Spend an hour or so with Jason Nash, and you suddenly realize the cliché of struggling actor/writer/comedian is so rampant in Hollywood because it's extremely real. Nash is passionate about comedy – and at least equally, if not more passionate about trying to figure out some fucking way to achieve success in this business. At any given time, he's working on movie scripts he's trying to get made, doing free or low-paying stand-up shows around L.A., producing and recording his podcast, Guys with Feelings, or writing, producing and acting in any of several web series being developed by his fledgling production company, Rich Wives Productions, that feature friends and fellow comics perhaps a little further along the ladder of success – people like David Koechner, Laura Silverman and David Cross come to mind.
More after the jump...
"I knock on so many doors," he says. "I get so many 'No's all fucking day. So many times I just want to quit and be like, 'Why am I doing this?'"
The answer is because the industry has given him just enough in return to suggest a glimmer of bigger and better things on the horizon. Nash's latest mini success debuts today on AtomFilms.com. It's an eight-episode web series called "The Shaman" based on a character he created years ago in New York. The Shaman is a Jim Morrison-esque wanderer who shows up at an acquaintance's (Matt Price) house and imposes his unusual lifestyle on his normally staid host. The series features the Sklar Brothers, Silverman and many more recognizable faces.
Last Thursday night, megalope, Jouster and I met Nash for a few beers, burgers and baskets of sweet potato frites at Father's Office in Culver City to discuss The Shaman, the ambiguous nature of producing comedy series for the web and much more.
AST: Tell us about the origin of The Shaman. It was something you were doing in New York, right? When did you first come up with it.
Nash: Yeah, my friends and I were watching the Doors movie on video cassette...
AST: The one with Val Kilmer?
Nash: The one with Val Kilmer. It was just really silly. I don't know who's sillier, Val Kilmer or actually Jim Morrison. I think they were both baked.
AST: Was it inspired more by Val Kilmer or is it more Jim Morrison?
Nash: I think at first it was more Val Kilmer but then as I got older and researched the Doors, I was like, "Jim Morrison was a crock of shit." But when I was in high school, I was like, "Fuckin' Morrison...Yeah!" So yeah, that's the origin of it. I saw that movie, and I had to perform the next night at Catch a Rising Star, and I did this thing called The Shaman where I would come out and act like Jim Morrison and hit on girls in the audience. I'd be like, "What's your name?" and they'd be like "Christine." And I'd be like, [singing in the style of a Doors song] "Christine. You are a tasty little jelly bean." And that was the act.
AST: Completely improvised?
Nash: No, no, no. That part was improvised, but then there were set jokes. Like "Christine, I have tickets to Blue Man Group Friday night." It would be all this Doors imagery and then I'd hit them with something really mundane, like Blue Man Group or "I have Sex and the City on DVD." So that was was the gag. That was one of the first things I did. So [Mike] Blieden and [Matt] Price – they're my old partners – they always loved that bit and Price would be like, [impersonates Price's voice] "Why don't you bring that back? You gotta bring the Shaman back." And so I just said oh yeah, alright, I'll think about it. Then we wrote this thing and Blieden shot it and then we sold it to Atom, and that was it.
AST: So you wrote it and shot it before you sold it?
Nash: Yeah, that's how everything is. I'm not famous, but even for some people that are famous... I'm doing a lot of Internet production, and I'm doing this thing with Dave Koechner, and even Koechner, they wanted to see a tape, even with his big name before a sponsor would come on. So for this, yeah, we just shot it and we shopped it around. I think the whole thing cost me like $900, and that's the first two episodes was the pilot that we shot.
AST: So who wrote all the episodes?
Nash: I did.
AST: And getting Price and Blieden involved. You've worked with them forever...
Nash: Yep, yep. They hate working with me, I think. Or at least Matt does.
AST: Why's that?
Nash: I dunno. I do things haphazardly. Matt's a much more thought-out person. And I mean that as a compliment. So whenever I call Matt, like if I'm going to shoot something and be in something, I want Matt to be in it because he's just great. And we play off each other well. So he was just kinda like, "Okay, I'll do it." Sometimes I can't tell if that's an act, like he doesn't want to give me too much credit. He might hate me because I think he's talented, like "Well, Nash can't be that great; he picked me."
AST: Had you guys worked on anything together since the days of Price, Nash & Blieden?
Nash: We wrote a script for NBC a couple years ago. It was me, Price and Blieden, and we all get amnesia. This was like real amnesia, where we wake up in an apartment and we don't know how we got there. And then a government agent comes in and says, "You belong to us." So it's like three guys and the comedy of figuring out what happened. They basically witnessed something on Spring Break.
Those guys are great. They helped me make something that could be really, really broad, and bring it to a more realistic place. Mike's super talented and on Jimmy Fallon (as a writer and segment director) now.
AST: I never saw you guys when you guys had that trio. Were you doing sketches or what was it?
