OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
It's time to put another relationship on the line for your entertainment.
EISENBERG: Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs are actors, writers, directors and a couple. They collaborated on "Broad City" and "Rough Night." And their new HBO Max show "Hacks" follows a legendary comedian played by Jean Smart. Lucia, Paul, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.
PAUL W DOWNS: Hello. Hello. Hello.
LUCIA ANIELLO: Thank you so much for having us.
EISENBERG: So Paul, Lucia, I feel like your relationship and, in some ways, your creative career all boils down to a UCB class. And by that I mean Upright Citizens Brigade. That - is that the case? A level one...
ANIELLO: Not even UCB proper. So...
DOWNS: Because UCB grew a lot. So it was at Champion Studios in...
ANIELLO: I think it's 39th and 8th.
DOWNS: Good memory.
EISENBERG: And so it was like those places where you can rent a studio. And some people are rehearsing opera. Some people are going through a scene. There's a dance class maybe.
DOWNS: Exactly that.
ANIELLO: Somebody's crying in the other room. You don't know if it's acting or not.
DOWNS: Or if it's just part of the Irish Step...
EISENBERG: And so what was your interest in taking this class? Was this like, I want to do comedy? Was it something else?
DOWNS: I had done comedy and improv comedy in college - very cool, very unique.
JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: (Laughter).
DOWNS: And when I graduated, I thought, you know what? I'm going to do - I'm just going to submit myself for parts and audition and do some regular old acting. And then I really missed doing improv. And I was like...
ANIELLO: But it was kismet that he waited a couple months because that's...
ANIELLO: ...When I was there. And we met. And...
DOWNS: And I remember her walking in because I got there very early - very nervous, very Type A - had to be on a team, was ready to be a marquee show person very soon.
DOWNS: And then she had came, like, 15 minutes late. And she's like, hey...
DOWNS: ...Very chill. She's like, what are we doing? Cool.
DOWNS: Absolutely no fear. Absolutely full of confidence.
ANIELLO: And I think - I don't know if it was in that very first class. But one of the very first classes, Paul did something very funny. And I said to the woman teaching the class, write that down. I told the instructor...
ANIELLO: ...To write that down because I thought he was so funny. And I didn't want to forget it. And I didn't have a pen with me. So I asked her to write it down, I guess, for me...
DOWNS: Again, confidence and taste.
ANIELLO: ...Unfortunately, treating her like a writer's assistant. But I...
ANIELLO: I will say, at the end of the class, I was like, oh, I signed up for Level 2. And she said, I'm surprised. So I think we're fine. I think we're - totally fair.
EISENBERG: And now, of course, you have a great new series on HBO Max called "Hacks" following a legendary comedian played by Jean Smart, brilliantly. And Jean Smart, right?
DOWNS: I mean...
ANIELLO: I mean...
DOWNS: ...A national treasure, absolute treasure.
ANIELLO: Incredible. Genius. Legend. Throw it in a blender. I don't know the full Lady Gaga quote. But there's some Lady Gaga quote.
DOWNS: Yes. Like, throw it in a blender.
ANIELLO: Pick it up.
DOWNS: And, you know, as much as Jean has worked prolifically and has been a fan favorite in so many things in the past, as fabulous as she is and as, I think, appreciated as she is, we always felt she was underappreciated and are so happy she gets to do this leading role where she shows so much of her range.
EISENBERG: I do remember this because she was part of "Watchmen." And I have a friend that was like, who's that new actress on "Watchmen"? I'm like, she must've just - and I was like, oh. But you know...
ANIELLO: Did you call the cops?
DOWNS: Yeah, did you have that person arrested?
EISENBERG: They're - they had to be quiet for a while.
EISENBERG: OK. We have a couple great games for you. Are you ready for your ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?
DOWNS: Yeah. Yeah.
ANIELLO: I think so. We're nervous.
EISENBERG: Yeah, yeah, don't worry about - don't worry. It's going to be all good. So this is an audio quiz. We are going to simply play you a clip of a celebrity doing a voiceover in a television ad. You just have to tell us who it is.
DOWNS: Now, I think we might be really good at this, which probably means we will get none correct. But because...
DOWNS: You know, I...
ANIELLO: He does like - and this is, like, a fun game for him...
DOWNS: I do like doing this when we're watching - you know, when we're hearing, like, a pharmaceutical ad, being like Felicity Huffman.
EISENBERG: OK. Lucia, this first one is for you. If Lego Batman wants you to eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, it's probably a very serious and important thing to do.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
WILL ARNETT: (As character) For those who love peanut butter and those who want to get married to peanut butter.
ANIELLO: The unmistakable Will Arnett.
DOWNS: Good one, good.
ANIELLO: What an incredible tenor.
EISENBERG: Very good.
ANIELLO: I think he actually did voiceover for commercials before he was, like, a famous actor.
COULTON: Oh, is that true?
ANIELLO: I think that's true. I might be wrong. Let me know...
DOWNS: I wish I had that voice.
ANIELLO: The Arnett hive, come after me if I'm wrong. But (laughter)...
EISENBERG: I think they will. It's always - I mean, the words he had to say in that, I think I would call that a false premise. Like, for those who want to get married to peanut butter - I - no...
DOWNS: Yeah. It's interesting that they didn't want to draw people in. They didn't want to make it accessible. It was for those few people who are actually wanting to marry peanut butter.
