Bill Hader, Ricky Gervais, John Goodman and 8 Comedy Actors Reveal Unexpected Funny Moments on Set

8:30 AM 6/3/2019

by Craig Tomashoff

Chris Geere, Rob Delaney, Eugene Levy and Randall Park also are among those who reveal their own quirks (from "a penchant for egg salad" to an "unrelenting eagerness to please") that they brought to their characters.

Courtesy of HBO; Netflix; ABC

  • Fred Armisen

    Oscar Hoffman, 'Forever' (Amazon)

    Courtesy of Amazon

    In the first season, Oscar and wife June (Maya Rudolph) are living a decent but drab life together until he dies in a skiing accident. Not long after that, she chokes to death and the couple is not-so-happily reunited in a tedious version of the hereafter, where their relationship is tested in new and unusual ways.

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    There's a scene where I repeatedly serve Maya's character a fish fillet. It's repeated over and over, like it's been happening the same way for years. Any amount of time spent in the presence of Maya makes everything funnier.

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOUR CHARACTER?

    I don't know if I'd consider it a funny trait, but I also really can't ski. I can't do anything like that … surf, skate, etc.

    WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTER'S TRAITS DO YOU WISH YOU HAD?

    I'd say it's the ability to make a raft out of sticks.

  • Chris Geere

    Jimmy Shive-Overly, 'You're the Worst' (FX)

    Courtesy of FX

    After four seasons of their on-again, off-again, let's-just- have-sex-again relationship, Jimmy and Gretchen (Aya Cash) begin season five by meeting with a wedding planner and seem ready to finally tie the knot.

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    There was a scene in episode four, when Jimmy comes into money and doesn't know what to do with it. So his first big idea is to buy the world's most expensive drone. He takes it out, ramps up the engine, and it just flies up in the air and disappears. I found it so hilarious! We had a trained drone pilot who was actually flying it offscreen. In the first take, it shot off at 90 miles per hour and you couldn't see it. If the pilot chose not to be on his game that day, I have to say it could easily have taken my head off. You see dads and kids flying them around parks, but trust me, this one was a monster.

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOUR CHARACTER?

    There's a physical thing I do — a double take — that became a thing for the character. Also, I have this kind of childish enthusiasm about me. So I really love that that came out in Jimmy, where he could be so mean and acerbic all the time, but when he sees NCIS: Los Angeles, he gets giddy like a little boy.

    WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTER'S TRAITS DO YOU WISH YOU HAD? 

    Jimmy is so good at heckling people, calling out his mates on their mistakes. That isn't something I'd done before. I mean, I'm British, so I know how to keep my opinions to myself. Thanks to Jimmy, though, I now quite enjoy calling people out. My wife and I have started heckling people more in real life. In a jokey way, of course.

  • Rob Delaney

    Rob Norris, 'Catastrophe' (Amazon)

    Courtesy of Amazon

    The fourth season follows Rob's season-three-ending DUI accident with an appearance in court and continues with wife Sharon (Sharon Horgan) and the couple's children deciding to stick by his side despite an alcoholic relapse.

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    I was pleased how much people enjoyed my scenes with Nat Faxon, who plays Rob's sister's boyfriend. He kind of muscles in on planning Rob's mom's funeral in the show and just sort of becomes the man of the house. Rob hates that but is also grieving, so it's a pretty messy bunch of emotions, and Nat is so sunny and smiley. You can just feel Rob's rage. Now, I know that sounds funny, but wait until you see it!

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOUR CHARACTER?

    I suppose my trait for him is that I'm not afraid to be very thoroughly humiliated in real life if it will make people laugh. Like, I probably won't get angry in real life if a large bottle of milk is spilled on me in public. Did people enjoy watching it? Do I mistake their laughter for feelings of warmth toward me? Do I refuse to leave the luncheon or bar mitzvah even though the milk has begun to curdle and people are getting upset? Yes to all!

    WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTER'S TRAITS DO YOU WISH YOU HAD?

    I'd like to be more verbally quick like Rob. In the show, if Sharon yells at him, he has an immediate snappy comeback and can volley with her in a fun way. In real life, if my wife yells at me, I have to go away and think for 20 minutes about what to say.

    WHAT'S MAKING YOU LAUGH THESE DAYS? 