Nash: Uh huh. So we all lived together. We lived on Pico Boulevard. And we had this show every Wednesday at Masquers Cabaret. It was kind of a drag club or a cabaret club. We had a bunch of bits, one of the bits was The Shaman. We all would have a bunch of bits that we would do. It's kind of like what the Walsh Brothers do now. We would write an opening and then the second and third sketches we had done before. And the middle bit would be new. It was really fun, but it was a lot of work. But it got us some jobs.
AST: So you guys shot what ended up being the pilot of this...
Nash: Yeah, we shot that in January.
AST: ...And now it's the first two episodes, right?
Nash: Yeah, now there's eight total. Randy & Jason Sklar, there's an episode where The Shaman takes home a dog and he's fixed, and so the Sklars are the balls of the dog, the ghost balls. But it's done tastefully. Nick Kroll plays the Indian of Death in one episode. Lizzy Cooperman plays my ex-girlfriend in an episode. Erin Gibson's the love interest. Laura Silverman.
AST: Is Laura in the whole run?
Nash: Laura's in the first two and the last two. She was out of town so we could only write her into some of them. Who else? Hal Rudnick. Brian Huskey. Matt Walsh has a little part.
AST: I've noticed there are a lot of times where The Shaman is being The Shaman, but then you kind of snap out of it, where you come to reality for a second and acknowledge that you're being ridiculous. What was the process of writing that balance? I think it makes it a lot funnier when Matt says, "Put on a shirt" and you say, "Oh, I know. I've gotta get a shirt."
Nash: I guess it's funnier if the character is a little bit self aware. That's what I'm talking about with grounding it. If you just do a dumb character, it's not going to be as interesting. We just thought it'd be funny if I was like, "Oh I know, I've gotta get a shirt." There's one joke that I like where I find Erin's nana – there's an episode where Erin's nana is lost so The Shaman wants to find the nana so he can fuck Erin. So he finds her and he's like, "Oh Nana, you're such a nuisance. When I get to be this age, just kill me." So I like that. That was something we found...
AST: Was that something conscious during the writing, though, knowing you had to ground it at some point?
Nash: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was real conscious. Blieden was like, "Let's try to make this as real as possible," even though it's a character that could never exist. I think that's the problem with like, the Mike Myers movies like the fuckin' Love Guru. I really liked Austin Powers and even liked the second one. Then I saw The Love Guru and I was like, "I dunno if my tastes changed or this was just a shittier movie." There was something about it, you were just like, "Who cares?"
AST: Because it's such a cartoon.
Nash: Right. Right, somewhat. It might've been because all those Apatow movies came along and were so real in between that time. Even Step Brothers, I thought Step Brothers was great. I wasn't expecting much, but I really liked it. It's insane that they found a way – it was just enough that you believed it. So that's what I'm trying to do with that character. Daly's really good at that. Andy Daly's so good at that. That's the trick – be as crazy as you can be while making it believable. He's the best at that.
AST: So if this does well, would Atom pick up another series or what would happen?
Nash: Yeah, they'll pick up more. I have two other series with them. I sold this thing called E-Commando with me and David Cross and A.D. Miles and Laura Silverman. It's me with a talking car and David Cross is the voice of the car. So that's going to be on later this year. That's five or six episodes. And then I sold another thing, it's called The Stalkerazzi Show, which is like behind the scenes at TMZ, but it's animated. So I'm doing those. I guess I'm in good favor with them, which is good, so maybe they'll give me another thing.
I'd like to do this other character I do called The Reverend Nash, which is like a black preacher. Blieden and I had sketched out a web series that actually connected it to a movie, and we've gone to HBO with it but they didn't buy it and then [Mike] got Fallon. So I'm hoping that Mike gets bored at Jimmy Fallon, which Mike just gets bored sometimes, and maybe we could do that next. That would be cool. But I'd do more Shaman in a second. What I'd really like to do is do a movie, but the desire has to be there.
AST: Do you think these web series are a good thing overall?
Nash: I don't know, it's such a good question. I have no idea. I don't have any proof of it. Do you know anyone with a web series that fuckin' has a boat? And drives a Mercedes? Not that that's...
AST: "Ask a Ninja?"
Nash: He's done very well. But he was like the first web series. And I still don't understand how he makes money. But I know he makes a lot. But yeah, that's such a good question. I have no idea if it's going to do well. If this blew up, I'd be really surprised.
I think the world of Nick Thune. I think he's really funny. But I think his [web] show got like 12,000 hits. So you think about YouTube and there's footage of babies talking that have like 65,000. [The Shaman] doesn't have any tits or ass in it, and the top shows on Atom all have the word "handjob" or "penis" or "slut." Those are the top shows. The next show I do I'll have money for promotion and more tits and ass, without question.
AST: Has your wife watched The Shaman yet?
Nash: She hasn't watched them yet.
AST: You think she will?
Nash: Probably not. She's not a big fan.