For roughly two weeks, the revered Documentary Now! masterminds Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and John Mulaney have amassed exactly six email exchanges about work, creativity, and politics — just like the esteemed emails between actress Natalie Portman and author Jonathan Safran Foer that were published in T Magazine — until a few weeks later, when their epistolary archive was giddily shared with EW for this exclusive look inside their cherished inboxes.
On the morning of the second episode of the second season of their doc-spoofing show (10 p.m. ET, Wednesdays, IFC), the old friends continue being friends, connecting online to reflect on the season’s premiere episode, “The Bunker.”
Below are their wholly unpretentious, absolutely self-aware, immeasurably sophisticated emails discussing their edits.
>> On Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 8:25 AM, John Mulaney wrote:
Bill and Seth-
How funny after all these years of friendship to be speaking over the “information super-highway,” but that is the reality of 21st-century life when good friends are scattered throughout the country. When Entertainment Weekly asked us to write a piece about Documentary Now!‘s season premiere episode “The Bunker,” I thought it would be unconventional and therefore interesting to simply share our correspondences as we edit the episode. Watching the footage I am struck by how our fictional election campaign mirrors this current presidential election “circus” (my term). The strategizing, the hyperbole, the bending of truth. I wonder if we are playing with fire. Is it safe to satirize politics?
Otherwise all is well with me. I have slight facial paralysis from mold in our Master Bedroom but the internist who examined me says it will probably be fine.
>> On Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 9:37 PM, Bill Hader wrote:
Oh no! Sorry to hear about your face, Dear John. As long as your wit is intact, I — and the world — will be okay.
As I sat here reading your email, amid the hustle and bustle of both nannies getting our only child ready for All Day Camp, I thought “Billiam, do you even know what satire means?” So, in the parlance of our times…I “googled it”!
sat-ire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
“…contemporary politics and other topical issues.” It’s crazy that the word “politics” is in the very definition of satire. And that’s not me. I didn’t write this inspired, brave, “totally of the ‘now’” opus. That’s all you, Dear John and Seth Lab.
If anything in our humble little episodic mirrors what’s happening with Clinton v Trump (and “circus” is an apt comparison, Dear John) I can only say it’s because of you two soothsayers (the “soothsayer as clown,” as Balzac was to have said of Laurence Sterne).
I marvel at your talent, and can only ply my lowly, road-worn trade the best I can to service it.
I want to get into the specifics of the cut footage, but my wife has left for an errand and will be back in 10, so I must masturbate.
>> On Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 8:54 AM, Seth Meyers wrote:
Dear friends and fellow purveyors of Important Comedy,
It is always so wonderful to hear from you. John, your facial paralysis is fitting as your comedy has long paralyzed me with laughter and Bill, I only hope you were allowed to give yourself the kind of pleasure your performances have provided me over the years.
I wish I could give you feedback on the early cut of the episode, but as I sat down to watch it I was distracted, as I often am, by the question, “Are we heroes for practicing satire?” I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable calling us that, but I decided I would be OK if others wanted to, preferably critics from British literary magazines (but nothing published more than quarterly).
Also allow me to echo, Bill, when I say I too was in awe of your use of “circus” to describe the political process, John. It was so perfect I assumed it had to have been used before but after a lengthy search on LexisNexis I am happy to confirm you are the first. Well, I must go, as the hour is drawing late and I just scarfed down a handful of pills.
And as a reminder I have a separate account for all satire related e-mails. It’s the same address but using the Comic Sans font.
Yours in courage,
>> On Fri, Sept 2, 2016 at 4:03 PM, John Mulaney wrote:
Wow. 8 Days have gone by.
What happened was I accidentally logged out after our last correspondence. Then I couldn’t remember the password to this account. I tried the wrong password so many times they yelled at me and didn’t let me try again. Turns out the password was “FivelGoesWe$$$$$t” with five dollar signs.
I am straight up terrified about this episode. In this political climate, if we serve up this scalding soup of satire, people might finally snap and “this whole place,” as Lincoln called America, might erupt.
As an undecided voter, I would like the noise to die down if anything.
Your Friend Sincerely Asking If It’s Too Late to Yank The Episode,
>> On Fri, Sept 2, 2016 at 5:59 PM, Bill Hader wrote:
In the intervening 8 days, I’ve gotten a divorce and married Nanny #2. The child will be okay. I told him it’s like when we are at Orso and Daddy makes everyone switch to a better table mid-meal.
To echo Seth, we are heroes for wielding satire and you must emerge from your proverbial telephone booth and say what must be said. I still haven’t got around to watching the footage (my new wife has programmed our YouTube account to Spanish and it’s bloody impossible), but as a producer on this show I say do what you want until IFC tells me it’s not working and I fire you.
Your wit is like the asteroid in Deep Impact, and the imbeciles harvesting our country’s political terrain will be gazing up, slack-jawed, shielding their simian foreheads, considering its destructive approach.
We are counting on you, Dear John. We are registered at Penney’s (JC).
>> On Mon, Sept 5, 2016 at 09:10 PM, Seth Meyers wrote:
Let us remember we set out with two goals when embarking on Documentary Now! The first was, in no uncertain terms, to change American politics forever by holding up a mirror to society. The second was to meet Helen Mirren.
We’ve accomplished the latter; let’s not blink before doing the same with the former.
And if we do blink, let’s make it one of those long blinks that serious people do before they say something Earth-shattering.
(Also, before I forget, I think we should do hooded sweatshirts for the crew this year.)