    Just add me to the list of people saying I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson. My wife and I laugh so hard at that show. 
  • Ricky Gervais

    Tony Johnson, 'After Life' (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    In this series' debut season, local newspaper editor Tony tries to get on with his life after his wife dies from breast cancer. Unfortunately, his primary coping mechanism is to lash out at the world by saying whatever he wants — no matter how mean-spirited it may be. 

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    My first surprise was the first scene we filmed, which was in the pub with my character, Lenny (Tony Way) and Matt (Tom Basden). I was angry about the guy eating behind me. There was the added joke to that because everyone in the crew knows what I'm like in real life. I also can't stand bad manners or unnecessary noise. I've been known to move seats in restaurants because someone chews too loudly.

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOUR CHARACTER?

    Tony is someone who doesn't seem to care about anyone's feelings. I do think it's a lovely idea to say what we want the way he does, but I also know it wouldn't work. In real life, I might think those same things or pretend to be that person at something like the Golden Globes, but of course I care. I'm not a psychopath. And although Tony pretends to be psycho, he isn't either. He's a decent bloke, so he's burdened by conscience.

    WHAT'S MAKING YOU LAUGH THESE DAYS?

    One thing I do still watch is old episodes of Family Guy. I never get bored with that. It's one of the few things I can laugh out loud at.

  • John Goodman

    Dan Conner, 'The Conners' (ABC)

    Courtesy of ABC

    Dan's life is changed forever as the series begins, with wife Roseanne dying from an opioid overdose. He must cope with his grief as well as the realization that his wife hid her drug problem from the family.

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    It was funny how I was actually mixing up the first names of the kids at the beginning of the season. The actors treated me like an inconsequential old man! It was OK because I know that feeling from being a dad in real life!

    WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTER'S TRAITS DO YOU WISH YOU HAD?

    Dan has patience and is much better at listening to others than I've ever been. It's a sensibility that I understand now, though: that you don't have to be the biggest voice in the room. That has just kind of come to me and settled into me. It's not really a big reveal or anything.

  • Bill Hader

    Barry Berkman, 'Barry' (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    Season two picks up a few weeks after the end of season one, when hitman turned actor Barry murdered the police detective pursuing him even though she's also the love interest of his now grief-stricken acting teacher (Henry Winkler). 

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    There's a moment later on in the season where my character informs Sarah Goldberg's character about something and she just has to say, "What?" Just "What?" And every time, I started laughing. Her turn [in the scene] was very happy and then she kind of gets serious and I could never get through it. I just have to accept I'm bad at my job.

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOUR CHARACTER?

    The truth is, I don't try to play Barry as being very funny. I try to underplay stuff, so I can't say there is a funny trait of his. I see him as being more like this new soul trying to understand these other, weird people around him. I guess it comes down to the idea that I'm trying to make him comedic, but also deeply felt and weirdly relatable. Which is something that isn't bad to be.

  • Eugene Levy

    Johnny Rose, 'Schitt's Creek' (Pop TV)

    Courtesy of PopTV

    As season five begins, things finally seem to be looking up for Johnny and his family as the reputation of his Rosebud Motel is growing. However, he's also missing wife Moira (Catherine O'Hara), who is off shooting a film in Bosnia.

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    Unfortunately, as the straightest character on the show, I don't get too many unexpected laughs. But it does mean I'm doing an exceptionally good job of being the straightest character on the show. I can say that because my reactions and interactions are so underplayed on the show, people find me comedically animated and hysterically funny in real life. Wouldn't it be nice if that were true?

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOUR CHARACTER?

    He's got my penchant for egg salad. If you call that funny. And I've got his consistently perfect hair. If you call that funny.

    WHAT'S MAKING YOU LAUGH THESE DAYS? 

    Paul F. Tompkins and his Instagram, @pftompkins. And any text from Heidecker [writer-director-actor and half of comedy duo Tim & Eric]. He always makes me laugh. 
  • Randall Park

    Louis Huang, 'Fresh Off the Boat' (ABC)

    Courtesy of HBO

    Season five kicks off with Louis so excited to help his wife Jessica (Constance Wu) go on tour to promote her book that he decided to buy an RV and to get her out in the road to boost sales (of which there have so far been none). 

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    There was a scene in the middle of the season where Louis performs his old two-man show, "Two Lous," for the family. It was just me and a full-length mirror, performing these emotional scenes with my own reflection. It was one of those really kooky things that our show tends to do every now and then. There weren't really many jokes in the performance — just strange, overly dramatic exchanges between a man and his reflection. The crew seemed to get a kick out of it. 

