With televisions, laptops, tablets and smartphones set to explode with Peak TV’s latest barrage in April, it’s hard to find niche shows these days. Thankfully for comedians Paul Scheer (The League) and Rob Huebel (Children’s Hospital), the Crash Test collaborators found a welcoming home for their ride-sharing farce Drive Share at go90 — the free streaming service launched and operated by Verizon.
The 30-episode web series — which launched its first episode, “Backbiting Besties” on January 27th — concludes today with “Nervous Escort, Driver Farts.” Obviously these titles require little to no explanation. Though a quick review of previous episode titles reveals an even greater array of weirdly funny scenes that just about anyone who has ever used an Uber, a Lyft or another ride-sharing service can relate to. Scheer and Huebel admitted as much when they talked to us about making Drive Share.
Was Drive Share something that you two came up with approached go90 about or was it the other way around?
Scheer: You know, it was an idea we had. go90 liked it so they bought it, although they ultimately suggested we do 30 episodes overall and make each one only five to seven minutes long. I think it really works for this. It could have worked as a half hour comedy, but with these these little bite-sized chunks it makes it more fun and accessible for more people. That was their part of the puzzle.
Huebel: Paul and I also have a contract by which we will only do comedy in different vehicles. Last year we did a comedy special called Crash Test. It was on a bus, so this is all us doing jokes in Ubers or Lyfts. After this we’ll probably do… I don’t know, Paul. Maybe a deck boat or a blimp or something?
Scheer: Eventually we’ll kill ourselves in one of those vehicles. That will be the whole circle of our career.
The vehicles are getting smaller, so maybe bikes or scooters are next? Have you thought about Segways?
Huebel: Sure, Segways will be coming up. [Laughs.] Not to get too heady about it, but I think there is something very fun about doing comedy in such an enclosed space. That’s the whole idea of Uber. You’re trapped with this person until you get out. It’s similar to what we did with Crash Test, though with a slightly larger group of people. It’s fun to create those confines and test people — be they actual people or actors performing a bit. They could always leave these situations, which are exaggerated of course, but they never do until the ride is over.
Scheer: It’s also sort of an inherently torturous thing about Uber, you know? You’re sharing a ride with someone. You literally can’t get away from them while you’re still in the car. Everyone who’s sharing rides with everyone else realizes, “Oh fuck. I’m stuck with this motherfucker for the next 20 minutes.” Everyone who uses these services has been through some form of this. A lot of our ideas came from experiences we had, or stories our friends told us. Or other things, like Seth Myers’ crazy story about his pregnant wife almost giving birth in the back of an Uber. So we did one where this pregnant woman acts like she isn’t because she doesn’t want to pay the clean up fee.
Huebel: One time, I had an Uber with a guy who had a full DJ set up in the front passenger seat. He was DJing while he drove. We were talking about it and he said, “I’m DJ Dan and I’m going to rock you home.” He did that the entire time while he drove us home, so that inspired a few episode ideas. If you had a DJ, what could be worse? How about a guy who wants to turn his car into a Chuck E. Cheese playpen? He fills the interior with balls, like a ball pit, and that’s what passengers have to ride in.
Scheer: We did about 80 of these rides to break the wall. Some are really out there, like the one that takes place in a Mad Max: Fury Road-like future, while others were just simple, like when one of the riders can’t stop farting. It’s all over the place.
Obviously this is a scripted series, but was there room for the other performers to bring their own ideas to the table?
Huebel: It depends on the person. Most of the people on the show are friends of ours who came up through UCB and the improv world. For many of them, we would offer a concrete structure for how a particular scene would begin and end, but leave plenty of wiggle room. We’d say something like, “It’s going to start like this and it’s going to go like this, but whatever you want to say or do in the middle is fine.” So if they were a great improviser, we would let them do that. And of course we would get stuff that was way better than what we wrote.
