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Adam Pally comes thru talkin' reclusive comedy geniuses; when clothes are funny; and copping Swiss timepieces while HIGH & feeling EVIL (he's much better now 😊)
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Adam Pally — he’s a mf prince & gentleman with a FEARSOME comedic BLADE he’s been sharpening for decades now!! He started out getting off these longform improv laughs at UCB in the ‘90s, then starred on sitcoms like Happy Endings and The Mindy Project in the ‘10s, and, most recently, absolutely crushes it alongside his buddy Sam Richardson in the wildly funny & f**ked-up series Champaign ILL, which not enough people watched when it was a paywalled “Y*uTube Original,” but is finding a fresh audience on Hulu, where it just dropped last week….
More impressive than any of that?? Adam’s a longtime Blackbird Spyplane Cla$$ified-Tier Subscriber who apparently told a mutual friend that, when he wants to know if someone is really cool, he checks to see if they follow us on Instagram. (Is this accurate? I didn’t ask him, because if it’s not, I DON’T WANNA KNOW BABY!!)
This much is clear: Adam has Mach 3+ taste in jawns and sletters, so it made perfect sense that when we touched down in NYC last week for some elite linking & building, we invited him to come chop it up in the first-ever I.R.L. Blackbird Spyplane Interview — and O mama he did not disappoint, telling us about some mad cool rare cherished books from a genius mysterious Simpsons writer; about once partaking in a spell of DARK LUXURIOUS DRUGGY VILLAINY; how Hollyweird sometimes makes you resent yr friends even though you truly love them; what he wishes someone told him when he started COPPING SAUCY WATCHES…
And more “unbeatable quotables” !!
By the way — in this Thursday’s newsletter we are once again STOKED to partner with the GOATS at Herman Miller, this time to give away 4 pieces from their new collection of extremely beautiful & vibey archival wall art, which will be available on Oct. 26th.
These pieces are highly PRIMO limited-edition SUPER TURBO STUNNERS — and this giveaway will be a ‘xclusie for our “beautiful & blessed” Cla$$ified-Tier subscribers, so don’t sleep & sign up now if you’re not already in the Inner $anctum. More Thursday!
Blackbird Spyplane: Champaign ILL got me thinking about how fun it is to see comedies that get the clothes “right,” in a way that deepens the jokes. The pinnacle of “clothing comedy” for me is probably Danny McBride, because everything he’s ever worn on screen has had this super funny, quasi-anthropological, character-specific accuracy to it, all the way back to, like, the pleated jorts or whatever he wore in Foot Fist Way. It feels both insane & totally real. Tim Robinson does it in a more heightened register on I Think You Should Leave, with the Dan Flashes shirts or homie wearing the fedora with a curtain attached… and the Palm Angels tracksuits and Vetements caps that you and Sam wear in the show are exactly what these two idiots would love.
Adam Pally: “I realized early on that one product of the way Hollywood budgets work is that clothing isn’t given the proper attention, especially for men. You’ll go in for a fitting, and then because of budget and time, that person will go to Loehmann’s or Kmart and buy plain flannel shirts, henleys, tri-blends — it’s the last budget item. When we got to this show we were, like, ‘If it doesn’t feel right on that level it’s not gonna work,’ so we hired Jas Benjamin, she came up through Yeezy and Donda and she styles Anderson .Paak and she’s so talented. We told her, Don’t dress us like Anderson, dress us like the dude 3 seats away. She was like, I got you, and it worked.”
Blackbird Spyplane: There’s a version of the show that’s exactly the same except you’re just wearing, like, ‘generic neon streetwear’ hoodies — and it’s less funny.
Adam Pally: “Totally — there’s this music video in the first episode that we actually had to delay shooting because Jas wanted these specific Gosha tracksuits for it, and these, like, Balenciaga motorcyle pants, which were so perfect for that time. There’s a little OVO Ryan in that. God bless him, no shots fired, love OVO Ryan — but he was definitely on our moodboard.”
Blackbird Spyplane: I think when you went on How Long Gone you talked about how, at a certain point in your career, you had to move away from L.A., because you’d see your friends’ faces on billboards and feel resentment and envy toward them — emotions that you didn’t want to feel toward them.
