Lunch with Adam Pally: Day drinking, career goals, and Prince
When you’re asked if you want to go to lunch with Adam Pally, the first thing you do is say yes. Then, from there, you and Adam can probably figure the rest of it out, in terms of what you want to talk about, what you can eat at 11 a.m., etc. In fact, your lunch might end up going a little something like this …
Having lunch at 11 a.m. can feel a bit odd, but it’s a fact that Pally will acknowledge before ordering lobster anyway.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how are things going? When did you get here?
ADAM PALLY: I don’t know where I am. I was shooting until 8 p.m. last night. I got picked up in a car. Someone gave me a bag of clothes that wasn’t mine.
Did they fit?
I mean, barely. These pants I’m wearing right now are like real strung together. I’m giving these pants quite a workout. And then I got on a plane and landed here at like 7 a.m., threw my stuff at the hotel and came here, so I don’t know where I am or what’s going on.
How long are you in New York?
About 12 hours, maybe less.
Yeah. So I’m going to get lobster like a real fat cat, like a real old-timey villain.
I’m trying to decide what I could eat this early.
That’s why I went lobster, because it’s like you can kind of always do that. You know what I mean?
Maybe I’ll do a burger.
Yeah! No, a burger.
Oh I got excited. I was like, “I could do a bourbon.” Do you wanna do a bourbon? I could do a bourbon. Actually, I think I might.
Moments later, Pally will order a bourbon, neat, along with a half order of lobster. Just to clarify: He did ask if they had a full lobster. Sadly, they did not. From there, he’ll ask you about yourself and where you live in New York. You’ll talk about his apartments back when he lived in the city and how he’s lived in every borough.
Then, the conversation will drift to day drinking and the full day of press he has ahead of him before finally landing on the Chris Messina’s season 3 premiere strip tease on The Mindy Project.
Were you on set for the strip tease?
I was not on set when they shot the strip tease. I asked to be but… [laughs] Um, but yeah, I think that once Mindy found out that Chris has a dancer’s background, now she’s kind of leaning into that a little bit.
I think Peter could top it though.
I think Peter’s dancing is a little more like a guy-at-a-wedding dancing, not as much like solo, Magic Mike -style dancing.
Just get a few drinks in him.
[Laughs] Yeah that’s always true, maybe.
He and Jeremy can have a dance off for Lauren’s heart.
You should pitch Mindy!
At this moment, the waiter will return and put a pause to the conversation, and you’ll decide it’s time to ask all of the “getting to know Adam” questions.
Tell me how you got into comedy, your origin story.
I grew up kind of in New York and Chicago, and my parents were around the entertainment industry, and I always knew I wanted to do something in comedy but also knew that I wanted to party really hard, so I went to the University of Arizona and was there for about two years and did nothing but party and realized that I should probably do something. So I moved back to New York and I auditioned for the Actors Studio and I got into that and on that same day, I signed up for classes a UCB [Upright Citizens Brigade] in New York in 2001 and went form there. And I was really lucky to be involved with that theater at a time when it was kind of small and being built kind of like class by class, but you had all these people that really ended up being the cream of the crop for comedy and I got to work with them before they even knew that they wanted to do it, you know? That’s really exciting.
How did that then eventually transfer to Happy Endings?
Well everybody’s career is like, there’s no straight line, everything is just a dart. I always equate it to like a cork board and then people have just like random pins all over. That’s how a career to me is. So I was at the UCB and I was teaching and writing and taking classes. So I was just kind of bumming around and auditioning for commercials, and I had shot a couple commercials and then a couple of my buddies, Dan Gregor and Doug Mann, who went on to write for How I Met Your Mother up until the end and now are writing for Billy Crystal on his show, but they wrote this pilot with me and we shot the first five minutes. We had no agents or managers and we just kind of sent it to friends working in mail rooms. It got sent around from executive to executive, and then ABC bought it and gave me an agent, and then I started going out on auditions and then when Happy Endings was coming around, they brought me in and I met David Caspe and the Russo brothers and Jonathan Groff and it clicked, and I was lucky. So that’s how it happened.
