CBS All Access' new comedy series No Activity has an all-star guest cast. In the first two episodes alone, Bob Odenkirk and Will Ferrell show up (and that's in addition to the excellent regular cast, which includes Tim Meadows, Jesse Plemons and Amy Sedaris). But no guest star has anything on J.K. Simmons, who showed up in the recently-premiered second episode to deliver an epic, insane six-minute monologue that goes down as one of the greatest comedy moments of 2017.
Simmons plays an internal affairs officer who gets into Det. Tolbeck (Meadows) and Det. Cullen's (series creator Patrick Brammall) car to observe them after Tolbeck shot a suspect. At first he insists they pretend he's not there, which is impossible, because his simmering presence is truly off-putting, both to the characters and to viewers. But after awhile, he becomes comfortable enough to open up to the detectives about what brought him to San Diego and into their backseat. We won't spoil the monologue for you because it's incredible and you should watch it and let it surprise you. But you should know that it's heartfelt and sad, which makes its appearance in this goofy comedy even funnier.
The scene was apparently just as funny to film. In speaking with TV Guide, Meadows admits it was hard to keep it together on set during Simmons' monologue.
"I felt like I was doing one of those master classes, where you're just sitting and watching somebody who's really good do their thing," Meadows says. Simmons is, after all, an Oscar winner for Whiplash.
In No Activity, Simmons channels a sublimated version of that Whiplash intensity into his monologue, but without the satisfaction of ever truly exploding. "He never loses his temper, but there's an edge under his dialogue that puts you in a weird place," describes Meadows.
The monologue ends with Simmons inviting the detectives on a deep sea fishing trip, an offer Det. Tolbeck uncomfortably accepts. And when viewers get to see that fishing trip in a later episode, viewers will finally get to see Simmons' character unleash the full weight of his anger on one unlucky tuna in what Meadows describes as "a horror show."
"You have to see it, it's insane," says Meadows. We can't wait.
New episodes of No Activity premiere Sundays on CBS All Access.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)