Interview: ‘MAN SEEKING WOMAN’ Creator Simon Rich

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Cole Clay // Film Critic

MAN SEEKING WOMAN - Key ArtWunderkind, humorist and virtuoso are a few nouns that can be attributed alongside MAN SEEKING WOMAN creator Simon Rich. From his film and television staff writing credits with SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and now Pixar, Rich is first and foremost, a novelist. With author credits such as WHAT IN GOD’S NAME: A NOVEL and his most recent collection of stories SPOILED BRATS, the guy has showcased his chops.

Now, at the young age of 30, Rich has cultivated and maintained a clear voice in comedy that doesn’t abide by any particular label, but it’s sharp, forthright and somehow through each twisted situation, brutally honest.

Fresh Fiction was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes on the phone with Rich recently to chat about this season of MAN SEEKING WOMAN. His effervescent energy translates to anything he touches, rather it be manner in his speaking or the spontaneous nature of his wildly entertaining television show.

I’ll start with a warm-up question. I know the show stemmed from your book THE LAST GIRLFRIEND ON EARTH: AND OTHER LOVE STORIES and if you don’t mind me gushing for a second this book touched me deeply with each and every page. These stories are quite intimate can you discuss the trajectory of how the book became a television show?

MAN SEEKING WOMAN creator Simon Rich.

MAN SEEKING WOMAN creator Simon Rich.

Simon Rich: “Sure thing pal. You know, when I was first writing the supernatural love stories, I never even imagined that they would get published, let alone be turned into a compilation and, ultimately, a television show. Yes, the stories are very strange, and they’re also extremely personal. I started writing these stories almost as a kind of therapy. I was writing about things that I was going through on my own, 20’s situations like getting dumped or being resentful of an actor’s new boyfriend; and I was kind of just processing it in my own way by writing these insane stories, and I was amazed when they started to catch on and really thrilled because I got to write more of them and I’m so psyched about this show, because now I have all of these writers and they’re bringing in their own personal experiences to the writer’s room and the show’s autobiographical for me, of course, but it’s also hugely autobiographical for all of my writers, for my cast and for my directors and now we all get to kind of play in this strange world together.”

Absolutely, it’s got a lot of dry naturalism riddled throughout. But, let me turn the tables for a second. Obviously, it’s MAN SEEKING WOMAN, but are we going to see WOMAN SEEKING MAN at any point?

Simon: “I can’t answer that question because I don’t want to give anything away. But, what I will say is that people who watched the entire season will be surprised at just how female-centric the show can get.”

OK, because your writer’s room is basically male. Right?

Simon: “It’s a mixture. We have Sofia Alvarez, for example who co-wrote the episode that airs on Wednesday. And our writers’ assistant is a woman and so the room itself is, I would say majority male, but it’s not an overwhelming majority.”

MAN SEEKING WOMAN -- Episode 5: "Sizzurp" (Airs Wednesday, February 11, 10:30 PM e/p). Pictured: (L-R) Minka Kelly as Whitney, Jay Baruchel as Josh. CR: Michael Gibson/FXX

MAN SEEKING WOMAN — Episode 5: “Sizzurp” (Airs Wednesday, February 11, 10:30 PM e/p). Pictured: (L-R) Minka Kelly as Whitney, Jay Baruchel as Josh. CR: Michael Gibson/FXX

On my press screeners I noticed some Crystal Castles playing over the title cards. What’s your strategy for picking the music in the show?

Simon: “We’ve got a really talented music supervisor named Matt F.X., who is an expert at finding us songs that are a little under the radar. And then, yes, a lot of work goes into the music, because, obviously, it’s an extremely important narrative tool and we don’t always get it right and sometimes it takes a few tries before we’re satisfied with the scoring and the scene. But yes, Matt F.X. has been a huge help. He also worked on Broad City and so he brought a lot of great cable experience and we’re psyched to have him on the team.”

Cool, I’ll be on the lookout for his work.

Simon: “Also, I neglected to mention The Magnetic Fields, they are in episode 3, you can only hear them for a bit, but the book that this is based on, THE LAST GIRLFRIEND ON EARTH. I actually thank the Magnetic Fields by name, because the album, 69 Love Songs, was such a huge influence on my writing. I mean that triple album is 69 different songs that come at the subject of love from the variety of angles and genres and that was very much what I was trying to do with that book and what we’re trying to do with the show, so it was really personally gratifying to get to throw a Magnetic Fields song into one of the episodes. It’s really exciting for us.”

Random question, how old are you?

Simon: “I’m 30.”

Some say you’re just a kid.

Simon: “Do they? Tell that to my dentist, he says I have the gums of an old man.”

Classic. Do you have a long-term plan for the show yet? The show could in theory go-on for a 100+ episodes.

Simon: “Yes, that’s a really good question and I think that the short answer is, yes. I do have a trajectory planned for the duration of the show and I think that love is an infinitely complex subject. There’s a million different shades of love. There’s everything from unfulfilling, forgettable one-night stands to incredible life affirming marriages, and then there’s everything in between.

So, as a writer, I feel like one of the reasons I picked this subject is I knew that we would never run out of material. And so, yes, I think if we’re fortunate enough to have a long-running show, I think that we’ll be exploring more types of dating than just bar hopping and internet trolling. I think if people stick with the show, they’ll be surprised the kinds of relationships we end up writing about.”

MAN SEEKING WOMAN -- Pictured: Eric Andre as Mike. CR: Matthias Clamer/FXX

MAN SEEKING WOMAN — Pictured: Eric Andre as Mike. CR: Matthias Clamer/FXX.

There are several unsung heroes in the show, for example, Eric Andre as Mike. Wow, what a talent that guy is becoming, let’s talk about how you were trying to get that character to come across to the audience.

Simon: “Sure. Well, we really shaped the character, we really designed the character for Eric. I always knew that I wanted Josh to have a confident best friend, who could give him bad advice to kind of push him to try things that he was afraid to and, also, maybe shouldn’t try. But I wasn’t sure.

There’s a lot of different types of confidence, and I’ve been such a huge fan of Eric Andre for years. I think his show is incredibly bold and fearless, and I just had a meeting with him. I wasn’t necessarily even thinking that he would be right for this part, but I just had a meeting with him and we talked about comedy, and about our influences, and we were just so on the same page in terms of what made us laugh and what we had loved growing up, and I just knew that I wanted him to be part of the creative team and so we hired him pretty early in the process and he really helped us shape the character.”

Alright, I think we’re out of time. Thanks for the chat.

Simon: “You bet.”

MAN SEEKING WOMAN airs Wednesday nights at 10:30 p.m. PT / 9:30 p.m. CT

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About author

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.