Scheer: There are a lot of misunderstandings about improv. I think the way Rob and I approach was to put up the guardrails and let the performers do whatever they want. Sometimes they came in with a character, sometimes not. Either way, they had the safety of knowing there was a beginning, a middle and an end. Plus, when you’re in a car with five cameras, you can really get everything you need with a scene. We didn’t even have to do multiple takes. We got everything the first time around, so it always feels fresh and alive watching the episodes because they’re just capturing the first time these characters are doing and saying these things.
Each episode begins with a Law & Order-like text crawl. “Every day, millions of people use ride-share apps. These are their stories.” In the back of my head, Law & Order “dun dun” sound effect went off. Intentional or happenstance?
Huebel: I think that’s on you. You probably watch a lot of Law & Order.
Scheer: Well, it may have been. Who knows? Maybe we did that just for you.
You guys directed all of Drive Share, right?
Scheer and Huebel: Yes.
Crash Test was probably a logistical nightmare since it was a larger vehicle, with real people, that was actually driving around town. You had to coordinate skits and timing with people like Aziz Ansari and Aubrey Plaza. That’s obviously not the case with Drive Share.
Huebel: This was definitely a different kind of directing. All we had to worry about was the comedy. Once you put five cameras inside of a car, there’s only so much you can do with how it’s going to look. Directing Drive Share was more like trying to steer the comedy of it and make sure every single ride had a beginning, a middle and an end. That, and enough jokes.
Scheer: Our directing really took place more in the editing room. We were able to spend most of our time writing the pieces. So once we set up the camera angles and other technical bits, we were just rolling. Then we had to take a 25-minute ride and cut it down to three and half or four minutes. That was the interesting challenge because we’d been sitting behind the monitors the entire time and not seeing it all from the car’s perspective. We had to review everything we saw and didn’t see, carve out the best moments, and make the most sense of it. I think that was the most challenging part of this process. Figuring out what we would use and what we would get rid of.
Huebel: I guess what we’re trying to say is we’ll see you at the Oscars.
Scheer: Rob and I are comedy sculptors. We think of everything as sculptors, and we look at everything like it’s a piece of rock ready to be made into something beautiful. That’s kind of how we are. Comedy sculptors.
Huebel: You’re talking about artists, right? Yeah… We’re artists. That’s what we are.
Scheer: I guess to say is that this is our Moonlight.
Huebel: Is this a Moonlight or a La La Land? We don’t know.
Scheer: [Laughs.] You know what it is? It’s our Hacksaw Ridge.
I was going to say Manchester by the Sea.
Huebel: [Laughs.] Or that.
When Drive Share‘s first episodes went live in late January, Uber and Lyft were making news. Some of it good, but for Uber most of it wasn’t too good.
Huebel: It was literally the night before this show debuted, I think. There was a hashtag, #DeleteUber.
Scheer: I remember Rob and I talked about it at the time. We thought, “of course this had to happen the night before our show!” Everyone was really pissed off at Uber then.
Huebel: To be clear, we’re not backing Uber. We never mention the company by name in the show. It could be any ride-sharing company.
Scheer: Maybe it’s a cab.
Huebel: Yeah. It’s Uber. It’s a cab. It’s Lift. It’s the other one that’s so great that everyone loves now, but they can never remember the name of it.
It’s obviously a coincidence. Besides, you guys are doing satire. It’s comedy.
Scheer: Wait a minute. Are you trying to say that we leaked the video of the Uber guy for publicity?
Nope, but why not?
Scheer: [Laughs.] You have no evidence of that.
Huebel: Are you trying to say that we reverse-engineered Uber’s fucked up politics to force them into the news cycle? To attract more attention for our show? Well you are wrong, sir.
Scheer: Fake news!
You guys did 30 episodes. What’s more, each episode swings between multiple stories. Even so, were there any you didn’t end up doing that were cut for time, or just couldn’t crack?
