'Throwing Shade' hosts Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi talk mixing politics and pop culture
When you hear the phrase "throwing shade," you're more likely to think about petty celebrity Twitter feuds than late-night television. But, if Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi have anything to say about it, that may soon well change.
"Throwing Shade," premiering on Tuesday, Jan. 7 on TV Land, is an off-shoot of the comedians' irreverent podcast and web series, both with the same name. Instead of being compared to the current darlings of late-night cable television, Samantha Bee and John Oliver, though, Gibson and Safi would rather you let their upcoming show speak for itself.
Through a mixture of sketches and commentary in front of a live studio audience, Gibson and Safi will use their signature uncensored approach to dissect both politics and pop culture, which is exactly what fans of their podcast and web series have come to expect from them. But, on television, the effectiveness of their tone will only be heightened, they told me on a recent phone call.
Another thing that will surely help? The continued blurring of the line between pop culture and politics brought on by our president-elect.
I talked to Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi about turning "Throwing Shade" into a television show, the influence that pop culture can have on politics and why FBI director James Comey is the Gretchen Weiners of Washington.
See photos of Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi:
Check out my full conversation with Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi of "Throwing Shade" below:
"Throwing Shade" has existed already as a podcast and a web series. How did the transition to a television show happen?
Bryan Safi: I was at a party, and two of the execs at TV Land came over to me and were like, "Hi! We heard you wanted to maybe make a TV show ... we'll take it!" And I was like, "Oh, okay!" [Laughs] So we had a meeting, and they were super on-board for it. It's exciting. In addition to that, though, a guy named Andrew Steele, who's the creative director for Funny Or Die, happened to hear the podcast and was like, "You guys should be hosts or a TV show or something." And we had never really thought about it that way.
Erin Gibson: We were working at Funny Or Die, and he came into our office and was like, "Uh, way to bury the lead! I didn't know you guys did this." And he helped us get it made.
What can fans of the podcast and web series expect to be similar -- and different -- about the upcoming TV Land show?
Bryan: The similar aspect of it is definitely the tone. TV Land has really encouraged us to stick with that, and really, really go hard on people and be extreme and uncensored and raunchy and irreverent, which is all the same as our podcast. I also think that a lot of the things that we talk about on the podcast, you'll now be able to actually see: The characters we do, when we imitate these idiots that are pushing back our rights and things like that. We're trying to make this as much of a visual experience that it can be, so that it doesn't seem like a reductive version of the podcast.
Erin: And, look, we definitely approach them both differently. We're still doing the podcast, and we're going to continue to approach it the way that we've always done it. And the show will be a show with the signature "Throwing Shade" tone.
How do you see "Throwing Shade" fitting into the existing late-night landscape? Or do you not really want to compare it to the other shows out there?
Bryan: I think the one thing that we're trying to do is to really play to the people that are already listening to the podcast, because those are the people that have brought us the most success. And I think other people will respond to our uncensored tone, as well as the fact that it's co-hosted. That will definitely set us apart.
That being said, Erin and I are not John Oliver and Samantha Bee. Those two are very brilliant who do their own thing and are very trusted. As long as we stick to what we've been doing -- and not try on anyone else's shoes -- then we'll be good.
Okay, so describe "Throwing Shade" in three words.
Bryan: Politics, pop culture, wit.
Erin: Sass, sophistication, sexiness.
How has it been working with TV Land developing the show?
Erin: It's a dream!
Bryan: It's a full dream. They were fans of the podcast before bringing us on, so it's not like they took us on and tried to push us into a completely different direction. They were like, "How can we make what you do a TV show without changing what you do?" I don't think this could've happened like this anywhere else.
In the hilarious commercials for the show, you talk about merging politics with pop culture. Considering that our president-elect used to be a reality TV star, that approach to content seems especially timely right now.
Erin: Yeah, we wish the circumstances were different. [Laughs] But, we're excited! Before we knew that Hillary Clinton even got the nomination, we knew that there would still be tea partiers or very, very bright people in power on a state and national level fighting to roll back our rights, so the battle has just expanded now, essentially.
Bryan: And, in merging politics and pop culture, it also influences the language that we speak. I remember when FBI director James Comey kept coming out and wanting those moments in the spotlight so badly. The only way I could wrap my head around it was thinking, like, "Oh, he's Lacey Chabert in 'Mean Girls!'" Like, he's exactly that character [Gretchen Weiners], who's desperately trying to stay at the front of the pack.
That's amazing. But, in general, there's definitely still a debate around whether politics have a place in pop culture and how much influence pop culture or celebrity should have on politics. What are your thoughts on the relationship between those two things?
Bryan: I think that anybody with a voice should use it. I don't think that those two things are mutually exclusive, but I think that it's exciting for someone like Kim Kardashian -- who I really have less-than-zero interest in -- to do something like wear a Hillary sticker and post a selfie with Hillary. That does influence people. I think that there is something good that comes out of that, even if it's just one little girl asking, "Wait, who's Hillary Clinton? Do I like her? Should I like her?"
Erin: It makes me respect people more, too, because it's like they don't give a f-ck about how this will impact their career. They're just going to express how they feel. I don't like saying, "Oh, look at this picture of Kim Kardashian!" or "Did you see Katy Perry introducing Hillary Clinton?!" but those women became endearing to me, in a new way, when I saw them getting political.
Bryan: On the other side of this, though, it is so entertaining to see people form opinions for the first time, because so much of it looks like a freshman year term paper: Sometimes celebrities' Twitter accounts have me, like, "Yeah, thanks for catching up!"
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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