In 2016, Adult Swim debuted a one-off special called Mr. Neighbor’s House which starred Brian Huskey as the eponymous character who takes us through a delightfully demented sendup of children’s television programming tropes that isn’t exactly what it seems. On June 24th, Mr. Neighbor and all his wacky friends like Buddy the puppet, Miss Lady, and Chef Bread, are back for more shenanigans, as it was recently announced that Mr. Neighbor’s House 2 will premiere at midnight, and fans are not going to want to miss out on all the weirdness that awaits them.
Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with Huskey, who discussed coming back for another Mr. Neighbor’s House special alongside fellow creators Jason Mantzoukas and Jesse Falcon, and how they found the balance between Mr. Neighbor’s surreal world and the real-life horrors of Huskey’s character’s existence. We also chatted about Huskey’s busy schedule these days, and his experiences working on this past season of The X-Files (“The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat”) as well.
Be sure to tune in for Mr. Neighbor’s House 2 on June 24th at midnight EST/PST.
So great to speak with you, Brian. Let’s start off talking about Mr. Neighbor's House. There was the first special a couple years ago, and now you're back for the second one. Did you and Jason and Jesse pitch them this initial idea, and then did they come back to you and say let's do another one? How did it come together?
Brian Huskey: Well, originally, we had done a pilot of Mr. Neighbor’s House for them. Rob Corddry, as you know, used to do Children's Hospital, and he was in a position where he had an open deal with the network. One night after a show, we all do an improv show together—me and Jesse and Jason—we started talking about kids' television shows, and how the ones we grew up with have this weird element, sometimes of menace, and we were talking about how Mr. Rogers was sort of free of that, and then we just thought it would be funny if I was the host of a demented kids' show. We just went and gave that idea to Rob, and we wrote something up, and it was honestly the easiest pitch we've ever had, because we were just like, "Hey, what if we did a show where Huskey was the host of a dark, demented kids' show?" They were like, "Yes, sure, do that."
And that's an inspiring story for anyone who's trying to get into the biz. All you have to do is have a friend who's in a position of power, and you mention something and it turns into a dream [laughs].
A tale of hope and inspiration for everybody [laughs].
Brian Huskey: Exactly. So, we did the pilot, and we were kind of surprised it didn't go, because the reaction was really strong, but networks have their reasons and trajectories. But they were kind enough to offer us a special, so that's what it turned into. It was just a case of, "Well, we can't do this as a series, but let’s see what it could be as a 22-minute show." And one episode turned into two, and we’re very happy about it.
In terms of these comedic bits to Mr. Neighbor’s House, you have all these little moments with Buddy, Miss Lady, and all these other crazy characters, like Chef Bread. What was the creative process in putting all these wacky things together? Maybe it’s my sense of humor, but I laughed like a maniac during these specials.
Brian Huskey: I'm glad to hear that you laughed, because a lot of the reaction we've been getting so far is like, "Hey man, that second one's super f--ked up."
It is, but there are some great dark comedy bits I couldn’t help but laugh at.
Brian Huskey: Well, I'm glad that it worked for you. But I know who you write for, so I think that what we do fits your tastes. But there’s the fact that it takes place possibly within someone's mind, and we are dealing with this unreliable narrator for a very subjective reality. We wanted to give ourselves rules to stick to, because otherwise anything can happen, and then you become untethered, and there's nothing to ground you as to why this might be happening.
That's the long-winded way of saying everything that happens, comedically and otherwise, it's a rule in Mr. Neighbor's head, and it ties back to some personal history to him. Not that we're explaining the Buddy thing, but Buddy exists when he needs Buddy to exist. Buddy is a comforting, grounding source for him, but he's also a point of torture because he's this element of guilt. I hope that doesn't take away from the funny of it, but the rules that exist for us, and it doesn't matter if the audience knows it or not, it helps guide us in writing, so we're like, "No, no. You can't do that because of the rules."
You mentioned something I was going to ask about in terms of this second episode. This show has this surrealist flavor of comedy to it, but there are these dark elements, too. How do you guys find that balance? Because, as you mentioned, there are the real-life aspects of this world versus Mr. Neighbor's world as well.
Brian Huskey: Yeah, I think that the fact that we had been there before helped. Without sounding cocky or anything, we were confident that we could find comedy in any place that we needed to find it or put it. Then it was just staying faithful to the story that we're trying to explain, and we felt once we got the story of the second one arced out, we knew we could explore the cause and the effect of what's going on. And then we had to figure out what would be a funny twist to this very dark moment.
For me, and I think for our director, Bill Benz, too, we realize that juxtaposition for some people is not funny. Some people say, "I don't want to be feeling one way and then jerked the other way." But that's the good thing about Adult Swim. They really will indulge your weird whims and do these unconventional shows, because they are cool with taking the risk.
You are a very busy guy, with your work on other shows like Veep, People of Earth, Another Period and even Bob's Burgers, too, which I love. Is it cool to be able to have that kind of variety to your work, because you get to explore so many different aspects of comedy, and then tap into these different avenues for yourself creatively?
Brian Huskey: Yeah, completely. I used to have a perspective that was like, "Oh, it's very fragmenting to go from here to there, to here to there," but at a certain point, I was like, "Oh, wait, I get really itchy if I don't get to mix it up a little bit."
Doing People of Earth is great because you get the leniency of the character, but it only takes us two and a half months to shoot that. A lot of these things, the real-time shooting of something is not the same as what people assume. Most people think you work on these shows for an entire year.
But it’s all very gratifying. I also think it helps me as a performer to be loose. It's like improv, that's why I still do an improv show every week, just to give that unexpected variety. I tried stand-up a tiny bit, and I was like, "I don't think I have the wherewithal to do the same bit over and over again." I guess I have a bad attention span, I can't focus. That's the takeaway here. I'm just like a distracted child.
This past season, you also popped up on one of my favorite episodes of The X-Files. What’s interesting is when I went back and did my re-watch of Mr. Neighbor's House, I realized there were actually some weird parallels between that episode and what you are doing with this series. How cool was it to get to come onto The X-Files and get to play this really unusual character, and really twist expectations like that? I just thought it was great.
Brian Huskey: Oh, thank you. Definitely one of the highlights of my career was getting to do that show. I'm not a huge X-Files fan, but when I got it, and then I mentioned it to some people, their reaction assured me that I was about to do something that was iconic amongst fans, and I realized that this was going to be a pretty cool thing. The experience was fantastic, too. Darin Morgan was the director, and he apparently does very meta, deconstructionist episodes that take the seriousness and the genre weight of X-Files and science fiction and just messes with it.
When I did it, he was like, "Your audition was great. You did it very dramatically. You hit The X-Files’ tone. I'm going to have you do takes like that, and then really bizarre ones that are way over the top that'll feel like you're chewing the scenery. I just want options because I'm messing with the idea of what this guy's reality is and coming at The X-Files’ universe from a different perspective." I was like, "Great. Let's do it."
That's cool that you recognized the parallels, because at one point I was like, "Am I getting typecast as either someone who believes in aliens, is crazy, or a combination of the two?” Because with Richard Schultz in People of Earth, he wrestles with his own sanity, too, and there’s Mr. Neighbor’s House. I’ve come to realize that the work you get a lot of the time resonates from some aspect of you, or something that you're attracted to, or that you're working on it yourself, or whatever. So, I don't know. I hope it doesn't turn into a situation where it’s like, "Oh boy, well, somebody's bananas, let's get Huskey," [laughs].