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Simon Rich: 'Lives are lost, robots fight and things are learned by everyone'

The "Man Seeking Woman" creator is trying to tell "old stories, new ways."

Simon Rich, 31, has the comedy writing pedigreeequivalentof an Ivy Leaguer. One of the youngest staff writers in “Saturday Night Live” history, later scooped up for a two-year stint at Pixar, Rich has bylines in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair and his own collections of short stories for Random House and Hatchette. As for an actual Ivy League degree? Well, he’s got one of those, too.

The former Harvard Lampoon president now sinks his efforts into “Man Seeking Woman,” a surreal comedy about dating starring Jay Baruchel, Eric Andre and Britt Lower based on Rich's book, “The Last Girlfriend on Earth." The series returns to FXX on Jan. 6. We caught up with the creative force ahead of the season premiere.
When we leave Baruchel’s character Josh he’s just finally getting over his ex-girlfriend — what’s the time jump between the seasons?
I would say that season one, especially for Josh and Liz [Britt Lower], was about getting over heartbreak, and this season is more about unrequited love. We’ll see Josh, Mike and Liz all pining after idealized love objects, and they’ll learn over the course of the season, in pretty rough ways sometimes, relationships are better in our dreams than in reality. It’s a very forward-thinking season.
We got to see the show from the perspective of Josh’s sister, Liz,in the ninth episode, “Teacup.” Will we get more in season two?
Absolutely. Josh, of course, is still the protagonist on the show, but there will be a few episodes this year that are from protagonists that are not Josh, including Liz.
But maybe not Liz?
More than one episode that will have a female protagonist, and there will several episodes that where Josh is not the protagonist. In season one, we tried hard to establish the world of the show and its tone and point of view. With this season, now that we’ve built the sandbox, we have a democracy to build in it.
We’re striving to flesh out the characters more and put their relationships to the test — especially the relationship between Josh and Mike. The first few episodes we build up their friendship and what they mean to each other, and then there’s a midseason threat to blow up their friendship forever and a lot of clamorous drama. Lives are lost, robots fight and things are learned by everyone.
So going into season two, Josh is still single. Why do you think that is?
I think in season one he’s entering the adult dating world for the first time and this season we’ll see Josh grow as a character and learn more about his career goals and his relationship with his family. I think that by the end of this season, he’s someone who is a viable boyfriend, but unfortunately, just because the character has grown up and matured doesn't mean that he automatically gets to be with the person he’s in love with.
That’s a lesson everyone in our show will learn this year. When it comes to dating, it doesn't matter how hard you try or how much work, you don’t always get to be with the one you love and that's a really painful lesson.

How old is Josh now?
He’s explictily 27 last season, and a bit of a stunted 27 because of the long term relationship he had been in. And now he’s 28.

For Josh and Mike, who are in their late 20s, their peers are starting to get married and we’ll see them both trying to settle down in relationships. I think one of the most fun parts of season two is probing [Mike’s] character a little more. We’ll see the chauvinistic, macho, bro-y persona that he shows to the world is something of a front. I’m excited for viewers to see his much more vulnerable side.

Are there any dating issues the characters struggle with that are exclusive to Millennials?
I think for Josh, in particular, the burden of high expectations by his very privileged upbringing is one. Without giving too much away, his mom has actually started a “Church of Josh," where she preaches to as many followers that will listen that Josh is a living god and destined for greatness. And even though Josh certainly enjoys all this, he also struggles to live up to her impossibly high expectations.For Josh, a lot of this season is reconciling a lot of his lost dreams in terms of dating and his career and the pressing realities of growing up and getting older.
A lot of the show is so surreal and weird — do you ever step back in the writer’s room and have to tone it down?
The model in the writer’s room that we try to stick by is, “Old stories, new ways.” We try to tell really simple relatable stories about very universal life experiences. Things like liking someone who doesn’t like you back, or trying to kiss someone for the first time or having a crush on a coworker, things we’ve seen on tv shows and movies for 100 years. But we always try to tell the story in an unusual way that dramatizes how high stakes a situation can feel when you’re going through them. It can be a challenge and our show features everything from science fiction to horror to mythology, all within the same 10 minute span. Every episode is like building a tower out of blocks.
 
 
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