Actor / Writer / Comedian
- Better Call Saul, Twin Peaks, 30 Rock -
7 June 2017
What was the sequence of events that led to your getting cast
as Joey Dixon, the taciturn film student on "Better Call Saul"?
Well I just auditioned and got the part really!!
Were you into "Mr. Show with Bob (Odenkirk) and David (Cross)"?
Its slightly bizarre, unconventional approach to comedy kind of
echos your own.
Of course I was! Through many years in the LA comedy scene
John Ennis has become one of my closest friends and frequent collaborators, he was a cast member on Mr. Show.
What's it like to work with Bob Odenkirk now?
About as good as it gets! He's a faucet for good ideas, can hit so
many notes as an actor, funny and serious, knows exactly where
the comedy is and where it will come from, champions other
peoples good ideas. What else can I say? I learn from watching
him go! And he's fun to hang out and laugh with and shoot the
shit about movies, books, and pop culture history!
Whose idea was it to give Joey such a dour energy?
Yours, Vince Gilligan's, or one of the writers?
The writing on the show is so great I think I just took the cues from the initial dialogue in the first episode I appeared in. In that sense
I suppose it was a collaborative effort!
Have you found/are you finding a niche for yourself in an oversaturated comedy landscape?
I don't know what you mean! What do you think?
I think you... ARE.
You are astoundingly athletic as a physical comic-actor, and you're movements are also beautifully fluid and graceful. Yes, they are.
Did you discover your gifts and talents for physical comedy and pratfall-type stuff early on?
Thank you! Combination of being a fan of it, working at it, imitating what I like, and just being an ADHD kid! I used to be more reckless when I started.
Do you have any background in dance? You're very bendy!
Not really, I wish. I should, huh? I don't do yoga either. When I
was in high school I remember taking an improv class and the
teacher would always tell people to change the stage picture.
Maybe I took that idea real far? I don't know!
Your video shorts on youtube are a little reminiscent of Chaplin and Keaton in many ways: the tone, the absurdity of the situation,
the bungling of simple problem-solving, your character's hard-luck nature and also your extreme loveableness. Are you consciously channeling them a little? Who else has been an influence on your comedy and performing?
Of course! I love Chaplin and Keaton and I watched them constantly as a kid and still today. Those videos are sort of cheap experiments
in trying to do that sort of humor but set in modern time without trying to feel too much like a nostalgic throwback. I'm glad you like them. I also love Jacques Tati films, films shot by Robby Muller,
Mr. Bean, Stan Laurel. I could keep listing stuff really. I like it all.
They keep it super secretive so the thing we have to go off it are our hopes and dreams! I've gotten pretty familiar with Albuquerque now and I like it!
Photo by Steven Robles
You have a pretty impressive acting range, with all kinds of things going on inside that beautiful brain. Is comedy your life, or do you also plan on unleashing Full-On Actor Josh by taking on roles far removed from the loveable, hapless spazz?
I love acting and try to do whatever job I can, "dramatic" or comedic.
What kind of roles would you take on with delectation?
(Not to be confused with dictation. Or lactation.)
I don't know! Gimme them all! The ones I come up
with and the ones other people come up with too!
How much of your stand-up act is improv and how much is stuff you've worked out prior?
It's a mix and a mystery! Am I that off the cuff or am I a calculated sneak?? Only way to know is to watch every one of my shows!
You have the micro-timing of a fine, Swiss watch, and I feel
like you're musically inclined, as well. Are you?
No, I wish. I should take a lesson huh? But that is a nice
compliment, I do like sort of playing with timing and sounds,
it's funny to me.
Of the newer people in comedy right now, who are you rather
taken with, and why? And who are some of your older favorites?
(Go back in time as far as you want)
That's a big question: some people I love of different scenes
and generations: Jamie Loftus, Ever Mainard, Brodie Reed,
Bridey Elliott, Biniam Bizuneh, Power Violence, Chris Crofton,
Johnny Pemberton, Lizzy Cooperman, Sam Brown, Eudora
Peterson, Jennie Pierson, Aiko Tanaka and all my other favs
who are the best - you know 'em!
You know, Joshy, stand-up comedy is big in Germany these days,
and Germans love physical comedy with kookiness. Would you consider checking out the European stand-up scene? I think they'd love you here. I know I do!
