Rick Yaeger: Hey, everyone. It’s Rick Yaeger here with “One Question Interviews,” the show where I take a golden opportunity to talk to a celebrity and then I totally waste it on a random question. Today’s guest is the secret love child of Garry Marshall and Norman Lear. Everybody get excited for Greg Garcia.
Greg Garcia: Wow. That was the best introduction I think I’ve ever heard.
Greg: I was curious to see who was going to come on.
Rick: The kids these days don’t know who Garry Marshall and Norman Lear are, but these guys created sitcom universes where viewers and fans came to hang out with their TV family. I would say you’ve done the same thing for the new millennium.
Greg: That’s a very nice compliment. I appreciate it. I think that a lot of their shows all had a common tone to them because they were all created by the same guy. Obviously, when you have sitcoms you have a talented group of writers that you work with. A lot of times it’s the same writers, so the tone carries over. I think a lot of my shows have the same tone. I’m taking it that that’s what you mean.
Rick: Exactly. Just to go into your credits, you’ve been responsible for, or to blame for, “My Name is Earl,” “Raising Hope,” “Yes, Dear.” You go as far back as “Family Matters.” Were you the creator?
Greg: No. My second job was Family Matters. I was a writer on that. I wrote for “Family Guy” for a little bit and some other shows that were short-lived before I started creating my own shows.
Rick: Right. These days you’re on “The Millers.”
Greg: Right, yes. Doing The Millers on CBS.
Rick: Tell us a bit about that.
Greg: It’s autobiographical, sort of, because all the characters are loosely based on people in my real life, but all the situations are fictitious. Nobody’s divorced and moving in with each other and that kind of thing.
Our life as a family is a little more boring, so I had to shake it up a little bit. But the characters, the voices of the characters I try to keep as close as I can to people in my family.
Yeah, we’ve been on for a season behind “Big Bang Theory.” It’s going really well. We’re adding Sean Hayes to the show this year, so we’re excited about that.
Rick: Very cool. My Name is Earl and Raising Hope, I’m learning all this stuff as I do this show, those were single-camera shows?
Greg: Yeah, those were single-camera shows. We shot those more like a movie. We’d shoot about 12 to 14 hours a day and we’d try to make it look like a movie. That was a big part of those shows, the way they looked, whereas Yes, Dear and The Millers we just shoot in front of an audience.
You shoot it in about three and a half hours. You just take the conceit that this is in front of an audience and you’re more doing, you’re filming a play.
Rick: I have to imagine that affects the kind of writing you would…
Greg: Oh, yeah, definitely. It affects the stories you tell because you don’t have as many sets that you can go to. You can’t go outside, you can’t do a bunch of quick pops and flashbacks. We try to do some of them on The Millers.
Yes, Dear actually used to be budgeted differently, TV shows where we could shoot for three days, even sitcoms, so we would go out and do a lot more stuff. But now we can only shoot for two days. We only have the cameramen for two days, so we do less of it now.
It’s definitely different shows, different writing. It’s a lot more set-up jokes. You’ve got an audience there. You’re really playing to the audience and their energy, whereas with a single camera you can be more subtle and play tricks, stuff with the camera, really get close in on stuff. You don’t have to be a slave to the jokes as much as you are with the four-camera format.
Rick: Interesting. I wanted to get the definitive story about you at Burger King during the writers’ strike.
Greg: I had an idea a long time ago. I was at a Roy Rogers in Frederick, Maryland, and I was sitting there and I was eating a hamburger. This was probably 15 years ago. I was watching everybody work behind the counter and I was thinking to myself, “I’ve gotten spoiled.”
I’m a TV writer and they bring us lunch. It’s a very spoiled existence. I thought, “I wonder if I can go back and work a real job like I did growing up?”
I cut grass, I pumped gas. I had real jobs. I thought, “I wonder if I can do that. That’d be fun to maybe try different jobs and write about it and do them each for 30 days and see what I can do.”
Then I never had time to do it because I was always working. Then shows like “30 Days” with Morgan Spurlock and different shows came out that were similar. Eventually, the writers’ strike came about. I thought, “Well, now I can’t work, so maybe I’ll try it for the first time.”
I thought I would write a book. I thought I’d do a different job every month. The hook would be that I would pick one person while I was there and at the end of the 30 days I’d give them $10,000. Then I’d move on to another job, and in the meantime hopefully be writing about my experience in a funny way about how a spoiled TV writer is being a cashier and janitor at Burger King.
I went and got the job at Burger King and worked hard for 30 days and met people and wrote about it. But after about two weeks I was running out of funny things to write about. Then I was just working at Burger King, for the most part.
It looked like the strike was winding down. I ended up giving somebody there, I sat down, I left the job, but I gave somebody there $10,000. They were very happy about that and I’ve stayed in contact with them.
Ultimately, that was that. I haven’t written a book about it. I haven’t done any more jobs. I haven’t had time. We’ll see if I can at some time pick up the slack and do some more of them.
Rick: But that’s an incredible experience, especially considering it happened at what was supposed to be a low point. You were not supposed to be happy. You were supposed to be disgruntled and standing out on the sidewalk with your picket sign and sticking it to the man, when actually you found another way of sticking it to the man.
