Interview: Jay Baruchel Shares the Secrets of ‘Man Seeking Woman’

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Cole Clay // Film Critic

MAN SEEKING WOMAN -- Episode 1: "Lizard" (Airs Wednesday, January 14, 10:30 PM e/p). Pictured: Jay Baruchel as Josh. CR: Michael Gibson/FXX

MAN SEEKING WOMAN — Episode 1: “Lizard” (Airs Wednesday, January 14, 10:30 PM e/p). Pictured: Jay Baruchel as Josh. CR: Michael Gibson/FXX

Fully describing FXX’s new comedy MAN SEEKING WOMAN isn’t going to be an easy task. Partly it’s a surface level comedy about everyman Josh Greenberg (Jay Baruchel) after he’s dumped by his (now) ex-girlfriend. Josh does what any well-adjusted person does in the wake of such a trauma: get advice from your deranged best friend (Eric Andre) and out-of-touch sister (Britt Lower).

MAN SEEKING WOMAN takes an eccentric approach to the sit-com that’s devoted to the emotional effects of being a rejected, lonely and single in today’s dating climate. The series is inspired by THE LAST GIRLFRIEND ON EARTH, a selection of darkly comic short-stories written by series creator (and SNL writing alum) Simon Rich. While some parts of the show tell a very literal story, this comedy takes a surrealistic point-of-view on the exciting and anxiety ridden dating pool.

We’ve seen the first few episodes of the series and luckily we were able to track down series star Jay Baruchel to discuss his new project.

I have a tendency to become jaded with comedies over the past decade. I guess you could say we’ve become spoiled since the Apatow camp showed up on the scene. I have watched the first three episodes and loved every moment. How did you stumble upon this project?

Jay Baruchel: “It was just one of those really fortuitous things. I got a call from my manager and said, there’s this really awesome dude called Simon Rich and he wrote an amazing pilot based on his book of short stories and they think you could be the guy. I read it and it was one of these things where, the best way I can describe it is it had the sort of too-good-to-be-true kind of vibe to it. Sort of like when you meet, you know, or I should say when I meet a girl that I find attractive, I just right away assume that there’s got to be something more to it.”

The show plays with a heightened sense of reality, but you respond to the material by playing straight. How would the show be fundamentally different if you chose a different approach.

Baruchel: “Yes, I think that the more sort of grounded and real or naturalistic, the more that we keep our reactions in that realm, the crazier stuff we can do. I think if everybody was firing on all cylinders and constantly acknowledging the insanity in front of us the whole time, there would be no place for this show to go and would wear itself out pretty quick. I also think those two tones, kind of, they play defense against one another as well as heightening one another. I think our show can go all the crazier because of how sort of small and intimate and real it is and vice versa as well. So, yes, I think there is a massive benefit and I think the show would be way less funny if everybody was going crazy all the time.”

MAN SEEKING WOMAN -- Episode 1: "Lizard" (Airs Wednesday, January 14, 10:30 PM e/p). Pictured: (L-R) Jay Baruchel as Josh, Eric Andre as Mike. CR: Michael Gibson/FXX.

MAN SEEKING WOMAN — Episode 1: “Lizard” (Airs Wednesday, January 14, 10:30 PM e/p). Pictured: (L-R) Jay Baruchel as Josh, Eric Andre as Mike. CR: Michael Gibson/FXX.

What thoughts do you have on how the women are portrayed on this show, do you think this series, for lack of a better term, is feminist-friendly?

Baruchel: “Oh, Jesus Christ, yes. I mean, listen, all of the characters, regardless of their gender, are pretty interesting and well-defined. There’s obviously – due to the nature of the show there are some archetypal characters but, yes, 100% “feminist-friendly.” I think that as you will see, if you keep watching, the title even becomes malleable. MAN SEEKING WOMAN, it happens to be the story of a man, but I think the stories are pretty universal so it could very easily be ‘Woman Seeking Man.'”

I think it may be easy for people to make this connection, but do you see any parallels between Josh Greenberg and yourself?

