Kelly Alto

Creating Comedy on Four Wheels with Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel [Den of Geek]

Kelly Alto
Creating Comedy on Four Wheels with Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel [Den of Geek]

We talk with comedy icons, Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel, about their latest series and the luxury of working online

Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel have been a big part of the alternative comedy movement that’s grown out of institutions like UCB. Whether it was on their ahead-of-its-time sketch series, Human Giant, or their respective projects on Adult Swim like Childrens Hospital and NTSF:SD:SUV::, Huebel and Scheer have consistently been turning out innovative comedy. Scheer and Huebel’s latest vehicle, Drive Share, taps into the growing experience of having an unusual experience in a rideshare program. The series, which comes in the form of 30 bite-sized episodes that are available online, goes all over the map with its premise while featuring some of the best voices in comedy being put in ridiculous roles.

With Huebel and Scheer’s series, Drive Share, currently streaming on go90 (for absolutely free), we shared a ride with the two creators to talk about how such a show was conceived, the fluidity of the episodes, and creating comedy with 120 of your closest friends.

ROB HUEBEL: Hey, is Paul Scheer on the phone? Paul?

PAUL SCHEER: Yep, I am.

ROB HUEBEL: Hey Paul, it's Rob Huebel. I didn't know Paul was going to be on this call!

PAUL SCHEER: This is gonna be so fun. I love it!

ROB HUEBEL: Ah dude, I have not seen you in so long. How are you?

PAUL SCHEER: So good! 

ROB HUEBEL: I loved you on The League. That was my shit!

PAUL SCHEER: I loved you in I Love You, Man!

ROB HUEBEL: Ah dude, don't get me started on that movie. Lots of stories.

DEN OF GEEK: Classics!

ROB HUEBEL: What's up? How's it going? We like to pretend that we don't know each other.

DEN OF GEEK: Yeah, it's a solid gag. First of all, this is a really different premise for a series. How did Drive Sharecome about, and how did go90 get involved? Did you guys have the idea? Did they approach you?

PAUL SCHEER: Rob and I actually had the idea independently of each other! We were working with Jon Stern, who worked with Rob and I on Childrens Hospital and other projects, and he was like, you guys are both dancing around these ideas about rideshares. You should meet up. So we did and we put it together as one idea, which makes sense since Rob and I only do vehicular-based comedies. So we started working out this idea and we shot a little presentation for it and then went out and shopped it around. I think the reason that we went with go90 over anybody else because they came to us and said, "We want to do this, but we want to release it in an interesting way. We don't want to do half-hour episodes, but do 30 mini-episodes instead that you can watch on your phone or whatever." And that to us felt really exciting because it's a fun way to see this idea play out.

ROB HUEBEL: The cool thing for us too about those go90 guys is that you don't have to do anything different than you're already doing. We're not trying to convince anyone to sign up for something. Like Netflix, Hulu, or SeeSo. It's just a website that you go to and it's already there and you can watch it on your phone, laptop, or whatever. We just didn't want to do something behind some paywall or where people need to subscribe to something. That's just too much work right now.

DEN OF GEEK: The series feels super natural in how it flows. Are these episodes actually scripted? Are you just working off of an outline? It feels like a lot of improv is going on here.

ROB HUEBEL: Some of them are more scripted than others. The answer to the question is that it kind of depended on the actor. A lot of these guys are really good friends of ours. Paul and I both came out of UCB Theater and so a lot of our buddies there are great to work with and just make our job so easy. It's great to get a funny person come in and not just get what we wrote, but also improvise stuff. So it's a little bit of both. There are a lot of great improvisers adding jokes, while others involve just straight-up funny people who may not improvise as much, so we'd write more jokes for them.

