Between “Broad City” and “Key and Peele,” it seems to be the era of the comedy duo. In the new FX comedy “The Comedians,” we’re treated to a new duo: Josh Gad and Billy Crystal. Both play fictionalized versions of themselves, forced to work together on a new sketch comedy shows. Their conflicting methods cause repeated clashes, and, as with any showbiz satire, plenty of shots are taken at the careers of the respective stars. We caught up with Josh Gad about working with a comedy legend, and how maybe you shouldn’t believe the character Josh Gad is the same as the actor.
What made you want to play yourself on TV?
I was excited by this idea of these two comedians who are coming from two completely different places generationally approaching this same vocation from such different places and mixing that with the ego and id of it all. So for me, that was the first element that I was really impressed by. Working alongside Billy Crystal and getting that phone call saying we want you to play this young comedian opposite Billy, it’s like a dream come true. I had no intention of going back to TV, but when I saw the product of what this could be, I was like, this is something that I have to do.
Do you notice a lot of differences between your style of comedy and Billy’s?
You know what’s interesting, is not so much the differences, which you would think there would be a lot of, which the show goes into, but the similarities. We both talk about the fact that we got our start going to a borscht belt comedy show in the middle of the Catskills both when we were like five years old and at that moment it was like lightning, where we both struck and we both knew we wanted to do this. So we both approach it from the same place, but I think generationally there’s this idea that Billy’s generation comes from a more pure meat and potatoes standpoint and my generation, there’s a lot of irony, and there’s a lot of wink wink and nudge nudge, and that’s what the show is fusing.
There’s a lot of mocking of your failures, but you’ve also been in some huge successes, in “Book of Mormon” and “Frozen.”
I’ve been very lucky and I’ve also been unlucky. A lot of times you make creative choices that you really believe in and then it’s like, oh, that was a big screwup. Which is the beauty of the show. We get to make fun of things that may have been failures or the things we’re embarrassed by. I take some cheap shots in this show, as does Billy, and that’s the scary part and the joy of doing it.
The show has a few jokes about your role as Olaf in “Frozen.” Did you have to clear that with Disney?
Yes, we did. And they were lovely in letting us utilize the name Olaf. There’s some gems throughout the year where we get to play on that and also play on some of Billy’s history as well.
Is there more freedom for you to invent a version of yourself because Billy has had such a long career?
That’s the beauty of playing the comedian’s version of Josh Gad. I can take liberties that I think Billy can’t just because of who he is and how well known he is. I’m married in real life with two children. I’m a philanderer on the show with no children, no wife. I think I’ve got ten times the ego on the show that I do in real life — hopefully people know that. There are liberties that I get to take that are liberating and scary at the same time.