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This Is What It’s Like To Film a Comedy Show On a Moving Bus

Paul Scheer talks to Co.Create about the making of his new comedy special, Crash Test, filmed on a moving bus.

Until recently, the weekly LA comedy show Crash Test was never in danger of actually crashing. But that doesn’t mean it was ever safe.

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The long-running show is the brainchild of Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel, who created and starred in the MTV sketch series, Human Giant, with Aziz Ansari and Jason Woliner, before embarking on a steady stream of projects in so many media that they’ve frankly become hard to miss. Like the pair’s comedy careers in general, the show started in New York and is difficult to describe in one sentence.

More a twisted variety hour than a typical stand-up show, Crash Test cultivated a following based on its oddball interludes, like celebrating Passover on stage (Scheer and Huebel are not of the Jewish faith) or having guest Adam Pally pretend to be Bernie Madoff’s son and ask the audience for money. When the idea came up to do an installment of Crash Test on a bus and go visit other comedians at home, it seemed in keeping with the show’s gonzo style, but logistically impractical. They dismissed it as a joke at the time, though not for long.

After securing funding from Paramount and Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films, Scheer and Huebel made their ridiculous dream a reality. They rented out a Ride bus, whose passengers get a more fishbowl-like view of the street, festooned their faces on the sides and back, and set out to make something unique that captures the spirit of the live show. The resulting improvisational odyssey makes up the new comedy special, Crash Test, which is now available through Vimeo on Demand.

During the briskly paced show, which took six hours to film, Scheer and Huebel come across a stacked marquee’s worth of funny friends like Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Rob Corddry, and Tom Lennon and Ben Garant, who reprised their Reno 911 roles for the occasion. What exactly is it like, though, to find the funny while navigating traffic–and for six hours straight, at that? Co.Create caught up with Paul Scheer recently to find out.

The Claustrophobia Factor

“The bus is built so well you didn’t feel every single swerve, but it was shaky at points–especially when you’re in a lot of stop and go traffic. The truth is that bus is super comfortable. The air conditioning worked. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh God, we gotta get off this bus.’”

The Audience Was On Board, Literally and Figuratively

“I think the reason the audience was so great was because it wasn’t like going to a sitcom taping where it’s like ‘Break, alright now we’re going to reset a scene and people are getting changed,’ and it all takes forever. Here, you only saw everything once. And a lot of the stuff that we cut out was just me and Rob interacting with the crowd. Also, if we were surprised at something, they had to be surprised too. We had no idea [Lennon and Garant] were going to get on the bus. When we talked to them they were just going to do a Reno 911 bit outside–then all of a sudden, they’re on the bus and they get right in people’s faces.”

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Keeping Spirits High During Traffic

“Red lights were the in-between moments. So we talked to a woman about her job at Big Foot Hunters, gave her advice on how to quit her job at Big Foot Hunters, and stuff like that. I’m not a stand-up, but I do host a lot of shows, and so during the red lights I was interacting with the crowd the way I do when I host any other show.”

The City Does Not Adjust To Your Schedule

“We had an idea of what we were going to do and the night before we drove the route to be like, ‘Okay this is where this’ll be, let’s take a look and see what we can see.’ Two different nights, different people were out on the street, different things are happening. But we had a guy in the bus texting our actors to be like, ‘Okay, they’re 15 minutes out. And we had our base at Paramount so everything was roughly near there. Aziz showed up to the taco stand, I texted him like ‘taco stand, 9:30’ and then we texted him when it was 9:15, ‘it’s actually more like 9:45.’ And he got there, they wired him there on the scene, he did his bit, got in his car, and drove off.”

On the Road, The Stage Is Constantly Changing

“You’re in this giant glass tube and everyone’s looking at you as you’re driving by. We had these mics ready to shoot outside so at any point we could just yell and have this interaction with people across the street. You never knew what the next thing was. We found so much stuff organically that way. You get caught in a stoplight and there’s a guy paying for a valet. We had this whole thing with this valet guy, where this guy gives him a tip, and we start chanting, ‘Tip him more, tip him more.’ And the guy was looking and then he gave him more money and we’re like ‘Yeah!’ Those kinds of moments were the most fun. Your stage is constantly changing, there was no safety in any moment.”

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