Our office was so obsessed with Happy Endings. What would’ve been your ideal ending to the show?
You know, I think we did end perfectly. I think that the show was kind of it was exactly what it was, and I think any other way would’ve been not who we were. I mean, the chances of us getting one season at all or one show on the air at all were so slim that to go three, I wouldn’t have changed anything. It was just an awesome experience.
Do you miss it?
I do. I don’t miss the hours, because Happy Endings can be a grind with six crazy people, but I miss working with my friends. I love The Mindy Project and everybody on it, but it’s a new environment, it’s a new job, it’s a new thing whereas on Happy Endings, it’s like going to camp. I knew Casey [Wilson] for 10 years before I got that show, and Damon [Wayans Jr.] is one of my best friends. So it’s just kind of like I miss them.
What is something you would love to do with Peter on Mindy?
I think I’ve gotten to do a lot of cool stuff with him, so I don’t know if there’s anything I wish I could do with him. I really enjoy this year playing the softer side of him, so I’m kind of getting to do everything.
Getting to wear a tiara.
Getting to wear a tiara, I’ve actually done before but that’s okay.
How many times did it fall off when you were shooting that scene?
Actually none, it was woven deep into my Jewish curls, so it worked out okay.
You mentioned commercials. Do you have a humiliating commercial story?
Oh every commercial is humiliating. But you know, I don’t. I was lucky.
You didn’t do like hemorrhoid cream?
No I did one thing. I did a Verizon commercial where I played the incarnation of sloth, the deadly sin, and that was a tough casting session. But commercials have been really good to me. Even now, I find that it’s so hard to get a movie, get on TV and so if there is an option to act or write or direct commercials, like, I look at that as just another notch in your belt, another thing you can do in comedy, so I was really lucky.
Who are some of your favorite comedians, actors?
Well, I’m kind of a non-traditional comedian. I’m sure a lot of comedians wouldn’t even call me a comedian because I never toured or hit the road or did clubs, so I always gravitated towards a little more of a comedic actor. Gene Wilder is always my number one. Steve Martin, Woody Allen, people like that. Albert Brooks, those are like the people I grew up, John Candy, was huge. Then later, as I was a teenager, it was like Farley and Spade and Sandler and Chris Rock and that SNL crew. So those are like pretty much my heroes.
At this point, you might want to find a way to get to know more about him aside from his career, which will probably lead to you asking completely random and ridiculous questions that he will answer without even flinching.
So if you’re bored on a Friday night, what does Adam Pally do?
Oh I don’t have those nights anymore. I have two kids.
So you play with your kids?
Play with my kids? No, no, no. We don’t play. I beg them to go to sleep and then as soon as they fall asleep, I pour myself a very tall drink and I pray for death. [Laughs]
Have you gotten to the point where you have your favorite children’s books? Like you know which ones are fine and which ones are awful?
No, they’re all terrible. When was the last time you read a children’s book? They make zero sense. They are so dumb. You wanna know what children’s books are like? They’re like, “This is an elephant.” That’s what you’re reading.
You could read them Go the F— to Sleep or have Samuel L Jackson read it to them.
I could. I have no energy for that. So I guess that’s my Friday night, mostly.
Okay, then, five years ago, what was your Friday night?
Five years ago, my Friday night if I was not working was like, I would jump in the car and drive to Vegas and gamble all weekend and then drive back Sunday night at like two in the morning and go to work on Monday morning.
Yeah. That five years ago. I still gamble, but now it’s just like done behind my wife’s back online.
I’m glad I can print that for you.
You can print that. It’s okay.
Random question: What’s your spirit animal?
It’s so weird. I don’t know what the deal was with Max Bloom, the character from Happy Endings, but that is the number one thing people say to me. They’re like, “Max is my spirit animal.” And I’m always like, “What?”
I don’t understand how a person can be a spirit animal.
Well I guess a person is an animal, I don’t know. I guess my spirit animal would be a black bear because I could sleep for like a whole winter. I could do nothing for a winter and not be upset about it. But also, I’m a caged beast.