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOUR CHARACTER?

    I've given him my unrelenting eagerness to please. And since Louis owns a Western-themed steakhouse, at work he wears these amazing cowboy suits. I love them, and not in an ironic way. But I don't think I can pull them off the way he does. Maybe if I got invited to the Country Music Awards.

  • Daniel Radcliffe

    Craig Bog, 'Miracle Workers' (TBS)

    Courtesy of TBS

    The first season of the heaven-set series follows low-level angel Craig as he navigates a bureaucratic Promised Land run by bathrobe-clad God (Steve Buscemi). 

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    A lot of stuff surprised me, like the details that were in the background on our sets. Viewers couldn't see them, but there were some very funny jokes that we on set got to appreciate. For instance, a lot of the prayers that were sent in as part of our storyline had pictures of the crew on them. It was so brilliantly funny to see their faces next to these ridiculous fake prayers. 

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOU CHARACTER?

    Craig has my obsessive politeness and overcautiousness about saying the wrong thing. And he has my love of eating packets of mustard. I'm actually grossed out by how much I'm not grossed out by it. 

    WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTER'S TRAITS DO YOU WISH YOU HAD?

    I'd like to rebound from terrible news as quickly as Craig can. He can face utter failure and, one second later, he has moved on with 100 percent optimism that he can sort it out on his next attempt. I'm fairly like that, but he is insanely like that. 

    WHAT'S MAKING YOU LAUGH THESE DAYS?

    The Read podcast. It is basically two hosts [Crissle West, Kid Fury] talking to each other and catching up on pop culture. It educates me on stuff. They're incredibly funny people who are a joy to listen to. 

  • Drew Tarver

    Cary Dubek, 'The Other Two' (Comedy Central)

    Courtesy of Comedy Central

    The first season kicks off with aspiring actor Cary and his sister, Brooke (Helene Yorke), struggling to establish themselves while coping with the fact that their younger brother, Chase (Case Walker), has become a pop superstar almost overnight thanks to a viral music video. 

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    A lot of moments with my character can be comedy you're laughing at and maybe cringing at too, like the episode where Cary is the shirtless bartender on What What Happens Live. They had some of the camera operators who actually film that show where we did our own filming, and they did such a good job of whip-panning and zooming in on me. It was also funny to me just hanging out with the other actors, Molly Shannon and Patrick Wilson, shirtless for four hours. After a while, it just kind of felt normal and I decided that's how I want to live my life. 

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOUR CHARACTER?

    I'm very much a people pleaser in real life. I will go along with something just because I don't want to have a tough conversation with someone about it, which isn't necessarily healthy. I think I bring a lot of that to Cary. 

    WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTER'S TRAITS DO YOU WISH YOU HAD?

    He will lean in to most things so he can be successful. He'll go to a party he doesn't want to go to just so he can get an audition or more social media followers. I wish I had that. I used to do it more when I was younger.

    WHAT'S MAKING YOU LAUGH THESE DAYS?

    I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson. The first time I saw it, it was on a plane and I was crying laughing. Which is a real weird thing to do on a plane. 

  • Ramy Youssef

    Ramy Hassan, 'Ramy' (Hulu)

    Courtesy of Hulu

    As the series begins its debut season, the son of Muslim American parents living in New Jersey is trying to figure out how to balance his millennial lifestyle with his religion. 

    WHAT SCENE GAVE YOU THE MOST UNEXPECTED LAUGH?

    There's a scene with my mom (Hiam Abbass), where she thinks her Facebook page isn't working because she hasn't gotten "likes" on her posts from yesterday. It was both funny and sad because she really had dependency on Facebook. It shows that it's not the kids who are hooked. There was also a mother-and-son dynamic I got to share with her, which made me laugh more in so many other moments because of how warm and genuine our relationship was. 

    WHAT FUNNY PART OF YOUR PERSONALITY DO YOU INFUSE INTO YOUR CHARACTER?

    The real-life version of myself is much more enjoyable to be around. The version of myself up on the screen sits in his problems a lot more and can be a lot more unaware of what's going on around him. So, I tried to strip him down to present the basest look at my ego. I wrote my character always imagining what it would be like if my ex-girlfriends did stand-up. What would they say about me?

    WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTER'S TRAITS DO YOU WISH YOU HAD?

    He has a wide-eyed curiosity and openness that I can admire. 

    This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.