The series about stand-up comedians in 1970s Los Angeles is no joke.
Credit: Justina Mintz/SHOWTIME

Set in the 1970s L.A. comedy scene, I’m Dying Up Here is executive-produced by Jim Carrey, who proved a valuable — and voluble — asset to the upcoming Showtime series. “Once you get Jim going about stand-up, it might be five hours [before he’s finished],” says Michael Aguilar, another EP on the show, which is loosely adapted from William Knoedelseder’s non-fiction 2010 book of the same name.

The stand-ups are played by both actual comedians, like Al Madrigal from The Daily Show, and “straight” actors, including Ari Graynor (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), Michael Angarano (Sky High, The Stanford Prison Experiment), and RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and The Dying Girl). “They would go and do open mics,” says EP Dave Flebotte of the latter group. “I know Ari Graynor did it. Michael did it. RJ Cyler, he did open mic quite a bit. He’s the guy that came in pretty raw and just had natural instincts and got better and better. RJ just took off.”

For more exclusive first looks, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, or buy it here — and subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Melissa Leo rules the roost as Goldie Herschlag, inspired by Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore. Who does the Oscar-winning actress think is the funniest member of the cast? “Oh, you really want to get me in trouble!” laughs Leo. “I couldn’t answer that question. But you will see that all of our actors are very capable of being funny and, by God, our comedians are very capable of being dramatic.”