Comedian Brody Stevens may not be a household name, but among fellow comics as well as comedy nerds, his odd, intense, Andy Kaufman-esque stand-up act has made him a cult favorite—and one of his biggest fans is Zach Galifianakis. Friends for 15 years, Galifianakis and Stevens (who has had small roles in the Hangover films and Due Date) have now collaborated on a darkly funny, strangely touching, hard-to-describe new series for HBO Digitals called Brody Stevens: Enjoy It! Produced by Galifianakis, who also appears in it, the show consists of six 15-minute episodes that chronicle a tumultuous period in Stevens’ life following a public mental breakdown, as he struggles to reconcile with his estranged sister, attempts to patch up his ruptured relationship with former employer Chelsea Handler, and generally tries to get his life back on track and take his career to the next level. Available on HBO Go and HBO On Demand, Enjoy It! blends documentary footage with occasional staged scenes, fantasy sequences, and animation–and it’s not always totally clear what is what. Like we said, it’s not easy to describe—you really just need to watch it. Thankfully, we also got Galifianakis and Stevens together to help explain.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Zach, Brody is often called a “comedian’s comedian” and his act is pretty hard to pin down. How would you explain it to people who might not be familiar with him?
GALIFIANAKIS: I say in the show that Brody is a jock who’s doing performance art. It’s kind of like the way a professional wrestler enters the ring: yelling and kind of being confrontational to the audience. Brody sees the audience as an opponent in some ways and he prefers them to challenge him.
STEVENS: Yeah, I like to win the crowd over. A lot of times if they don’t know me, they’re kind of skeptical. Not everyone is on board. But there’s always at least a third of the audience who gets it.
GALIFIANAKIS: Whenever Brody performs, the other comedians will always leave the green room to watch him. The comedians almost get more joy out of what he’s doing than the audience. That to me is a pretty interesting thing. A comic’s comic is not necessarily understood by a mass audience—but eventually they are.
Where did the idea for this show come from?
GALIFIANAKIS: Well, we kind of did it on a whim in a way. We kind of just said, “Let’s just see if there’s any interest in us following Brody around.” We went to HBO and Brody pitched the show to them, which was just… [trails off] No offense, Brody, but it was a lot of rambling.
STEVENS: [sarcastically] Oh, thanks.
GALIFIANAKIS: A lot of rambling. After Brody was done pitching the show, the HBO executive said, “We’ll take it”—just like that. I looked at the executive and said, “Are you kidding? Did you just hear that pitch?” I wasn’t really joking. But they got it.
Brody, the show documents a pretty scary breakdown you suffered last year. You went off your antidepressants, started acting erratically and manically posting on your Twitter feed, and eventually wound up in a psychiatric ward. Did you have any hesitation about putting all of that in the show?
STEVENS: For me, because it was already public, at least on Twitter, and people knew that I had this meltdown after going off my meds, I felt comfortable talking about it. I felt that it was an interesting story to see me going from being hospitalized to getting better and staying strong and getting on Conan and reconciling with my sister. What happened to me happened. I wasn’t going to hide it.
GALIFIANAKIS: At the time, a lot of people thought Brody was joking with his tweets. It was really important to us to make sure that he was not being exploited. HBO was really cool about waiting and seeing how he felt, but Brody wanted to tell the story. A lot of times in the show we weren’t really going for the funny necessarily. We were trying to be honest—and the honesty turned interesting. For a lot of comics, their life on stage is one thing, but their life off stage can be a little bit of a struggle.
Zach, do you have other outside projects like this that you’d like to develop?
GALIFIANAKIS: I’m slowly putting my toes in the water, but I’m not really a business person and some of this takes some business acumen. We’ll see. You don’t need the system now as much as you used to. For people like Brody ten years ago, I don’t think there was an outlet for something like this. It’s good. [pauses] We would have been happy if this show was just a ring tone.