I didn't even know you were in Germany! How are you so well -
informed about my comedy from there? I would totally love to
do that. Where do I sign up to perform in Europe to the people
who want to see it?
Well, there's an annual Comedy Festival in Cologne, and Berlin
and Hamburg have comedy stuff going on... I'll send you some links!
Photo by Steven Robles
So, what was the absolute worst gig you've had, so far?
Even the bad ones I've learned from! BUT an early job I had, like
one of the first, was a commercial for one of those Truth don't
smoke ads in like 2003 where I played like a carnival barker talking about smoking being bad and there was a ride behind me. And everyone laughed in the audition, and I got hired, then I was never sent the script. I remember asking for it sheepishly at the fitting and this producer woman was like, "No, you're good." But I was new so I didn't really know how to be more direct about needing the script.
They flew me to Arizona to shoot at some legitimate carnival and
didn't have a hotel room for me for like 2 or 3 hours, so I passed
out in the lobby and the same producer lady woke me up like, "Josh don't you have a room?" and we were small talking and she was like, "You got your script all memorized?" I was like, "No. I didn't get one." And she flipped out and was like, "What?? Well you better get
it memorized NOW! You've got 2 hours." I knew I was fucked,
because I was nervous and bad at memorizing at the time, and you had to get every line perfect because it was legal jargon. It was partly my fault for being green, but partly this producer's fault for being negligent and she totally threw me under the bus like it was all me.
So I got to set, of course not memorized, and they had to make
cue cards for me, eventually, and they wouldn't let me take lunch
or any breaks. I always had someone breathing down my neck to keep reading the lines, and I flubbed them so many times that they would have to keep restarting the ride and extras started to puke. The director was pretty cool up until the end when he
snapped and started yelling at me!
Years later I had a commercial callback and he was in the room
and we sort of looked at each other with a mutual understanding
that we would not be working together again. There was a nice
PA lady who drove me really far to a Taco Bell after shooting
because I hadn't eaten all day.
Okay, I'm going to teach you your first German phrase:
"Guter Gott, was für ein Arschloch!" (Good God, what an asshole!).
I hope the extras all puked on the director!
So, are you basically fearless nowadays, or is there actually something that you definitely would not do or try?
I don't know, I'd have to look at the menu of scary things to try!
© 2017 Caroline-up© Created by Caroline Timmerberg and Georgia Lee Timmerberg
Tell me one or two things that you would like people to know about you, that they may not know already.
Then, tell me how insane your schedule must be? Appearing on major television shows simultaneously ('Better Call Saul', 'Twin Peaks'), doing your stand-up shows constantly and all over the place, plus myriad other creative projects you've got running - how do you keep your brain from exploding?
It must be very insane!! Thank you for noticing! In Hollywood
you gotta do work to get work, babe! I hope I get more!
Jimmy McGill's 3-person film crew on Better Call Saul (Josh as
"Joey Dixon", Julian Bonfiglio as "Sound Guy" and Hailey Holmes
as "Make-up Girl") is such a genius idea and so hilariously
executed! How much rehearsal goes into the "Jimmy's film crew" scenes, and how many takes are required for a scene such as last week's hurrying-to-get-into-Jimmy's-slag-heap-of-a-car scene? (S3,Ep7 'Expenses') Really beautifully done. I love it!
I love it too! I don't remember exactly, it came together pretty quickly in my memory, but Tom Schnauz (the director/writer) talked about blocking some and who was going to enter and exit where and who places what in the car, etc. Then the rest kind of came together when we ran it. There were some really happy accidents, some purposeful accidents and then some we tried to replicate, and then some we did replicate. I'm not sure which takes were used but it turned out great.
You must definitely have a cult following by now! Do you get recognized or do people yell out any of your lines from Better
Call Saul, like 'No dolly' or 'I get paid no matter what'?
Well the recent episodes have aired like this week, so not too often, but it did happen last night. After shooting my first scene from
Season one everyone on the crew kept shouting,"Dude, the dude!"
At the end of each "Saul" season, do you already know whether
you'll be back for the new season, or are you left in the dark as
long as possible and then summoned to New Mexico?