Are you one of those writers who feels tortured by inner demons and write to expunge them and illuminate the darkness of their souls. Yeah, mate, us too. But just in case you need further validation, HAPPYISH creator Shalom Auslander shows us that we aren’t alone:
by Eric Volmers
Shalom Auslander was at his home in Woodstock, NY when Showtime president David Nevins called to talk about developing his new show, Happyish.
He asked Auslander, a TV newbie, where he planned to set up his writing room.
“I said ‘I’m in the writing room, what are you talking about?’” says Auslander, who was giving a masterclass at the Banff World Media Festival Wednesday morning. “He was surprised but said ‘Oh, so you just want to do it yourself?’ I said I think that’s probably the best for this stage of it. He said ‘OK, fine.’ So they really did embrace the process.”
It’s a trend in premium TV, where network brass take a hands-off approach and allow creators to offer very personal, singular visions.
Happyish, about the mid-life malaise of a depressed ad executive played by Steve Coogan, is Auslander’s first foray into television. He was used to the much more solitary pursuits of writing short stories, essays, memoirs and novels and contributing to public radio’s This American Life.
Writing has always been a personal endeavour for Auslander, a “survival mechanism” and “tool to get through life and laugh at the darkness.”
When he first considered writing something based on his past life in advertising, he initially envisioned it as prose of some sort. But he realized that advertising world, with its commercials and powerpoint presentations, would work best in a more visual medium.
Still, Happyish isn’t really about advertising. It seems to belong to the same TV club as FX’s Louie in presenting angry, unhappy and occasionally unlikable people for laughs. Coogan plays Thom Payne, an ad man who feels increasingly hostile towards a younger world he no longer feels a part of.
While the series originated from a dark place, it also hit by tragedy early on. Initially, it was being developed as a project for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in 2014.