Adam Pally: “You know, I came up with all these talented people and came to know them deeply — anyone from Donald Glover and Jesse Eisenberg, who I went to college with, to Ben Schwartz, who was in my sketch group at UCB, to Jonah Hill, where there’s a weird family connection. You see these people blow up and it’s amazing. I was never the type of person who said, Where’s my s**t? I was always able to be super happy. If you’re in a sketch group and your friend gets on SNL, that’s only good news for you.
“But then, after things worked out for me, when there were dips, I couldn’t be happy for anybody. And it wasn’t good. I don’t blame it on them, of course, it was me. I needed to learn what matters and recalibrate. I still feel it when I’m in L.A. sometimes, but my relationship to that city has gotten healthier. I remember when I first went there I saw all the billboards on Sunset and I said, ‘This is an amazing land of opportunity. One day I might be on there.’ And then I was, and then I wasn’t, and it f*cked me up. I was upset I wasn’t on them. And I don’t do good sh*t in that state of mind. I make bad decisions.”
Blackbird Spyplane: I asked U to pick some rare cherished possessions to tell Spy Nation about and the first thing I wanna discuss is your collection of books by John Swartzwelder. He’s a fascinating guy — this reclusive ex-Simpsons writer who almost never grants interviews and self-publishes paperbacks about a time-traveling detective… I know about the legend of Swartzwelder but I’ve never read any of the books.
Adam Pally: “The thing I really love about them is you can tell they’re unedited. There’s no one being, like, ‘This doesn’t make sense,’ and there are so many jokes per page. More jokes per page than I’ve ever read, and I don’t think a publisher would have allowed that. There are times where you’re in a joke that’s in a joke that’s in a joke, for a full chapter. You’re lost in the joke. It’s like a symphony to me.”
Blackbird Spyplane: How did you first get into his s**t?
Adam Pally: “Well I loved The Simpsons, and when I was on Happy Endings, one of the writers, Daniel Chun, was like, You have to read these books. I was like, I don’t read. He said, Trust me, you’re gonna wanna make it into a television show, and I read the first novel, The Time Machine Did It, from 2004, and I was like, I wanna make them all into television shows. It’s like Naked Gun x 1,000,000.”
Blackbird Spyplane: O baby, shout out to the Zucker Brothers!! Real ones know that Airplane! and Scary Movie 3 are cinematic classics….
It’s funny that you say you don’t read — there’s this one New Yorker interview with Swartzwelder where he says, “Nobody wants to read a book. You’ve got to catch their eye with something exciting in the first paragraph, while they’re in the process of throwing the book away.” There’s something to that!
Adam Pally: “The first lines of Time Machine are so funny: ‘Frank Burly is my name. Okay, it’s not my name. I lied about that.’
“I actually did try to make the books into a show, I talked to my buddy Matt Selman, the current Simpsons showrunner, and he said, You can’t make it into a series because you can’t find John. And he was right. I couldn’t get to him. Supposedly he’s misanthropic and agoraphobic — but honestly, it’s nice that they’re untouched.”
Blackbird Spyplane: He seems like a fascinating dude — apparently he used to love writing at this one diner so much that he had a reproduction of the booth built at his house, and that’s where he posts up and gets his writing done??
Adam Pally: “I love people like that. Usually they have bodies in the basement, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But yeah, what I love about Swartzwelder is that it’s all jokes, and that’s okay. I think recently that’s been deemed irrelevant or dishonest or thirsty, to want to make someone laugh.”
Blackbird Spyplane: You mean, like, post-Louie and Atlanta and, like, Nanette?
Adam Pally: “I think it started before Louie and Atlanta — and those are supremely funny shows, but they’re also poignant and, you know, a different bag. I’m just saying that’s not the only valuable way to do comedy.”
Blackbird Spyplane: That reminds me, did you get into Angie Tribeca? Peace to Mach 3+ SpyFriend Rashida Jones, she was so funny on that show, which paid huge tribute to that Zuckers-style absurdity and silliness…
Adam Pally: “Yeah, it was great, and that style of humor has the same value, to me, as a show like Louie or Better Things. It’s just different. I Think You Should Leave is another perfect example — that’s an album to me, each of those sketches are like a beautiful song you can throw on over and over. Bad Trip was one of my favorite things that came out last year—”
Blackbird Spyplane: I loved it, what an insane movie.