Greg: It was a fun experience. It was eye-opening in a lot of ways. Also, I used some of it for the pilot “Super Clyde” that I did. There were some elements of that in there to some degree. Not a ton, but some elements of it. I’ve used some of it in my writing.
Rick: Tell me a bit about Super Clyde. That’s with Rupert Grint.
Greg: That’s a pilot I shot two years ago. I shot it at the same time I shot The Millers. They were both for CBS. Two very different shows. One, Super Clyde, was single-camera, not something that CBS has had a lot of success in. They’re so great at the four-camera stuff, but they do keep trying and developing them. They let me do this Super Clyde.
The concept was a guy that ends up inheriting a lot of money, and he’s always loved super heroes. He doesn’t have that much direction in life. He decides his super hero is money, and he’s going to secretly reward people for being good people.
He leaves wallets all over town with $200 in them and a phone number if found. If they call and return the money, then he secretly follows them around and rewards them in some way. In the pilot he gave the woman a car.
It turned out great. I was very, very happy with it. It’s one of my most proudest things that I’ve done. The director did a great job. But ultimately it didn’t get on the schedule. They were nice enough to put in on CBS.com for a while, but I think they took it down by now. They could only have it for so long. But I was thrilled with the way it turned out.
Rick: Somebody got in on their YouTube page right now.
Greg: Hey, great, man. That’s fine with me. I love the fact that people get to see it. If you Google it and it’s on YouTube, I hope you watch it and I hope you enjoy it.
Rick: I might accidentally embed it in the web page that I put this interview on.
Greg: It’s all good with me.
Rick: If that accidentally happens, people might see it.
Greg: That’s great. I’m very proud of it.
Rick: Very good. If you don’t mind, I’m going to get to the actual interview.
Greg: OK. Sounds good.
Rick: This is when I put the interview hat on. As you know, the show is called One Question Interviews. I have almost a thousand different questions, ranging from the profane to the profound.
I will choose one at random and you’ll answer it seriously or in a funny voice if you like, and everyone goes home happy. Cool?
Greg: All right. I’m ready.
Rick: I’m just going to grab a handful here, because a thousand cards is pretty hard to hold. Here we go. Then I’ll just riffle down the side. You tell me when to stop.
Greg: Oh, man. Stop.
Rick: OK. Do you want the top or the bottom?
Rick: Bottom. All right. Greg Garcia, if you could be any cartoon character, which one would you be?
Greg: Any cartoon character. I think I would be Atom Ant.
Rick: Atom Ant?
Rick: Isn’t he an ’80s glam rock guy?
Greg: Atom. A-T-O-M Ant. Atom Ant.
Greg: I was a big fan of Atom Ant. I like Speedy Gonzales, too, but I think I’m going to go with Atom Ant. He was very strong for a small individual. I’ve been a small individual my entire life, so the idea that that small little guy could lift up such large bar bells with ease and save people and be a hero and fly around, I was always very envious of this.
Also, he’s kind of obscure, not really well known. He’s a fringe comic character, a cult comic cartoon character. I think there’s a certain amount of coolness associated with him. Atom Ant, that dude is pretty cool.
Rick: Up and atom. Atom Ant. I remember. Very good.
Greg: I’d be Adam Ant for a while, too. “Don’t smoke, don’t drink, what do you do?” That’d be good for a night, too. But, cartoon, I stick with the ant.
Rick: Yeah, the ’80s rocker was a borderline cartoon himself. [laughs]
Greg: I was a roadie for him one day. I had to fill up a fridge in an RV at an Alexandria waterfront festival when I worked for a radio station. He was a lovely man.
Rick: Really? Wow. What are the chances of touching on that story? [laughs]
Greg: That was a crazy day. I hung out with him and then I bought condoms for REO Speedwagon.
Greg: They were old. I don’t know where they thought they were going to use…
Rick: Just in case they really couldn’t fight that feeling any more. [laughs]
Well, Greg. Thank you so much for being on the show. Everyone check out Greg’s show The Millers, starring Will Arnett, Lego’s Batman, and Margo Martindale, Beau Bridges, and as you said Sean Hayes is joining the cast, starting Thursday, October 30th on CBS, the big eyeball. That’s 8:30 PM, 7:30 Central.
Greg: Sounds good. Tune in.
Rick: Tune in. On days when that’s not on, you can binge watch My Name is Earl, and the best years of Raising Hope are on Netflix. Oh, and you’re not on social networks.
Greg: No, I don’t have any Twitter and Facebook and all that stuff. But if you see me on the street, say hi.
Rick: Say hi. But if you see anyone posing as Greg on Twitter or Facebook, do not approach them. They are to be considered armed and dangerous, or perhaps just well-intentioned fans.
Greg: It could be my mother. You never know.
Rick: [laughs] I invite everyone to head over to OneQuestionInterviews.com, where I’m going to have a transcript of this interview along with a whole bunch of other interviews. I will link up all the cool stuff we talked about, possibly embedding that bootleg video of Super Clyde. No promises, but, yes, I’m going to do it.
That’s it. This is Rick Yaeger for One Question Interviews. Thank you so much for watching, people. I really appreciate it. Subscribe to the show for free in iTunes or on YouTube so you don’t miss out on the next episode. Sound good? I think so. Buh-bye, everyone. See you.