Scheer: When we started brainstorming the show, we reached out to our friends and asked them for ideas. At one point we had around 150 rides on the drawing board. They varied, but we still had to cull those down. One I remember specifically, because it was so dumb… You know how Uber delivers food in some places? Ours was going to be like that, but with a lobster tank in a car. Someone was going to get into that, even though there were live lobsters in it. Can you imagine? Walking up to your driver’s car and seeing live lobsters floating around in there? Unfortunately the logistics of building a lobster tank in the backseat of a car — not to mention using live lobsters — were too much.
Huebel: [Laughs.] We started getting emails from PETA.
Scheer: And we didn’t want to have it leaked on TMZ, where you’d see shocking footage of lobsters getting tossed into the backseat of a Prius.
You mentioned polling your friends for story ideas and part in the show. Many of the performances were really good, especially Ron Funch’s turn as a pro wrestler.
Scheer: We’re big fans of Ron and I know he loves wrestling, so we asked him if he’d like to be a wrestler on the show. His knowledge of that world is so deep, so we created this crappy wrestler character for him to make his own. It was a match made in heaven for him to live out being a wrestler — and a shitty one at that. That’s kind of how we approached the whole thing. We thought about certain people for certain sketches, and which ones they’d be the best in, and asked them if they were interested.
Huebel: We emailed all of our friends and said, “Here’s a list of ideas that we have. If there’s anything on there you feel like you would be great at, let us know and it’s yours.” So we reached out to everyone we knew.
Scheer: We cast around 110 people for this. It was so fun because it wasn’t necessarily a matter of determining who was the best at doing which bit. Instead, we were trying to figure out how to fit everyone who interested into the show. We wrote parts for everybody, though the real unsung heroes are the drivers — especially the drivers who recur throughout the series. They did such a great job with keeping the ball in the air for their scenes. I’m pretty sure 90 percent of this cast is from UCB. That was cool.
Alex Berg was one of my favorite drivers. The sketch with the ghost hunter who keeps touching his face, saying he’s “trying to determine if you’re corpreal or not,” was great.
Scheer: Those two were great. They’re part of a comedy team, and that was one of my favorite rides. The Ghostbuster ride. They made me laugh so much. Berg is actually a really talented director. He directed some episodes of, uh, NTSF:SD:SUV and Children’s Hospital.
I was a big fan of Blunt Talk with Patrick Stewart, and both of you guys were in it. What was that experience like?
Scheer: R.I.P. I love that show. It was a really smart and funny show, and it was pretty awesome to work with Patrick Stewart. Or do anything with him, for that matter. He’s a legend! But especially doing a comedy with him was fantastic. That was a special little show. Short lived, but a great one. I’m a huge fan of Jonathan Ames, and I think he’s such a funny and specific writer. I only got to do a few episodes, but one of the best parts about it was were these weird costume ball things they created for us. Me, Mary Steenburgen, all of us — we were all wearing these elaborate head pieces. It felt like we were in the mind of Jonathan Ames.
Plus I’m a huge fan of Ames’ books. Yes, I read. Though it’s such a shame that show was not able to continue, because not only did they have such a fantastic cast, but was also a really unique show. Sometimes that’s really hard to find. That’s the trick with all this stuff. As somebody who’s worked on FX and Adult Swim and all these other places, it’s tough to make or be a part of something that stands out at smaller outlets like Starz. “Wait. Where is that? How do I get that?” I think that’s the problem with some of these networks.
Have you receiving similar pushback with Drive Share? It’s all on go90, of course, but that seems a bit farther removed than some cable channels.
Scheer: Actually the cool thing about go90 is it’s totally free. All the audience has to do is go to go90.com. It’s just a web site and an app. You don’t have to do anything, really. You don’t have to put down any credit card information. So in a weird way, I feel that more people have actually seen this.
Huebel: The name of the game right now is if you can do something where people don’t have to change their habits, that’s awesome. You don’t have to subscribe to anything for this. It’s just free.
Scheer: And you can link to it. It’s just like telling somebody to go to YouTube.
Watch new and old episode of Drive Share at go90.com.