Adam Pally: “Eric André is a genius and Lil Rel is amazing, and that’s just as hard to write and craft as, like, Scenes from a Marriage. I’d like to see Scenes from a Marriage pull off the dick prank from Bad Trip! So there’s something similarly unapologetic about Swarzwelder — he doesn’t need to appeal to anyone he doesn’t want to.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Meanwhile U also sent some pics of yr lil WATCH COLLECTION and I see you’ve got one of these babies on wrist today…
Adam Pally: “It feels kind of gauche to talk about — like, I feel weird saying, ‘Look at my cool watch,’ but I truly don’t know what else I own that’s cool.”
Blackbird Spyplane: I know what you mean, but there’s plenty of cool watch dudes out there…
Adam Pally: “You’re right, there’s a full spectrum. So anyway this is the first one I got — it’s a 1982 Submariner, the year I was born. I went to this great old watch store on Melrose called Wanna Buy A Watch? Here in New York there’s this guy Aaron Faber, he’s an art dealer, so he has a different eye.
“My friend David Caspe, the writer and creator who I do pretty much everything with, was the first person to introduce me to watches, and he likes flashy s**t. He has that big green Rolex I think they call the Hulk because it’s a green bezel on a green dial with white gold. He knows how to pull off that style, and when I first met him I thought, You’ve got it figured out. I’ve since learned he doesn’t, but that’s what I thought at first, and when we both got a little money we went to buy watches together, and I picked this up.
“My favorite thing is the little round inset thing at the top of the bezel. I forget what it is. This is where John Mayer’s gonna read this and be, like, You f**king idiot, do some research. I think it’s ivory? Which almost makes me feel like one of the Tr*mp kids…”
Blackbird Spyplane: Yeah, chill, let’s leave the ivory on the elephants, baby…
Adam Pally: “So then I bought two more watches, because I was like, This is a cool, interesting way to blow my money. But I made a policy where I could only do it after I got a big job. The next one was an ‘85 Datejust Oysterquartz, which isn’t super expensive but it’s very rare — the bracelet is a f**king tank, and I think they only made them that year. I don’t think Mayer would even know about it, or have his hands on one.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Let’s see if he texts me about it.
Adam Pally: “I think he likes to go bigger. But yeah with this watch, it feels kind of like buying this rare mistake, like having a Delorean. It has a bit of a gaudy, ‘80s, ‘Always Be Closing’ Glengarry Glen Ross vibe to it. The champagne dial makes it feel kind of American Psycho. I don’t know if watch people will say, OH SH*T, but I like it.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Any community of obsessive collectors is going to have all these arcane prerogatives and preferences that, if you’re on the outside, can feel unintelligible and nonsensical. And of course those prerogatives and preferences connect to all kinds of fickle trends that change with time, so shadowboxing with your imagination of what those people think is a chump’s game!!
Adam Pally: “Yes, exactly.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Is there something you wish someone told you early on about getting into watches?
Adam Pally: “Exactly what you were just saying: ‘Get what you like, because you’re gonna have it a long time. You’re not gonna sell it. You’re not gonna do that work. You’re buying that watch, so don’t get something super expensive that doesn’t look good to you.’ Like, I don’t love the look of those new glossy AP’s — I always prefer the flex of If You Know You Know.”
Blackbird Spyplane: And what’s up with the Cartier Tank on the right?? Look at the LITTLE HIT OF AZURE on that crown…
Adam Pally: “It’s from 1977. I liked the blue crown and the blue hands, but I’ll tell you the truth — I was not in a good headspace when I bought it. I was in the headspace of being a villain. I was feeling reckless, and I said, I really want this gold watch, and I got in a fight about it with my wife, where I said, I want a f**king gold watch, no one’s gonna tell me what to do. I wasn’t doing well mentally. This was a few years ago. My mother died, I had 2 kids, I was feeling insane. When I went into the store and bought it I was wasted.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Wow, usually watches commemorate happy moments, but this one was born out of —
Adam Pally: “Spite. And insecurity. I was not a happy guy, and I’d soon get arrested for drugs — I had drugs on me and I was so drunk that I walked out of a steakhouse in Times Square and lit a blunt in front of a police station. I was begging for it. I wanted someone to, like, slap me in the face. I was unhappy, dealing with a lot of grief. But today I look at this watch and feel good about it!”
Blackbird Spyplane: You mean, rather than seeing something ugly about yourself —
Adam Pally: “Yeah, I don’t see that, I see: ‘I’m here, and I managed to crawl out of a tough time.’ I love that watch. I’m glad I own it.”
There’s a bunch of used Swartzwelder books here for like $15 each. Adam suggests starting with the first one, 2004’s The Time Machine Did It.
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