So you’re a caged black bear.
Yeah, I’m a black bear in a very high-end zoo.
Are black bears the dangerous ones?
That’s f—ing right, lady. I’ll burn this whole place down right now.
[Laughs] If I ever run into a bear, I’m screwed. Brown are nice? I don’t ever remember.
I don’t know. You live in New York City, you’ll be fine. [Laughs]
Now, you might start talking about how Pally sometimes picks up his son from school and takes him to his favorite Jewish deli, where his son will eat hot dogs and he’ll eat turkey pastrami. And then, odds are, that will make you think of your first day at Entertainment Weekly for absolutely no reason whatsoever, which will inspire you to ask him all the hard-hitting questions.
I’m going to give you the EW rundown.
Do it! Why not? We’re here.
This is what we do to all our new people. What’s your favorite TV show?
Nathan For You.
Of all time?
Out of Sight.
You are on this. When I was new, it took me serious thought.
What do you mean new? I’ve been alive for 33 years. [Laughs]
No like when I came to EW and they asked me this. What have you binged recently?
I binge-watched The Leftovers.
How did that leave you feeling?
I loved it. I’m in. I think it’s so good.
Everyone talks about how sad it is.
It is sad, but I like that. I like going there for an hour. I binge-watched also, Review with Andy Daly. Holy sh– that show is amazing. If there was one show I could be on, it would be that one.
What is the biggest fad that you know nothing about? Like have you never seen Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones?
No I’ve seen Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. What’s a fad I know nothing about? Is classic literature a fad?
Sure, I’ve never read anything. I’m trying to think what else. I’m not great at fashion, as you can see by my ill-fitting wardrobe. I’m not great at, this is weird, it’s like things I’m not great at.
This is fun.
When I was single, I wasn’t great about calling you after we f—ed. I wanted to but I just felt weird. I’m not great, sometimes I text while I drive. I know that’s not great. Oprah would be pissed. I’m not great at like, I try not to smoke cigarettes, I’m not great at it. I like to have a cigarette once in a while. I try not to eat carbs, I’m not great at it. So there’s a lot. Was the question what are you not great at?
I don’t even remember.
Well I gave you a list of things I’m not great at.
This is when the waiter will return with your food, during which time you’ll glance at your notes and remember that Pally has talked about how much he loves pranks. Only, when you go to ask him about pranks, he’ll hear “Prince.” Oh, also, you’re sitting by a waterfall and hearing isn’t always easy.
From there, Pally will talk about his undying love for Prince.
What’s your best Prince story?
Well this is kind of a name-drop-y story, but I think it works because it’s one of my good friends. But Prince played like 11 nights downtown in LA, and I got tickets for one of the nights. I was going to go with my wife and then she had to go back to New York, so I had an extra ticket and like Prince is not the thing where you’re just like, “Bro, I got an extra Prince ticket.” But I knew my buddy Nick Kroll, who’s a good friend of mine, I know he loves Prince too, and we had talked a couple nights previous and he didn’t have tickets, so I called him and offered him tickets, so we went like together on a date to a Prince concert and a lot of people I think were like kind of weirded out that like the dude from The League and Max from Happy Endings were like straight-up super high and dancing to “Erotic City” together. It was kind of a tough look. But it was an unbelievable show. Prince came out at the end riding like a pink BMX wearing like giant Uggs that went up to his thigh. It was pretty awesome, yeah. I mean he’s my favorite.
They went up to his thigh, so they were like normal Uggs?
[Laughs] Quality Ugg joke. Nailed it.
[Laughs] Thanks. Is that your favorite concert of all time?
No, no. I’ve seen some pretty awesome shows.
Well I’ve seen like, I don’t know if these would be considered awesome but I saw like Pearl Jam at the Garden in 2002 and it was like the first show at the garden after 9/11. And that was and Neil Young was there and Ben Harper. It was like both nights it was an amazing concert. Actually I just saw Billy Joel at the Hollywood Bowl. God I’m such a white guy. Actually, the best concert I ever saw for real for real was in 1997 at the NJ PAC [New Jersey Performing Arts Center] in Newark. It was Lauryn Hill and Outkast and she was touring for Miseducation and Outkast was opening for her touring Stankonia and they had a live band with like 12 horns and they played together. That was an awesome show. So that was probably the best show I’ve ever seen.
