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On the Set of 'Big Lake,' Comedy Central's New Show

by Chris Jordan, posted Aug 16th 2010 3:00PM
Big LakeThe bespectacled Chris Gethard is a ubiquitous presence on he set at Comedy Central's new comedy, 'Big Lake,' at Silvercup Studios in Queens, New York.

The star of the upcoming series, which debuts Tue., Aug. 17 at 10PM ET, has a tendency to wander around on dark sets or by the backstage lunch table, oblivious to everything except the script he's holding in his hands. He can be so focused on re-reading lines for upcoming scenes that you get the feeling he might walk into something.

"I'm just getting my lines down,'' said Gethard, a veteran of the city's Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe. "I have to memorize 90 pages a week and it really is overwhelming. It's not uncommon to see me wandering around mumbling to myself.''

It's OK as long as he's not mumbling on screen. It's been whirlwind for Gethard since he took over the main role on the Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy–produced comedy this spring for the suddenly departed Jon Heder. Noted comic writer Lew Morton ('Saturday Night Live,' 'Futurama') created 'Big Lake' and is writing, and 'Saturday Night Live' alums Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell co-star.

Heder was signed and sealed, but the consensus was that the comedy wasn't quite delivering before he departed.

"I'm not sure if he was suited for us or we were suited for him as much,'' Sanz said. "I don't think the show was exactly what he wanted to do and I don't think what he was he was bringing was what the creators wanted."

Gethard was already on the radar thanks to a quickie role in the the Ferrell and McKay hit 'The Other Guys.' His transition to 'Big Lake' was seamless, Sanz said.

"It helps when everyone is on the same page,'' he said. "Me, Parnell, Adam and Will have known each for so long that there's a shorthand there. There's no arguing about what's funny and what isn't. We kind of understand and throw someone from the UCB and they also speak the same language. When you're all on the same page creatively it makes it easier to work."

The wacky world of 'Big Lake' centers on Josh (Gethard), a young banker who loses a fortune -- and his reputation -- in a money scheme and has to return to Big Lake to live with his parents while he gets back on his feet. Oh, he also lost his parents' life savings. Sanz is his best friend, who just got out of prison, and Parnell is his former teacher who joins in in their adventures when he's not at the strip club, James Rebhorn and Deborah Rush play his parents and Dylan Blue is his little brother.

Josh serves as the straight man at the center of this town of loons. His parents may look normal, but dad is full of recriminations toward him for losing his money and mom is addicted to diet pills. His little brother carries a Glock and stays out all night.

"He comes in and he's the glue of the show,'' Sanz said. "He has a lot of crazy people around him and he kind of has to be the voice of reason and he carries the stories so he has a lot to do and he's really impressed me with his capacity for taking on such a big job at the last minute.''

Consider Sanz's character one of the crazy people.

Horatio Sanz"My character isn't the brightest guy,'' Sanz said. "He's a lovable loser who never left town. From what we've seen he doesn't have a job and he still lives at home -- it's the kind of character I'd like to see on television and he's a lot like me if I had not gotten a job at any point in my life.''

Parnell is sharp as the smarmy burnt-out teacher. On our visit, the comic actor nailed his lines during a scene in which the teaches English as a second language. After the lesson, he sells phone cards to the students, but only accepts real American money, the kind with the "eyeballs on the back."

"It's similar to my character on 'Miss/Guided' but this guy is a bit darker and sort of more perverse and thus more fun to play," Parnell said.

Gethard, 30, came into the mix this spring with a lot of experience but little of it known. Perhaps his highest profile gig was writing for 'Saturday Night Live.'

"He has a rough edge about him -- I like to say he's a little bit like an Irish Woody Allen,'' said Sanz, who had previously worked with Gethard at UCB. "He has a nebbish quality but he also has a little of that twisted inside.''

Gethard can hardly take it all in. "There are so many moments here were I'm like, 'I can't believe this is my job," he said. "I'm just a dummy who grew up in New Jersey, a hard-working guy who worked very hard, and got lucky on top of it. Hopefully it will be visible on TV how excited I am to be here and blessed I am to have this opportunity."

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August 17 2010 at 2:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1. Wow, Horatio Sanz has lost a lot of weight. I hope it wasn't surgery.
2. Notice that the promo refers to Parnell as "30 Rock's Chris Parnell". Big Lake is shooting at the same studio as 30 Rock, so we haven't seen the last of Dr. Spaceman.

I think this show had a lot more promise when Jon Heder was attached. We'll see...

August 16 2010 at 11:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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