PAUL SCHEER: The benefit of how we shot this and the reason that it feels somewhat looser is because we shot every piece at about 20 or 30 minutes, and then Rob and I in the editing room would painstakingly cut them down to five to seven minutes. So there was a lot of material that we were able to craft and any little thing that was added or happened organically once we were still able to use. We had a crazy camera setup where we had five cameras capturing everything. It wasn't like a movie or TV show where sometimes a funny line happens off camera. Here everything was captured. So it allowed us to capture these moments that often get lost. 

DEN OF GEEK: You guys mentioned the production schedule, which is something that I was really curious about. You shot 30 episodes and 120 different stories. Did you just shoot them all individually and then compile them into episodes after everything was done?

ROB HUEBEL: Yeah. We did a pilot for this actually, and we did it kind of the hard way. We actually went out in a processing trailer where you're being towed around the streets of LA. You've got traffic cops and this flat-bed truck that's carrying the car so it looks like you're driving but you're not really driving. But then you still need to worry about the sun, matching light, outside noise and honking. That's how we did the pilot and then sort of learned that it'd be a lot easier if we just did it but made it look real rather than actually being out on the street. So we shot it on a cool stage downtown in LA where we had different cars and a big rear projection screen to show a background. So that made it really easy for us production-wise. As far as creatively, the shape of every episode came out much later. We just shot all of these bits. It's pretty much a sketch comedy show in the back of an Uber. So we just shot all of these sketches and put them together later.

DEN OF GEEK: You have some great episodes where at the end of everything you actually break the narrative down and show the studio where it's being filmed, the green screen, and all of those touches. It's great to get those little glimpses of deconstruction.

ROB HUEBEL: We did that a couple of times where we'd call out, "This is fake, man! This is all fake!" These moments where we're just fucking around, but then when it gets down to the editing we realize that we can actually use some of that. 

PAUL SCHEER: The truth of the matter is, we were shooting so many of these! I think we passed over 150 different people and shot over 80 rides over five days! At a certain point, it was just like, "Let's get crazy! Let's shift things!" and I think that bred some really funny things that we weren't expecting. We were just always trying to make ourselves laugh.

DEN OF GEEK: What I love about this thing is that you have some very broad, crazy episodes, but also a lot that are very much rooted in real drive sharing experiences, like the one Rob goes through in the first episode with all of the girls who are bad mouthing one another. Do you have a preference between the crazier and more down-to-earth sort of stories?

ROB HUEBEL: I think that also came out of the volume of shooting that we wanted to do. We wanted to have a mix of both. We wanted to have moments like Jason Mantzoukas and Jessica St. Clair having a pretty realistic conversation about their marriage and whether or not they should have kids. That's a pretty real feeling thing, but then we'll also do something really broad like a Clue murder mystery thing. It helps keep people on their toes and makes the show less predictable.

PAUL SCHEER: Yeah, the benefit of this show is that it can kind of contain anything, which is super rare. We thought the only way that this could retain being interesting for 30 different episodes was to thematically catch you off guard. We wanted to do that with the casting, but also some of the plot lines. We were very strict when we were writing things to look at our board and go, "Is that too similar to that? Or are those episodes too close?" The virtue of trying to break out of a mold led to us naturally making those decisions.

DEN OF GEEK: As we're talking about all of these different kinds of episodes in the show, do you both have a personal favorite episode? Or a performance by a certain person that particularly pleased you?

PAUL SCHEER: I feel like the one that I need to mention is the one that probably doesn't get any attention, yet they did the hardest thing! Mike Mitchell from The Birthday Boys is having a solo Thanksgiving in the backseat. He improvised and made someone chew food and spit it into his mouth like a baby bird. They improvised it and his commitment to having another person chew up food and spit it into his mouth—we got it all on the first take, too—was just incredible. They were just trying to top each other in this moment and due to the total commitment there, I've gotta go with the baby bird.