That’s pretty good.
Yeah. I also saw Sandler at Radio City in like 1995. And that was awesome. It may have been a little later. He was touring for the first album, which like that album changed my life.
This is good, let’s talk about pop culture that changed your life. When you were a kid, what was your must-see television show?
I loved The Cosby Show when I was really little. Seinfeld I think is probably the most influential. I still watch it when it’s on. I grew up in one of those SNL houses, where like it was okay to stay up on Saturday night until one in the morning, so all that stuff was huge. And I think Sandler had this weird thing. I think if you look at a lot of my contemporaries, they are all really influenced by Sandler, cause he was like a normal Jewish dude from the East Coast who like was super funny and it gave everybody kind of they were like, “Oh could I do that?” And then they were like, “Oh no no he’s really talented.” So I guess I could do a worse version.”
That’ll be my headline: “Adam Pally: A Worse Version of Adam Sandler.”
[Laughs] And then you get a note from Sandler: “I totally agree.”
But speaking of that, what makes you laugh?
I’m an easy audience.
A good Ugg joke.
[Laughs] A good Ugg joke. I’m an easy audience. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s funny, it makes me laugh, and I try to not judge anything and just kind of be good about taking it for what it is, you know? I feel like in comedy sometimes comedians can be very like stingy with a laugh because it’s impossible to not be thinking, “What would I have done with that joke?” or “I could’ve done that” or “How would I have done it differently” or whatnot. I try to put as much of that out of my mind as I can so that I can just appreciate what’s funny at the time that it’s being said. Also I kind of check out in conversation, so it’s pretty easy.
Is there any certain brand of comedy that you try to stay away from?
No. Honestly, I wish I thought enough about my humor or anything in general to give you a more descriptive answer, but I really, I said it to someone the other day, one of the main mantras of the UCB is “Don’t think.” Get on stage and just let your gut take over and as long as you’re being agreeable and supportive, everything will work out. And I’m sure this is not the intent of that but I have put that into my real life and I don’t think about anything, which is both sad and freeing.
Is that the best advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s up there. Yeah, cause I think a lot of times, for comedy it makes a lot of sense, because it’s very hard to be on stage and acting and improvising or even doing stand-up if you’re in your head thinking about, “What does this person think of me, did I say the right thing, are my shoes okay, does this look right?” And I think it’s okay to have those thoughts, but if while you’re doing what you’re doing, you put them out of your mind and just be there, then most times it will work out.
Now that you’ve had a nice little side conversation and gotten away from Prince, you’ll remember to go back to that whole prank thing that you’d written down before lunch.
And you’re a fan of pranks, right?
I mean I’m no Clooney or anything. I’ve never like sh– in someone’s litter box, but I like to joke around, sure. I keep it loose.
What’s the greatest prank you’ve ever played or had played on you?
The greatest prank I’ve ever played. I don’t do that really, again, because it requires too much energy or thought. But I have had a funny prank played on me once. My buddy Gil Ozeri, who’s my writing partner, who was a writer on Happy Endings and then moved to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Super hilarious guy. We were like 26 at the theater and we had to go to Montreal to the Montreal Comedy Festival, and we had to drive up. And the show was in Montreal at 11 p.m. So we were going to leave Manhattan at 10 a.m. on the dot cause it’s a long ride to get there. So my buddy Gil, we’re all waiting there. It’s like me and Ben Schwartz and Bobby Moynihan, and we’re all waiting there for Gil and it’s 10:15, 10:30, 10:45. Finally, at 11, he shows up. He’s like I’m sorry I was running late, I had to stop, I’m sorry, it was a whole thing. And everyone’s like, “Whatever fine, just get in the car.”