Baruchel: “Oh, always. Not just for him, but, ideally, for every character I play. I think if I don’t find a way to see part of myself in any character I play then I’m sort of not doing my job completely. But yes, no, and with some guys I play, it can hit closer to home than others. I made it through the minefield that is being single in your 20s somehow. So I have, let’s just say, I have plenty of experiences to draw upon for this. A lot of, yes, a lot of victories, defeats, ambitions, malaise, all sorts of – I have the whole panacea of living experiences I’d like to think that I can mine for this. But, yes, hopefully, any part I play has at least a part of me in him.”

MAN SEEKING WOMAN -- Episode 1: "Lizard" (Airs Wednesday, January 14, 10:30 PM e/p). Pictured: Jay Baruchel as Josh. CR: Michael Gibson/FXX.

MAN SEEKING WOMAN — Episode 1: “Lizard” (Airs Wednesday, January 14, 10:30 PM e/p). Pictured: Jay Baruchel as Josh. CR: Michael Gibson/FXX.

Dating is a completely subjective experience and I know that episodes have highlighted this from Josh’s perspective and, like you said, the POV could switch, but do you think the show uncovers the myths of dating or is the motive to explore the awkward truths,?

Baruchel: “Yes. I mean, I think it probably leans more to the second than the first, although we do try to sort of hit the nail on the head with some stuff. That being said, it’s not meant to be a guide of any sort so much as it is meant to be, you know, when you’re sitting amongst friends at a party and everyone just starts sort of venting and comparing sh-t experiences. It’s meant to be that, but it’s also meant to be a celebration of the beautiful stuff, too.

So it’s just showcasing what it’s like to be in a romance, his whole stupid thing, there’s nothing like it. You’re happier than you’ll be ever be. You’re sadder than you’ll ever be and, often, stuff in the middle. It’s something that applies to each and every single one of us and so I like to think that when people see this thing they will see at least one thing they went through. Ideally, a whole bunch of things they went through because I this show is about human nature and what it is to be single and to be one of these social animals we call humans.”

I’ve noticed that you have been drawn to more impressionistic, or “surreal” material as of late, with MAN SEEKING WOMAN on the small screen and THIS IS THE END on the silver screen. What is this the cause of?

Baruchel: “Oh, yes, that’s neat. I hadn’t actually thought of that. Yes, I guess maybe it just sort of speaks to my taste and what I find interesting and the generation I was a part of, or I am a part of, I should say. Yes, I don’t know. I love cartoons, I guess. The Simpsons is pretty much one of my top three favorite things ever, in any format, and so, to me, Man Seeking Woman, at times, feels like a live action version of THE SIMPSONS.

It was neat when my mother, I showed her some episodes and, she said that of her own accord, and I told her that, well, one of our writer/producers is a fellow called Ian Maxtone-Graham who worked on The Simpsons for 17 seasons. So, yes, I think I love it.”

MAN SEEKING WOMAN -- Pictured: Jay Baruchel as Josh. CR: Matthias Clamer/FXX.

MAN SEEKING WOMAN — Pictured: Jay Baruchel as Josh. CR: Matthias Clamer/FXX.

I’ve heard you’re doing a lot of writing now. You’ve got a couple of other features coming up. I think the UNTITLED CAMERON CROWE PROJECT and THE TEN O’CLOCK PEOPLE. Can you talk briefly about some of the things you’ve got coming up in addition to this?

Baruchel: “Sadly, THE TEN O’CLOCK PEOPLE, we could never find a way to get it done. I shouldn’t say we never, we have yet to figure out a way to make that all work, like, you know most movies fall apart. It’s a miracle when any of them happen and so I really, really think that would be a cool one to be a part of. I just hope we can figure out a way to do it, but the Cameron Crowe movie, I’m only in like one or two scenes. It’s basically just, Cameron’s the first guy I ever worked for in the States. I’m in his movie, ALMOST FAMOUS, I did when I was 17 and so I’m obviously incredibly indebted to Cameron and proud to know him.

Most of the stuff ahead of me are various writing obligations, trying to get the sequel to Goon going and off the ground. We finally have a script that everyone is psyched about and so we’re trying to find a way to get that going.”

MAN SEEKING WOMAN premieres tonight (January 14) on FXX at 10:30/9:30 CST.

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Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.

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