I hear it all the time. Women who say, “I just want to find a nice guy who has a great sense of humor.” Well there was a soundstage full of them when the funny men of Twentieth Century Fox Television got together to share a few laughs during the recent winter press tour.
Over at the Fox Studios lot, actors from successful comedy shows made up a panel that talked about their funny business. On hand were Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ty Burrell from Modern Family, Chris Colfer and Matthew Morrison from Glee, Lucas Neff from Raising Hope, plus Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel from How I Met Your Mother, who have become experts at turning a joke.
So when did Jason Segel first know he was funny? The class clown recalled, “I’ve been 6-foot-4 since I was 12, and I was also the only Jewish kid at a Catholic school. The kids would stand around me in a circle, and they would chant ‘Ride the oaf! Ride the oaf!’ Then they would jump on my back, and I would have to shake them off. I think with that experience, you either become funny, or a serial killer. I went with funny.”
Peter Sellers was Segel’s original comic idol, and he had dreams of following in Sellers’ footsteps.
“He was a comic genius, between the Pink Panthers, and then being able to do Being There, which is half drama, and the Stanley Kubrick movies, even his performance on The Muppet Show. He could just do anything. To me, he represented everything I wanted to be. You could throw him anything, and he could do it,” Segel said.
Since Jesse Tyler Ferguson was sitting next to Segel and Ty Burrell, when he was asked about his comedic idols, he joked, “Ty Burrell followed by Jason Segel.” But then added, “I love the old Buster Keaton movies, the Marx Brothers. I love the Three Stooges, Harold Lloyd, and all that physical comedy.”
Ferguson observed that a lot of the funny stuff Matthew Morrison does on Glee is very physical, and praised him saying, “He’s got the goods.”
Ty Burrell said he’s loving being on Modern Family because “It’s a blast to do. Last week we did a reboot of a Valentine’s Day episode with Phil and Claire going into their alter egos, Clive and Juliana, which brought up a whole series of memories of just how much fun that was.”
Lucas Neff from Raising Hope said it’s been wild working with the babies on the show. “I like working with the babies. They’re really truthful. They never break character. And you can’t blame them. You can get upset at an adult for not knowing lines, or for being crotchety. But you can’t really get upset with a baby. You learn to be more patient.”
Neil Patrick Harris said getting an outrageous role like Barney to play on How I Met Your Mother has been amazing.
“It’s been a crazy run. Having started on Doogie Howser here at Fox for four years, I was used to playing the one that whacky people kind of played around. Now it’s really fun to be the whacky one.”
Sometimes the actors get to ad lib, and add their own bits of funny business, and Morrison said, “I do a lot of scenes with Jane Lynch. We usually do it scripted, and then they tell us to try some fun stuff and just go crazy.”
Chris Colfer added that the Glee producers “kind of encourage it on our show because there’s so many kids, and we just mix it up.” Colfer also expressed that he doesn’t think his character is really funny, “so I’m kind of questioning why I’m here [on the “Funny Men” panel]. I love the dramatic scenes that I get to do in the show because it’s fun. It’s like candy. You get to be gritty and gross, and any time Kurt’s having an emotional break down, I’m loving it. That’s good fun for me.”
Every series represented on the panel can boast of a really strong ensemble, which all the men agreed, makes it really fun to go to work.