Published in The Music (WA) | 02.04.14 | Issue # 32
THE BRULES OF LIFE
After conquering the big screen, internationally renowned actor John C Reilly has turned his efforts to a more niche avenue. The executive producer of Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule discusses the challenges of working with a marginally disabled doctor and the “specific intense flavour” of the show with Daniel Cribb.
You probably know John C Reilly as one of Hollywood’s most-loved comedic actors – from playing Will Ferrell’s man-child half-sibling in Step Brothers, to voicing the main character in 2012 Disney animation Wreck-It Ralph, he’s slowly infiltrated the comedy realm on an international scale, and now sits in the depths of Hollywood as one of comedy’s finest. So, why is he now working on comparatively low-budget, mini-series Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule which airs in the early hours of the morning on US cable TV? “There’s a lot of shite out there,” an affable Reilly laughs down the line from LA. “I think a lot of people, especially younger people, are looking for something that’s a little more experimental, not so easily packaged.”
Eight years ago he was at a bowling alley, celebrating the birthday of comedian Ron Lynch, when he was introduced to a relatively unknown comedy duo – Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. The pair, who now have a cult following and sold out an Australian tour in 2012, hit it off with Reilly and invited him to come voice a character in an animation they were working on called Tom Goes To The Mayor. “I think they’re two of the funniest people in the world right now,” he says. Shortly after Tom Goes To The Mayor, Heidecker and Wareheim went on to create Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, a show that saw widespread success. Amongst cameos from Will Ferrell, Jeff Goldblum, Ben Stiller and a slew of other heavyweights, a dim-witted, clumsy doctor by the name of Steve Brule – who bears a striking resemblance to Reilly – was cast for intermittent segments in which he would provide tips for the viewers. “I guess we resemble each other physically, but he’s a doctor and I’m just an actor,” Reilly comments on the resemblance.
They discovered Brule on local cable television station Channel 5, working as a correspondent on nightly newscast The Married News, run by a husband and wife team, Jan and Wayne Skyler, who look remarkably like Heidecker and Wareheim. Brule came out of nowhere with his producer, a faceless character that simply goes by the name of Denny, and after an onslaught of praise for his contribution to Awesome Show, Great Job! was given his own show – Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule, which is now into its third season, with Reilly, Heidecker and Wareheim writing, directing and producing.
“Tim and Eric and I have to do very little as executive producers for the show because Steve and Denny, they just deliver the show to us intact, so there’s not a lot of interaction we have with them about the show. Any problems that they encounter when making the show, they deal with. I understand they shoot the show in real time; they shoot one segment at a time in order, so if things go wrong they incorporate it into the show… he’s very hard to get a hold of actually. He has a pager and it’s hard to reach him, you have to page him then he pages back a fax number which is Denny’s fax and you send a fax to Denny and then Denny brings it to Steve, so it can take weeks to make contact with him – that’s why it’s taken so long to do three seasons of the show.”
Dim-witted and clumsy doesn’t quite capture the awkwardly brilliant humour that Brule is able to covey through a series of botched interviews, inaudible dialogue and awkward onsite reviews. Each episode sees the Dr checking out different topics – from boats and planes to family, money and food; he’s got most bases covered. “What you see is what you get. [Guests’] first reactions to Steve are on camera so if you watch the show, you’re seeing their first reaction to Steve and he asks a lot of odd questions and has a lot of eccentric interests so people just kind of react to that – none of the guests are acting on the show…We’ve had everyone from brain surgeons to puppeteers to nutritionists and child psychologists and airplane pilots and astronomers. They’re all real,” he explains.
“Getting him to pronounce the guests’ names right is always a challenge and that always ends up offending people,” he says. In the second episode of season three, Church, he introduces a priest by the name of Dan Hooper as “Dan Drangle” before saying, “I wasn’t allowed to go to church by my mother, Dorris Pringle-Brule; she put me in a cage on Sundays and fed me raisins.”
Admitting the show’s humour isn’t for everyone, Reilly still believes they’re on the right track. “I heard that we beat the Friends rerun that was running at the same time on TV so we were more popular than Friends so that’s something I’m proud of,” he laughs. “We made this show as a specific intense flavour and it was not designed to be like oatmeal that everyone will love. It’s not going to be something that will show on an airplane for in-flight entertainment. I’m actually really happy when people don’t get it – some of the most intense reactions from people come because they don’t understand why it’s funny, and they’re mad that other people are laughing. We make the show for people that love the show. We’re into the third season of it now, and if people didn’t love it, I don’t think that Adult Swim would continue to pay for it to be made.”
Watch the latest episodes of Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule at adultswim.com.