ROB HUEBEL: Yeah, for me there are just some people that every time they come on screen it's just incredible. We have this one driver on the show, Heather Campbell, and she's just a really great improviser. The hard part on this show is to be the driver. They're the straight person. A lot of the time the person in the backseat is the unusual one and the driver is just stuck responding. So Heather is just really good at realistically teasing things out of people and keeping the scene alive. There's also this other guy, Londale Theus, who actually cries in an episode. The one with the viral videos sees the rider using Londale in all of his videos and they become really popular. Londale gets upset and he starts crying, but he's actually crying. I'm always impressed when someone can actually cry in the middle of a comedy sketch. I'm always like, "Fuck, that is good commitment."

DEN OF GEEK: After doing both this show and Crash Testare you guys seeking to find a third car-based comedy vehicle to complete the necessary trilogy that you guys are going for?

PAUL SCHEER: Zeppelin! We're doing a Zeppelin next!

ROB HUEBEL: We might do a Zeppelin. We've definitely got to branch out. We're not going to do another car or road thing. It would have to be jet skis, maybe a submarine...Dude, what if we actually did a submarine?

PAUL SCHEER: What if we just did it in the submarine at Walt Disney World?

ROB HUEBEL: Oh yeah? 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?

PAUL SCHEER: We should do it!

DEN OF GEEK: I think you need to! You've started this weird trend that needs to keep going. Do you think that Drive Share is finished? Are 120 stories enough? Is it the sort of thing that you return to again whenever you're feeling it?

ROB HUEBEL: I just think this sort of thing is really fun to do. Paul and I kind of came up in the sketch comedy world, so it's always fun for me to dip my toes back into that world and return to short-form stuff. Thankfully now, doing movies and TV shows that are of a longer format is great—that’s where you want to be—but sometimes that short stuff can be super rewarding. Besides, Paul and I have such a shorthand with each other so it's easy for us to work together. Now, that's probably changed for Paul because Paul is a big Trump supporter and I don’t support Trump.

PAUL SCHEER: Well, when you just made that reference about "short hands" I was like, "What are you trying to say here?" Yeah, I see what you're trying to do here. You're trying to get these guys to print fake news and cause trouble.

ROB HUEBEL: No, I'm not trying to get them to print fake news, man. Not everything is fake news.

PAUL SCHEER: I am going the route of many people before me and beginning work at the White House. I'm going to be working very closely with the Alien Invasion wing. It's a very new part of the White House. The CIA is gone and now it's all about aliens. We're going to figure out where they are and get them.

ROB HUEBEL: You're talking about undocumented workers? What are you talking about?

PAUL SCHEER: No, no. I'm talking about from outer space.

ROB HUEBEL: Well good luck, man. 

PAUL SCHEER: We're going to get those aliens and find their space stations! But for us, I do think we'll end up making more of this show at some point. I think a lot of this show ended up being inspired by the people that we were writing for. Just talking to people and being like, "Here's what we're thinking. Let's work on all of this." So for me, the way to do a second season would be that we shot the first one in LA, so why not do the next one in New York? Just get a whole batch of different people because we did go through 120 people, so why not get 100 more? That's what makes the show so much fun for me. Getting each individual person their own sort of story. 

DEN OF GEEK: Last question guys, what are your most fucked up Uber stories? What are your strangest drive share experiences?

ROB HUEBEL: I seem to keep getting guys who just want to be my friend. They'll drop me at my house and then it kind of becomes an awkward thing where they're like, "Cool, so now I know where you live." I'm always like, "What are you talking about?" And they'll go, "You know, we can hang out whenever you want. And obviously I have your phone number because you used your phone to book the ride. So, cool man!" I'll just go, "What? We're not friends! This was just a transaction," but they'll keep trying to insert themselves into my life. 

PAUL SCHEER: For me, one of my favorite rides—and it's not even fucked up so much as it was funny and weird—but there was a guy who had a full DJ set on the passenger's front seat. He was literally DJ-ing and scratching records while driving. I was of course in Miami, but I just appreciated anyone who wanted to keep the party going!

Drive Share is available to stream for free on go90.com, with a new episode debuting every day.