411mania Interview: Al Madrigal (The Daily Show, About A Boy)
Posted by Al Norton on 05.06.2014
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Al Madrigal, star of NBC's About A Boy and correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Al Madrigal is a very successful standup comedian who has been appearing regularly on your TV screen as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart since 2011. He also had series regular roles on Gary Unmarried and Welcome to the Captain. He is currently starring in the NBC comedy About a Boy.
Al Norton: I watched the pilot for About a Boy last June and loved it and it was frustrating for me to have wait so long to have to see new episodes, so I can't imagine how that wait must have felt for all of you.
Al Madrigal: I have a pretty unique story. I used to work a regular job, I used to fire people from my parent's family business, and from 19 – 32 I did that; I worked in a cubicle making people cry. I'd cry myself sometimes; it was a tough gig. I was part of a come from nothing, self-made family business.
Then I went out to LA and I was supposed to be on a show called The Ortegas. It was going to air after The Simpsons on Sunday nights. We shot 10 episodes and it never got on the air. I had put all my eggs in one basket, quitting my job with my parents and moving to LA, so I just started doing everything I possibly could, including standup comedy. I wrote shows, I did everything I could with comedy to make money.
So the long answer to your question is after the About a Boy pilot I just went back to work. Because I'd had the experience with The Ortegas, I just went back to work and knew we'd get the call if we were going to get the call.
It was an incredibly exciting pilot to do. When you're working with Jason Katims and Jon Favreau and you know the material is as good as it was here, you think to yourself, "if this one doesn't go, I know nothing about this business."
Al Norton: Nothing's official yet but everything I read makes it seem like a second season is pretty much a sure thing, as it should be.
Al Madrigal: I watch a lot of TV and I love it – I love television – and we've got a great show that's growing its audience every week. I still do lots of standup all over the country and more than any other show I've been on, people are coming up to me and talking to me about it. I was at a Golden State Warriors game recently and that's what people were talking to me about.
Al Norton: Do you know guys like Andy?
Al Madrigal: Yeah, I really do. I know quite a few guys who are married with kids and while maybe not to the extremes of Andy, they can live vicariously through their single friends.
Al Norton: One of the things I love about the show is that they started building around the three core characters and then have added from there, with the game night episode being the first time all the supporting characters had all been together in the same scene, so that must have been a lot of fun for you.
Al Madrigal: We had a great time doing that. I'm glad you noticed. We had been waiting for that moment for a while; we'd done a guy's night out but this was getting everyone together and we enjoyed getting to play together. We need more events over at my house next year.
Al Norton: Had you ever worked with babies before and how's it going?
Al Madrigal: I had not and, to be honest, babies are tough (laughing). We always seem to get my kids during their nap time. I am always waking them up to film so they're in the worst mood when I pick them up.
Al Norton: How did you first time ever doing standup on stage go?
Al Madrigal: I wouldn't even call it stage; I went out in this place in the Tenderloin District in San Francisco and I sort of hated it. I was 28 years old and I had done some sales so I knew about talking to people, and I had a couple of drinks first, and that was a mistake. The second time was much better but the first time was a disaster.
Al Norton: Who were the standups who influenced you the most?
Al Madrigal: I really liked the storytellers. Garry Shandling's Skip the Dog bit on The Tonight Show made a big impact on me. Martin Short, Rick Moranis, and all the sketch comedy on SCTV; I've seen every episode a million times. Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal. More recently I'd say Patton Oswalt and Dana Gould.
Al Norton: Were you at all surprised at how well John Oliver did filling in/guest hosting for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last summer?
Al Madrigal: Not at all. I think it says a lot about Jon Stewart and the trust he had in Oliver; everyone on the show felt that Oliver knew the system better than anyone and that he was the best prepared to step in to Jon Stewart's role, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. There was no doubt in my mind that he would be great and it and he killed. I remember watching that first episode – I was in the studio – and he was destroying. That's what he had been doing as a correspondent so I knew it would be the same.
Al Norton: You mentioned that you watch a lot of TV, which is great because sometimes I talk to people who are on TV themselves who say they don't watch…
Al Madrigal: I talk to people who write for TV who don't watch and I'm like, "What's wrong with you? It's great! You don't watch Sherlock?!?!" My wife and I are watching Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley right now.
Al Norton: If you could control the world of casting for a day and get yourself cast in a guest role on any show on TV, which would you choose?
Al Madrigal: Oh, it might be Sherlock at this point. Just to hang out with Martin Freeman would be awesome. Plus I used to think my dream gig would be to be a part of a real CSI so there'd likely be a murder involved so I could mix those two things.
Al Norton: It blows my mind that if I think about broadcast TV and what the best drama and best comedy series are right now, the best of each category may very well be from the same guy; what's Jason Katims like?
Al Madrigal: He is a way cool guy. You have this idea of "here's this Dick Wolf guy, this overseer of a TV empire" and in reality he couldn't be more down to early, mellow, and cool. He has this jazz cat element about him. I am sure people say this about all the shows they are on so it's a cliché but there's this chemistry on About a Boy, not just on screen but off. Here's a good example, when the sound guys ask everyone to go out for drinks on Friday nights after filming, they say that on other shows 10 people go, maybe 15, and on About a Boy we've got 40 – 50 people who show up every week. It's lightening in a bottle, it really is. There's no ego, there's no issues, it's just cool and easy going and I think Jason sets that tone.
Al Norton: What can you tell me about the upcoming (May 20th) About a Boy season finale?
Al Madrigal: It's one of the best finales of all time (laughing). Jason Katims wrote the finale. The table read had a bunch of NBC executive there, and they usually don't react, they had long and sustained applause at the end, maybe triple what I'd ever seen before. And not a single note! One woman, who usually doesn't say anything, said, "man, that was awesome." It was the last thing I expected to come out of her mouth but it shows how good the script was. I think people care about these characters and not in a manufactured way the way some shows do but in a really genuine way.