<i>Big Lake</i> Big Lake

Turns out you can go home again—you just might not be welcome there. In the new scripted comedy Big Lake (premiering tonight at 10/9c on Comedy Central), Chris Gethard stars as Josh Franklin, a failed financial whiz kid who flees the big city for his Pennsylvania hometown. But Josh's folks aren't exactly thrilled to see him—especially since he lost their nest egg on failed investments.

"His parents outwardly hate him at this point—they take their aggression out on him, and deservedly so," says Gethard, an accomplished improv comic who landed the role after impressing exec producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay on the set of Ferrell's new comedy The Other Guys. "I helped out with the auditions—when people would improvise, I'd jump in and play characters. They thought I was funny, I guess, because they offered me a small part in the movie," he says.

When the lead role in their next project, Big Lake, opened up after Jon Heder departed due to creative differences, Gethard found himself on the short list. "It's amazing they plucked me out of the New York comedy scene and gave me this shot," he says.

Joining him are Saturday Night Live alums — and fellow improv experts — Chris Parnell, as Josh's burned-out high-school teacher, and Horatio Sanz, as Josh's ex-con best bud. "I've known Horatio for many years from [NYC comedy troupe] Upright Citizens Brigade, so it felt really comfortable. We all improvise a lot, but so much of the stuff isn't usable because it's so messed up!" laughs Gethard. (When Ferrell and McKay are on the set, says Gethard, "everyone involved wants to step up. The fact that those guys' names are attached makes us want to nail it.")

So has the budding sitcom star ever surfed his own parents' couch? "I moved to Los Angeles for a job, and when I came back, I crashed with my parents in New Jersey," he admits. "It was definitely odd to go back to my mom making my lunch."

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