really crazy hard. So yeah, it scares me.” You can tell by the way Danson laughs and turns his body toward Burrell that he’s into the conversation. “I always think of myself as basically a 50-50 actor,” Danson says. “There’s just as equal chance that I’m gonna suck. And not judgmentally so. I mean suck.” Parsons then pipes up to say that no matter how excited and prepared he is for a taping, there’s an equal part of him that’s like, “If it was canceled, that’d be great.” That leads Helms to state the obvious: They’re all thrill-seekers, like the bank-robbing surfers in Point Break. (The written Q&A expands on how self-loathing fuels comedy, which isn’t a new concept, but is always fascinating.)
• In Clip 3, Danson explains why he can only look at something he’s acted in objectively after seven years: “First time I see it, it’s my nose, my ear, my age, my something – pure physical – and I’m depressed. Second time I see it, I go, ‘Well, I guess I’m not that bad.’ Third time I see it, I notice that there are other actors in the scene…” (It’s at this moment, when Burrell laughs and says it’s so true, that I realized I want them to be best friends.)
• The written Q&A ends with them discussing how collaborative their shows are:
Burrell: That can feel so mischievous, in a really cool way: a group of people getting together to come up with the funniest s— you can do in that moment. That’s the best part of the day.
Danson: If you’re on a show for 11 years, the last four or five years it’s the exact opposite. You’d see somebody start to get in trouble with a page or a monologue they had to do, and everyone would go “Ehhhh!” [On Cheers] you could see on George [Wendt’s] hairline, in some shots, spitballs where people had gone behind him while he’s trying to sweat his way through some difficult material. It became like a bad fraternity party. And if anyone showed vulnerability, it was like [smacking sound] “Oh great, Woody’s having trouble!”
Watch the video and read the full transcript. Then tell us, who’s your Emmy roundtable winner?