Jay Baruchel has two career personalities. During his interview, he said "in Canada, I’m an actor and in the States I’m a comic." It's the truth. Here in the U.S. we see Jay and immediately think of his comedic roles. "Knocked Up," Tropic Thunder," "This Is The End," the animated "How To Train Your Dragon," and the list goes on. But in speaking with the Ontario-born actor, jokes aren't flying… and that's not a bad thing. You quickly see his serious and endearing studious side. Jay sat down with LATF to talk about his latest comedic venture, FXX's "Man Seeking Woman." Now in its third week, 20 and 30 something audiences are easily relating to his character, Josh Greenberg, who hilariously stumbles through the dating jungle…
Do you think that your character Josh represents the 'everyman' in the dating world?
Every man and every woman. I just think that he’s this lovely, depressing prototype of all of us when we’re single and desperate. Because I think that being lonely, or being horny, or being happy, or being rejected—whatever experience that you have with any sort of connection to romance—applies to every gender. It applies to every sexuality. Everyone is lonely at some point. Everyone is aroused at some point. One of the beautiful things about our show is that we’ll never run out of stuff to talk about. And people will always see themselves in our show, because everyone has been through at least one experience that we have on "Man Seeking Woman."
With Tinder and texting, everything has changed in the world of romance. Therefore the content changes. Do you think this type of show is the future of content, depicting how men and women meet?
I think that, as different as it is, it’s still the same shit. I still think that with two people who kind of like each other, each runs a 50-50 risk of hurting or getting hurt. And I think that that’s always been the same. I mean, 100 years ago, people were marrying exclusively as business deals.
And that still happens today in some cultures.
Yeah, and so this sort of romance is such a hard thing to describe, and a lot of people think they’re in it when they’re not, and a lot of people want it when they don’t even know what it is. Now there’s no anonymity for anyone. Random people have internet footprints and paper trails now. And I don’t think that that’s a good thing. I don’t think living under a microscope is a good thing. This sort of sad pissing contest that the Internet fosters; this “No, I’m more depressed than you are,” or “I’ve had it like this”—no positivity gets retweeted. Only complaints get retweeted. And so everybody feels this need to constantly complain and I think that a lot of people are not nearly as bummed as they pretend to be. I also think that there’s a whole generation of kids coming up right now who think that sex is what they see in porn. And I don’t think that’s a good thing, man. I think that’s really bad. It’s kind of dangerous, because every year that starts to apply to younger and younger people. I had a hell of a time in high school as anybody did, but I just can’t imagine what it would be like now, where you fool around with one person, you pass out any number of god-awful things, you have one fleeting moment where you’re intimate with somebody and then it can be captured and sent around to everyone.
Nothing is private anymore.
God, what does that do to intimacy, man?
If you were to write an episode of "Man Seeking Woman" yourself, and take something that had happened in your life via dating, via meeting somebody on the subway—what would it be?
We just live in this sort of cartoon world [in the show] where anything can happen. We’ve talked about where this show could go and what we could do. But there’s an experience that I haven’t seen much in movies or TV, which is this weird kind of 'friend zone' thing, where two people clearly have some affection for each other, but neither of them has the guts to bring up the elephant in the room. And then this can go on forever. And inevitably someone’s going to become unhappy as a result of it. That’s not something that I’ve seen specified that much; I think that would be real interesting.
Do you really have creative input on the show?
Yeah, we do. And whether or not I did or I didn’t, I’d still chime in. Whether or not they listen to any of it or use any of it is another question completely, but I pitch ideas every day. I’ve pitched, like, 10 different episodes to Simon (Rich) and the writers.
Are you improvising on set?
Constantly. Much to the chagrin of anyone who ever hires me. Again, whether or not they use it or they’re just humoring me, another question. But yeah, always.
Do you do stand-up?
One summer when I was 17, my friend and I did this sketch at a stand-up open-mic night. But we weren’t even doing stand-up. We were doing this weird fucking thing we wrote with a robot. But I’ve never done stand-up since.
You've really made your mark in comedy. Is there something that you really want to sink your teeth into in the future, whether it be a role or working behind the scenes?
Oh, definitely. And the sort of comedy thing—that’s kind of more just down here [in the US]. I’ve kind of had two careers. I’ve had the career I have here and the career I have in Canada. All I’ve ever wanted to do since I was 9 years old was to write and direct action movies and horror movies. That’s my favorite shit. So when I’m not acting, all of my efforts are going into that stuff.
Favorite horror films…
The Exorcist. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I’d have to say Poltergeist, and then I’d have to fucking say Gravity. I think that movie is absolutely horrifying.
What do you think of horror today, as far as the found-footage genre?
It’s nice that it’s alive. The genre’s alive and breathing and people are proactively engaged in it, but I don’t know that the found footage—I mean, I could probably name two found-footage movies that work. The problem with that concept is that so few movies have a good excuse for it. Why the fuck would anybody keep filming? (laughs)
Back to "Man Seeking Woman," where would you like to see it go?
I think that there’s a whole life’s experience worth of shitty memories that we can fucking mine into something funny. And I’m excited to see what other crazy stuff and genres we borrow from. In our first season we have a good dose of horror and sci-fi, and we’ve talked about what else kind of stuff we can borrow from, where else we can go to. There are just all sorts of tropes that we haven’t even touched on yet. And we’re all big movie nerds and cartoon nerds, and so we all have all of this stuff that’s our favorite that we want to find a way to reference that we couldn’t find space for in this season. So yeah, we have a surplus of ideas. We have way more ideas than we need.
When you're not on set, where can we find you?
Doing one of three things, always. I’m either playing a video game, watching movies, or reading.
Name a book that you like, a video game, and a movie…
Well, over the past year, I’ve been nursing my way through The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which is a 1,200 page volume. It’s epic. My mother read it when she was 23, my granddad… it's a big thing in our family, apparently. And then I play two computer games that no one on this side of the world has ever heard of.
You’re not talking Xbox.
A game called Crusader Kings II that I’m obsessed with. And there’s a game called Football Manager, where you manage a professional soccer team. You never control the players, but you just watch them play. And then I watch a great deal of documentaries, so I’m working my way through this old British five-episode series on the Spanish Civil War right now. I’ll probably go home and watch that on my computer.
By Pamela Price
“Man Seeking Woman” airs on FXX, Wednesdays at 10:30PM