After a long drought that had critics reading prime-time comedy its last rites, the genre is back, thanks to a handful of veterans like NBC's The Office and several new upstarts, including ABC's recent Emmy winner Modern Family. With that in mind, TV Guide Magazine sat down with Neil Flynn (The Middle), Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory), Mindy Kaling (The Office), Joel McHale (Community), Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) and Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) to talk comedy, careers and cop shows.
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TV Guide Magazine: What were your first comedy acting gigs?
McHale: I was in a production of "It's a Small World" in second grade. I auditioned for the part of a monkey and a snake.
Flynn: They had auditions in second grade?
McHale: I had to mime peeling a banana, and it was magic. The teacher said, "Joel is going to be a monkey and a snake." And I thought, "This is the beginning."
Helberg: And you've been typecast ever since.
Smulders: The only thing I can think of was this horrible audition. My first audition
was for the role of Gill Girl in this sci-fi show in Vancouver. I had no lines, but I sat on a stool in this small room and screamed like a dolphin when they told me to. They were reading lines to me off camera.
Helberg: I decided to try acting in the 11th grade. They were doing "The Children's Hour," which is a lesbian period drama. I had three lines. I come in with groceries and there are rumors that these two teachers are sleeping together and I played it like I was in a lesbian farce and they were aliens and I was going to catch this lesbian bug. Everyone laughed hysterically, and I didn't know I was milking the hell out of this serious play.
Kaling: That's funny the first time you realize what milking something is. It's the most amazing thing because you're like, "Oh, I'm getting laughs."
Stonestreet: I did that in my audition for Modern Family. I went a little crazy for a second. I'm getting a laugh. I'm really milking it. And literally for the first time ever in the audition process did this finger snap [demonstrates it]. I'm like, "What just happened?" Jesse Tyler Ferguson [who plays Cam's partner, Mitchell] still gives me such trouble.
Flynn: That's a great feeling early on. When you can stretch the laugh, get one in the middle of the line and the end of the line or sell it with a look.
Helberg: Then you go to college and meet everyone who was the class clown and everyone is the funniest kid now.
TV Guide Magazine: You guys haven't worked together before. Is that something you'd be interested in?
Smulders: We'd make a great cast for something.
Stonestreet: Mindy's got a [development] deal at NBC. So what would you create for us?
Kaling: There are two things I've always wanted to do. One is, like, a funny show....
McHale: Wait! You're saying The Office isn't funny? "I'd like to do a funny show...."
Kaling: I want to do a show about a woman and her friends. I loved Sex and the City. It was interesting anthropologically to see rich women dress up and go to brunch. But I've never seen a show about me and my girlfriends. And I have a lot of funny girlfriends. I'd also like to host a late-night talk show. I find it interesting talking to incredibly boring celebrity people.
TV Guide Magazine: That doesn't include anyone at this table, does it?
Kaling: You know what? How about young starlets that are in one hit that becomes a huge phenomenon. But it was so clearly their look that did it.
Helberg: Like Meryl Streep.
Kaling: Glenn Close.
TV Guide Magazine: What kind of project would it take for you all to work together?
McHale: I always want to do a procedural crime drama. You know how they all solve the crime in the end? I want to do one where it's like, "I don't know. We don't have enough evidence."
Kaling: But isn't it great with our jobs, there's no nighttime shoots? Aren't you happy you're not going to work at 6pm?
McHale: My drama would only take place in the daytime. It'd be like, "Guys, I'm really tired." "But this guy's getting away with it!" "I don't care."
Flynn: "If you only came in at night, you could solve this."
Stonestreet: "Let the second shift handle it."
Smulders: That's what we call it: Wait for the Second Shift.
Flynn: Every episode ends with someone saying, "Oh, well..."
Smulders: Or "We'll get him next time."
McHale: Or they arrest the wrong guy. You never solve the crime. We look at evidence and be like...[shrugs].
Flynn: We lead people away in cuffs and the words come up on the screen, "Within the hour, this man was released."
McHale: "Due to insufficient evidence."
Kaling: There's the title!
Smulders: That's our show.
TV Guide Magazine: What characters would each of you want to play?
Kaling: I want to be the judge.
Smulders: I want to be the technician who looks at all evidence for clues, but I ruin it all. I'm spilling Coke on things, smudging the fingerprints.
Helberg: I want to be the criminal who never gets arrested. He gets off every week.
Kaling: And he winks at everyone in court every week. [Wink] He's like, "I didn't do it!"
Flynn: I want to be the cop who's always retiring every week. And who is always getting too old for this.
McHale: We have David Caruso taking off his sunglasses in the background actually arresting someone.
Helberg: I like the idea of doing a show that takes place in front of another show. Doing a bad show with a really good show in the background.
Flynn: Something far more interesting is behind you.
Helberg: If you watch the camels in Lawrence of Arabia, it's like a hilarious film.
McHale: All right, we've got our show we can do together! Insufficient Evidence. And we could shoot in the Yukon as well, if possible. That would be great. Lots of bear crime.