Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Brett Gelman

We’re back! This week on the podcast Sam sits down with comedic force Brett Gelman. You probably recognize him for his work in films like The Other Guys and 30 Minutes or Less, and television shows like Man Seeking Woman, Another Period, and Fleabag. Back on screen in Lemon, which premieres at Sundance later this month, Brett came on to discuss today’s political climate, trying to walk the line between self-awareness and self-criticism, leaving Adult Swim, and his minor feud with Eric Andre.

Show Notes

Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso is sponsored by MUBI. Get your 30-day free trial at mubi.com/TalkEasy.

For more information about Scarlet Street, check out the film’s page on MUBI.
Lemon is premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Next. Read more here.
Music by Jinsang and Vanilla.

Original illustration by Krishna Shenoi.

Subscribe to Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso on iTunes.

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From the Talk

Brett Gelman: Aziz Ansari is a funny dude and a very, very smart businessman.

Sam: Do you have to be both in this field?

No. [laughs]

That was a good direct answer.

No. There’s a lot of people who aren’t funny who are massively successful, and there’s a lot of people who are not good business-people who fall into it and have other people doing their business for them, or just kind of are taken care of.

Isn’t it harder for the former, the people who are not talented but are good, shrewd businessmen or women, to sustain an audience?

I don’t know. I think that there are quite a few massively successful people that have sustained that audience. I won’t mention names.

Who are you talking about?

Oh, I can’t mention names.

But they’re massively successful, they’re going to be successful with or without your–I just want to know who you’re even thinking of!

But I know these people and I might work with these people. [both laugh] Look man, I don’t have, like–I’m not, like, Mr. Integrity here. If something’s going to benefit me personally…it’s not like I’m willing to fall on my sword at every step of the way. I am guilty of being opportunistic at times, within reason.

I have to say, I like you so much more now.

Oh, thanks man. No, I mean, look: if somebody’s not a completely morally reprehensible person, and it’s going to benefit me personally–if it benefits me, then I grow and I can do more good. That’s what I meant by the end justifies the means before. And even then, if you only work with angels in this business, you’re not gonna fucking work. This business is made up of a lot of really fucked up people, so you’ve just got to do the best you can.

What’s most interesting about this is, one, I understand where you’re coming from, and it makes sense. It’s you being a shrewd businessman. But what’s fascinating is it is contradictory to what you’ve just done. You just decided, “I’m going to leave with principle. The principle is, I’m not working for someone who I believe is a bad person, and is doing things that I don’t believe in.”

Yeah, I thought the line was crossed with [Adult Swim].

So there’s a line?

Yeah. Every institution has moral problems. [With] the making of money, there are morally pitfalls that come into play at times, but there is a line. I was disgusted with the mindlessness of it. As immoral as it was, it was just fucking stupid. I was just like, “These people are fucking idiots.” They’ve put themselves in this bubble that they can just act like morons in.

When did you realize it?

I realized it way before I made that statement.

I assumed as much.

I didn’t make a statement. I was just being honest to one of my fans on Twitter. I just posted two articles. I wasn’t like, “This is the thing I’m doing.” It turned into that and I was glad that it did, and I followed that lead, but I didn’t even think that anybody would give a shit that I posted those articles. I was posting about people getting killed by the cops and the pipeline and oppression of Planned Parenthood–

But you weren’t directly involved with those organizations. I think that’s where [it got] people’s attention. It was a mix of a sort of hot button issue combined with someone who is on the inside saying, “No, I don’t want this.” I think that’s why people were attracted to it.

Well, I’m glad they were. They went way beyond the traditional bigotry of this business, which there is. But they went way beyond it, which is a bummer, because in some ways they’re incredibly inclusive. They give a lot of people of color work there. That is cool, but unfortunately, the way in which they crossed the line in the other way is just too much of a drag. But hey, I wish that network the best because I have a lot of friends that work there and I want them to have success. I just was like, “This is a drag for me.”

It no longer worked for you.

It no longer worked for me.

It’s interesting that there’s a line, and you seem to have one that you’ve figured out for yourself.

Yeah. If someone is just vehemently denying other perspectives, and then allowing the opposite of those other perspectives in…it just was like, it was a clear metaphor of where that institution was at. But hey, I mean, still, I might ignore some of those things if it’s not egregious. If it’s too far, something needs to be done, and something needs to be done about all the bigotry in our system that does need to be fought against. I am wanting to fight against that, but, much like the American people, if you just point the finger and say, “You’re a fucking racist, you’re a misogynist, you’re a homophobe, you’re a transphobe,” people are gonna go “Fuck you!” and they’re going to shut the door and then you’re not going to be able to do anything to change things. You’ve got to bring people in.