The anthologies are mutating.
Dramas like FX’s Fargo and American Horror Story find new audiences each season by rebooting the story with new talent and new characters. Netflix’s Black Mirror does the same with a new story each episode. Comedy Central’s Drunk History, Netflix’s The Characters and HBO’s High Maintenance have taken the format in a shorter and more comedic direction, and Netflix’s Easy is a building a world of characters that looks to sprawl into its own cinematic universe.
The new series Drive Share is another strain of the anthology format. Each of the eight-minute episodes, which begin streaming today on the go90 app for smartphones and tablets, alternates between two self-contained stories about rides on an Uber-like service called Drive Share. With a rotating cast of drivers, the series, from creators Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel, ranges from character-driven to slapstick to Mad Max apocalyptic.
Scheer and Huebel, who have worked together previously on Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital, FX’s The League and their Comedy Central special Crash Test (not to mention Human Giant, their short-lived sketch show with Aziz Ansari), sat down with Playboy.com to talk about their new project.
Is an Uber ride inherently funny or something mundane that you can hang characters onto?
HUEBEL: It’s both, really. We spend a lot of time in the backs of strangers’ cars, and after a while you start to notice a pattern: Either they’re a weirdo or you’re a weirdo. We started talking about ideas from there.
SCHEER: We wanted to do a sketch show that was all in one location with a handful of drivers and a lot of different characters as passengers. We had six or seven drivers and wanted to keep them consistent enough that you could learn about those characters the more you watch.
Did you shoot Drive Share on the road?
HUEBEL: We shot a pilot for this in a car rigged with cameras, and we knew it would be a lot easier for the series to shoot on a soundstage. We shot more than a hundred rides with a lot of our favorite comedians. We shot with a lot of great improvisers who came up with other ideas as we were shooting. We made a lot more than we needed and will probably release more of them down the road.
Most of the people who worked on Drive Share are Hollywood assholes, so we can’t call them directly.
Platforms like go90 have established themselves pretty quickly with Hollywood studios. How have you seen these newer platforms evolve?
HUEBEL: Viewers are legitimizing these new platforms. Netflix came along with a few things that didn’t go over all that well, and then they knocked it out of the park with House of Cards. Amazon tried some things that didn’t work that well, and then they had a lot of success with Transparent. And I’m not just saying that because I’m on that show. One home run can really put you on the map.
There are a lot of projects you two did where you see people you’ve known for a long time who now have managers and agents and their own projects. Do you still just call Scott Aukerman and ask him to be in your show, or has it gotten more complicated?
HUEBEL: Most of the people who worked on Drive Share are Hollywood assholes, so we can’t call them directly. I’m personal friends with a lot of these people, and I have to go through their managers to schedule drinks or dinner. It’s absurd… Obviously, I’m joking. The great thing about comedy right now is that we have an army of people we can go to for projects. It takes away a big variable to know that we can get good comedic talent.
Do you have a theory on why short-form shows like Drive Share are getting popular the same time as something like Netflix’s The OA, which is essentially an eight-hour movie, is also getting popular?
SCHEER: There’s something so gratifying about being able to watch something quickly. If you’re on your lunch break and want to watch something quick on your phone, you can watch something like Drive Share. With hour-long shows, you’re digging into a bigger commitment and maybe spend a whole weekend watching something. They’re like two different kinds of sex—quick sex or taking your time.
Do you see comedy moving in any particular direction this year?
HUEBEL: The world is in chaos right now. The person who took over the presidency—not Vladimir Putin but the other guy—has made things pretty stressful for a lot of people. I live on the West Coast, which is within firing range of nuclear missiles from North Korea. Maybe that doesn’t matter to Donald Trump since he’s on the East Coast. The world is so crazy right now, and we’re lucky we get to make stuff like this. It’s fun for us, and people are hungry for comedy right now.
I’m seeing people who were not all that political talking a lot more about political issues now.
HUEBEL: For me, it’s not even about being political. There’s a misconception that Democrats are sore losers or that we’re whining about the election, but it’s not about that. It’s about survival, and I don’t think I’m overstating that. People are worried about their own safety, and they’re worried about the country. I think you’ll see more people talking about that.
With hour-long shows, you’re digging into a bigger commitment. They’re like two different kinds of sex—quick sex or taking your time.
Changing gears, there’s a big tonal range on the show from naturalistic dialogue to absurdist and gross-out humor. What was the discussion about that?
SCHEER: There are 30 episodes, and we didn’t want them to be all one thing. We didn’t want them to be all gross-out or all characters. The priority was on balance, so it was always about keeping the drivers grounded and working with the passengers to create ideas for characters that worked for them and worked for us. Jason Mantzoukas and Jessica St. Clair are comfortable in that grounded style. We wanted to cast people to their strengths.
HUEBEL: Jason Mantzoukas and Jessica St. Clair are in that episode with Neil Casey, who becomes like a marriage counselor for them. They have this really hilarious fight in front of a total stranger. And there’s some completely goofy stuff like a driver filling up his car with balls from a ball pit, and he sneaks around and pops up in different places in the car. Paul and I do a bit that’s like a deleted scene from Mad Max, and there’s another one that’s like a murder mystery. There’s a pretty wide range of styles.
You have a medic listed in the credits for the episode where a girl gets decapitated. Did everything turn out OK?
HUEBEL: No. Sadly, that was our one fatality. It’s shocking that someone actually gets killed on screen, but she gets killed in a hilarious way. It’s pretty satisfying.
Sketch shows like Broad City and Teachers have made the transition to cable in part because the networks could see what they were getting. Are you seeing that more frequently?
SCHEER: We made NTSF:SD:SUV, Hotwives of Orlando, Drive Share and some other projects from presentations. You make what you think is good, and you show it to somebody. A lot of times you have an idea, you pitch it to someone, they tell their boss, and things get lost in translation. The last thing I want to do is pitch an idea, write an outline, write a first draft, write a second draft, get notes, change it some more and on and on. I’d rather execute the idea, and you either like it or you don’t.
HUEBEL: There are a lot of opportunities now for different formats on different platforms. Jonathan Stern, who produces Drive Share and Wet Hot American Summer and produced Childrens Hospital and a lot of other projects, is making shows for a lot of different formats.
Do you think a hypothetical network comedy president who comes from an improv background will stop making comedy pilots and start ordering a lot of presentations?
SCHEER: I’m a big proponent of that. You’re investing in talent. The current system is crazy. I sold a script to ABC a year or two ago and got paid very well to write it. I could have taken the money they paid for the script and actually shot something. Isn’t that more valuable than a script that everyone just finger-bangs to death? By the time you make that script, it’s not even what you originally wanted to do. I think a lot of people would take less money to actually execute their vision.
Have you heard from anyone at Uber or Lyft, positive or negative, about the series?
HUEBEL: Not yet. Once people start watching, I’m sure Uber and Lyft will send us a cease and desist. We’ll say, “Fuck you.” They’ll take us to court and say, “Fuck you, Donald Trump is a friend of ours.” And then we’ll say, “Fuck you.”
Drive Share premieres today at go90.com and on the go90 app for iOS and Android devices. New episodes will premiere daily over the next several weeks.
Check out our feature “The Creepy Rebirth of Anthology TV.”