Scott Adsit is an actor (30 Rock, The Informant), an improvisational comedian with three regular shows at the UCB (Gravid Water, Let's Have A Ball, Adsit and Gausus) and a writer/producer/actor of animated comedy on Adult Swim (Morel Orel, and coming soon, Frankenhole). When he's not doing any of those things, though, you might find him reading a celebrity's ridiculous memoir in front of a live audience for the show Celebrity Autobiography.
The meta-celeb reading series normally happens at the Triad in NYC's Upper West Side, but will head into Times Square for a special event Wednesday at Carolines as part of the New York Comedy Festival. Adsit will join Eugene Pack, Kristen Johnston, Richard Kind, Carol Kane, Carson Kressley, Andrea Martin, Dayle Reyfel, Michael Urie, and Alan Zweibel in taking pages out of celebrity memoirs and exposing their silliness through the time-honored tradition of reading. I chatted with Adsit a little bit about the show, 30 Rock, why he's not on Twitter, Tracy Morgan's autobiography, and Adsit's latest Adult Swim project.
Having Jeff Dunham on 30 Rock last week made the show seem even more meta than ever! This season has been all about trying to appeal to a broader audience, hoping a new cast member will do the trick — and you guys got 6 million viewers for that episode, or slightly more than the 5.3 million that Dunham got for his debut on Comedy Central. So, um, congrats?
"It's reflecting, I think what the writers are going through in a way, or in the past. I talked to Tina briefly about who we'd get for that. And she said the guy who could act it well enough. I dont think it was a stunt cast, but I guess if you're going to go with a ventriloquist, he's the most popular one out there. Is a ventriloquist ever stunt casting?"
Well, I am a McCarthy, so it's a touchy subject for me. Let's talk about Celebrity Autobiography. How'd you get involved with that show?
"About a year ago, maybe a little less. My friend (Rachel) Dratch was doing it, and she mentioned it to me."
Here's a clip from ABC's Nightline to give the overview of the show if readers need catching up before we resume. Roll it!
How much involvement do you have in picking what you read?
"We're kind of assigned things. We can say no. Obviously. But I'm still doing one that I did when I started, and then I mix it up a bit. Kenny Loggins. I've been Frank Gifford. And I think I've been Tommy Lee. And, let's see, The Jonas Brothers, and almost everybody has done a Liz Taylor thing at the end. I think it's fun. I think I've asked for something new because I've burned out Kenny. I think next month, not at Carolines, I want to do Klaus Kinski…He's really crazy. Put that on your must-read autobiography list! It's soul-wrenching. He's so insane and doesn't seem to realize it."
Is that the key to a great celebrity autobiography for the series?
"I think the key to it is any person who assumes the audience is on their side, because then they'll just write anything. It doesn't matter. Neil Sadaka writing what's in his fridge. Or Joan Lunden talking about laying out her clothes on the bed in the morning. The problem is they're writing to their fans who are interested, and then other people can read it as well, which I'm not sure they realize."
Have they caught on yet now that this show is a hit?
"No one has contacted me about it, but I think George Takei has come."
Wouldn't this same philosophy apply to celebrities and their use or overuse of Twitter?
"I guess so, for the short attention span on it. Someone asked me this the other day, 'Why am I not on Twitter?' I said, 'Who wants to hear about my hourly musings?' And they said, 'My friends.' I said, 'I can tell them!' I think at some point, for me, it would only be fodder for making fun of me."
How do enjoy performing readings as opposed to improv and sketch?
"I think Celebrity Autobiography is unique because it's really easy. You just go up there and read. You just have to believe what you're reading…is funny on it's own. There's very little acting that is required in the show…because all of the work is done for you already…if you do it as if you believe it. Anybody out there can do it."
Is it too soon to think about reading Tracy Morgan's memoir for the show?
"He's on tape reading it himself and it's already hysterical. You almost don't need that outside eye. It's never too early. if Gene likes it then we'll put it in for sure. I want to know about Sherri's."
Well, Sherri Shepherd has shown herself getting a Brazilian wax on TV.
"I think when you're the writer you have control over when you're being funny. And the part you thought was serious people are laughing at…that might be heart-wrenching to see."
So no memoir in your future, I take it?
"I'll let the police blotter do it themselves after my death."
What's next for Adsit? His UCB shows, for three things. Adsit & Gausus, his longform two-person improv play with Christina Gausus, hits the UCB stage tonight (Nov. 2) as well as Nov. 16. Gravid Water, a blend of acting and improvising, happens the last Monday of the month. And you also can find him most Saturdays improvising with other Emmy-winning actors and writers in Let's Have A Ball. "It's really great improvisers," he said. "It's so immediate that it's a great release valve. And also, because I don't have any addictions. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't do drugs. This is something I need to do."
Adsit also is working on 10 episodes of a new stop-motion animation series for Adult Swim called Frankenhole. "I'm writer/director for it. It's from the makers of Moral Orel. Dino (Stamatopoulos) created it. And a bunch of the same people are back. We're shooting it now." What more can you tell us about it? "It's about Dr. Frankenstein and all of the monsters around him, and time travel. It doesn't sound very interesting, but it's bizarre."