On film, comedy only lives in the two-shot. One of my guilty pleasures used to be watching Mexican television. They had a variety show there where they had a ventriloquist, and they kept cutting to close-ups of the dummy. It kind of ruined it. You have to show the ventriloquist too. That's the whole deal. Comedy only lives in the two-shot. The director has to capture that happening in real time.
IN THE PODCAST, IT FEELS LIKE YOU'RE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT THE MEANING OF THE EVENTS YOU TALK ABOUT THROUGH THE ACT OF STORYTELLING. OFTEN, IN YOUR STORIES, THERE IS ONE EVENT THAT OCCURS AND THEN, 20 YEARS LATER, THERE'S ANOTHER EVENT THAT HELPS YOU MAKE SENSE OF IT. I used to tell myself that the main reason I did the podcast was as a legacy for my kids, so they could see this is who their dad was. Now I think it's sort of a mission statement of myself, a way of saying this was my life, this was how I spent my time and how I viewed my time. If tell it truthfully enough, with all the warts and blisters and errors that I made, it tends to become a universal story.
A lot of times, I'll begin writing a podcast thinking it's going to be about this, and as I'm writing it, I just let my right brain go — even though they say that doesn't exist anymore — and I'll realize it isn't a story about that, it's about something else. The story will run in a different direction. It's not chronological.
We don't think of our lives as chronology. That's a skewer for doing a certain kind of shish kebab. Meaning is the shish kebab we usually use. (This is a very tortured metaphor.) We think of an event and then 10 years later or 20 years before, and we realize these events are connected by meaning, and that's a far more significant shish kebab than going in chronological order.
DOES THE SUCCESS YOU'RE EXPERIENCING NOW TAKE SOME OF THE STING OUT OF PASSING ON HOME IMPROVEMENT? WAS THAT A PROBLEM OR REGRET FOR YOU? It was a minor crisis at the time. It's very hard to get one of those jobs. To be Tim Allen's sidekick. I love Tim Allen. The show sounded funny. I got the job, but they made it impossible. My wife was pregnant at the time, and they were going to pay me $16,000 a week, which is princely, a ton of money, but the show was not yet accepted on the air. So, they said, "We're either going to do the pilot in six weeks or six months. We don't know. It's not completely cast yet. But you have to be exclusive to us." I said, "I have a movie offer and I have a child coming. If it's going to be six months, I can't live on $16,000 for six months. I can't do it."
As it turned out, Richard Karn got the role, became a multimillionaire from doing the role, but because I didn't do the role, I did Groundhog Day, and Single White Female, and all those movies that became the hub of my career. I never had any money. But I had a career in film because of passing that up.