DOWNS: Yeah. It's for chocolate.
COULTON: The way Reese's Peanut Butter Cups has justified their existence in commercials has always I think put too much emphasis on how much people love peanut butter where somebody - they used to have somebody walking down the street eating chocolate, which, fine, I understand, and then another person walking down the street eating out of a jar of peanut butter.
ANIELLO: Wow. Look at that. Guess who loves peanut butter.
DOWNS: I do love peanut butter. I don't know that I would walk down the street doing it now.
COULTON: No, not now certainly.
DOWNS: But in my 20s, potentially, potentially.
COULTON: All right, Paul, this is for you. This actor's turn as Puss in Boots clearly prepared him to play the Nasonex bee.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
ANTONIO BANDERAS: (As character) That glorious season of nasal congestion. Discover Nasonex - mometasone furoate monohydrate - the only prescription nasal spray approved to relieve nasal congestion due to seasonal allergies.
DOWNS: It's Antonio Banderas.
COULTON: That is correct. Yep.
DOWNS: Look, I'm not trying to - I absolutely love the intro clues. I think I would have gotten it without. I think - OK, not to be braggadocious but...
COULTON: I bet you would have.
EISENBERG: Oh, so you're saying up the challenge. Is that what you're saying? Is that what I'm hearing?
DOWNS: Let's try it. Let's try it. Let's up the challenge.
EISENBERG: OK. All right. You know what? I'll play you the clip, Lucia, and then if you need the extra, you let me know. OK. Here's your next one.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
RASHIDA JONES: (As character) We've long held on to a simple belief - we're a people company. We just happen to fly planes.
ANIELLO: Rashida Jones.
EISENBERG: Yes. Well done.
DOWNS: Yes, good.
DOWNS: Really good. I don't know if I would have gotten that one.
ANIELLO: Ah, I'm so happy.
COULTON: Were you doing a little rope-a-dope there? It looked like you didn't know it. I was...
ANIELLO: I didn't at first. It was only at the end that I got it.
DOWNS: She did get it, though, as you know (laughter).
EISENBERG: She did get it.
DOWNS: We were all here.
COULTON: All right. I guess, Paul, here is one for you. I will not read the setup.
COULTON: We'll just go right into the clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
VING RHAMES: (As character) There are no pecan chicken salad sandwich wars out there. Nope. This Arby's made-to-order masterpiece can't be topped, except very literally by honey wheat. Arby's - we have the meats.
DOWNS: It's Ving Rhames? No.
COULTON: Ving Rhames.
COULTON: That's right.
EISENBERG: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's it.
DOWNS: Yeah, Ving Rhames.
ANIELLO: Right. Ving Rhames had the...
DOWNS: Ving Rhames. OK.
COULTON: All right.
EISENBERG: All right. Here's your next one.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
JULIA ROBERTS: (As character) Nationwide Insurance members who add vanishing deductible get $100 off for every year of safe driving. We put members first because we don't have shareholders.
ANIELLO: I'm going to let Paul take this one.
DOWNS: Absolutely Julia Roberts.
EISENBERG: Yes. Absolutely correct.
DOWNS: Thank you.
ANIELLO: Good job.
DOWNS: Thank you.
EISENBERG: You know that. You know that. You were so confident from like...
DOWNS: Honestly, I don't - she has a very distinct voice to me.
COULTON: I feel like I am not good at this game. I...
COULTON: My wife is the one who is always like, oh, that's whoever. And I'm like, oh, yeah. It is. And it's the kind of thing where, like, I can hear the voice, and I know that it's somebody.
COULTON: But I can't - I cannot connect it to a face.
COULTON: I think there's something wrong with my brain.
DOWNS: No. I mean, there might be a thing with - like, you know how people have face blindness?
EISENBERG: Mmm hmm.
DOWNS: That may also be a thing for...
EISENBERG: Voice blindness.
DOWNS: ...Voice blindness.
COULTON: I'm voice blind. That's what it is.
DOWNS: I have some face blindness.
ANIELLO: Yeah. That's why I enter a restaurant first, so that if there's anyone we know...
ANIELLO: ...I can point them out.
EISENBERG: That's amazing.
DOWNS: My therapist is like, I will diagnose you. I think it's true. I don't think - I think you do have face blindness. Because oftentimes, I'll go into the wrong therapy room, and she has to...
DOWNS: She's like...
ANIELLO: 10 minutes in.
DOWNS: She's like, it's real. It's real.
COULTON: OK. This is the last clue of the game.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
JON HAMM: (As character) It's the biggest thing that ever happened to small. Lease the GLE 250 SUV for just $399 a month at your local Mercedes-Benz dealer.
DOWNS: Oh, wow. Jon Hamm.
COULTON: Jon Hamm. That's right.
EISENBERG: Yes. The powerful version.
COULTON: Yeah. That's a very muscly Jon Hamm.
DOWNS: He's serving Mercedes energy, and I think that's...
DOWNS: ...What - you know, he understood the assignment, as they say.
ANIELLO: Yep, as they say.
COULTON: He's swinging a little Mercedes swagger there.
DOWNS: That's right.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) We'll play another game with Lucia and Paul after the break. And later, from "Better Call Saul" and "The Mandalorian," Giancarlo Esposito will join us. So hide your Baby Yodas. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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