So everyone’s pissed at him; we get in the car; we start driving up to Montreal. It’s a slog. It’s a long drive. About the four, five hour mark, Gil is like, “Does anyone want to watch a DVD? I brought my laptop.” And we’re like, “Yeah, yeah, let’s watch a DVD.” And Gil’s in the front seat. My buddy Eugene is driving. So we’re all in the back of this big Jeep and I’m in the way back. And he goes, “Pally, if you can just grab my luggage, it’s in the bottom of my duffle bag.” So I was like, “Okay great.” So I reach over, I grab the duffle bag, I open it up and the duffle bag is filled with avocados. There’s no computer; there’s no clothes; there’s just avocados. I was like, “Gil, there’s just avocados in that bag.” And he’s like, “Oh really? What?” And I was like, “Gil, there’s just avocados in this bag.” And then I pass it forward and everything searching through the bag, it’s just avocados. He goes, “Check my backpack.” We open up the backpack—filled with avocados. And he’s like, “I must’ve taken the wrong luggage.”
So we all start cracking up, because that’s like the funniest bit ever that someone would not bring clothes and just fill all their luggage with avocados and then wait five hours and then tell you to look. So we’re all cracking up, but at the same time, we’re like, “Hey dummy, not only were you going to make us late for the show so you could do your avocado bit, but you don’t have clothes or a passport.” So when we got to the border, luckily enough you can cross the border to Canada with just a drivers license but when we got to the border, they went through our luggage because he didn’t have a passport and they found 30 pounds of avocados that we had to throw out because you can’t bring plants or fruit into another country.
Oh my god. How long were you there?
A weekend. Yeah, he went to the Gap and bought clothing. Totally worth it. Maybe one of the funniest bits I’ve ever seen.
Also, I love avocados.
Moral of the story: Avocados are f—ing great. It’s a healthy fat.
And as you both take the final bites of your meals—and final sips of your drinks—you’ll try to bring things back to Pally’s career so that you seem at least somewhat professional.
Do you have dramatic aspirations? Would you love to make the move to drama at some point?
I did this small independent called Night Owls. That was a bit of a drama. It stars me and Rosa Salazar, who’s amazing, and Tony Hale and Peter Krause and Rob Huebel. And hopefully that will be in Sundance or South by Southwest this year. And that was really fun and challenging and I’d love to do more of it. Unfortunately, I just don’t get sent that many of them because people think of me in this mold. And that’s okay, but yeah, I want to work a lot and I want to do a lot of different things, so I would hope that someone would eventually see that for me and let me try.
When Jim Carrey went dramatic, it was my favorite.
Really, you liked The Truman Show?
Yeah. I seriously loved Jim Carrey dramatic.
Really? I like Jim Carrey dramatic to a point. Like The Majestic is terrible, but Eternal Sunshine‘s one of my favorite movies.
You gotta toe that line.
You gotta toe the line. That’s going to be my new biopic: Toe the Line. [Laughs]
Other than drama, what are your career goals?
I’d like to be in front of something. I think I’ve been kind of like the sixth lead on a network sitcom for six years, and it’s been super fun and rewarding and I love it, but I think I’d like to try to carry something myself on television, that would be fun. And I think I would like to direct a little more. I got to direct some Happy Endings and I really liked it, and I would like to do some more.
And finally, after a lovely half hour of conversation with guy who’s equal parts funny and kind (and who eats lobster at 11 a.m.), you’ll ask one final question.
What else do you want people to know about you, Adam?
I never even think about that. I think it’s probably because, not that I’ve broke or anything, but when you get your break a little later in life, like I didn’t break until I was 30, so when you get your break a little later in life in this industry, I think you don’t care what people know about you or think about you. I don’t care. People can think or know whatever they want. It affects me really little unless it’s like, people don’t want to see me on TV or in a movie, I don’t care. Because I’m older and I have a family and I have a lot of bills. I don’t have time to worry about that. As a younger guy, I would’ve been obsessed with like, “What are people saying about me, are there any chicks that I have a shot at them because I’m on TV?” But now I’m too old, and I want to work too much.
You’re a hard worker. That’s the moral of lunch.
Sure. Day drinking with a hard worker. [Laughs]