An Interview with Comedian Neal Brennan

The Approval Matrix host talks brilliant TV shows and Blake Griffin.

by | August 11, 2014 | Comments

The Approval Matrix will already be familiar to fans of New York Magazine. Its weekly must-read infographic measures highbrow and lowbrow culture on a scale of despicable to brilliant. And now the “deliberately oversimplified” back-page roundup has found its way to Sundance TV in the form of a talk show hosted by comedian Neal Brennan (The Chappelle Show, The Mindy Project, Inside Amy Schumer, Half Baked).

For tonight’s premiere of The Approval Matrix, Brennan takes on the topic of “The Golden Age of Television” with guests Whitney Cummings, Matt Roush, Julie Klausner, and Willie Geist. In an exclusive interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Brennan shares a preview of what’s to come, including his passionate view of Jackass, plus Blake Griffin’s surprising taste in television.

Rotten Tomatoes: What do you think people mean when they say we’re living in a “Golden Age of Television?”

Neal Brennan: There is now officially more good television than there is time to watch it. Having said that, we talk in another episode about the fact that folks spend ten hours a day either online or watching TV, so there probably isn’t 70 hours of good TV a week, but there’s a lot. There are more channels; there’s more options. I don’t think that there is proportionally more good television than there’s ever been — there just used to be three channels and now there’s 300, so it’s multiplied by a factor of 100.

RT: In the first episode of The Approval Matrix, you mention that there are certain shows that you “should” watch — meaning that you feel pressured to take them on. What ones?

Brennan: I think it’s that you get left out. It’s Game of Thrones. I’d say Parks and Rec falls into it… I think Breaking Bad was there. I think the Hannibal show is going to cross. Maybe Schumer. And I think John Oliver’s show is f—king fantastic. Whether it crosses over is, like, whether or not they’ll put it on HuffPost. I’d put Girls on that list too, by the way.

RT: How much do critics matter when you consider taking on show?

Brennan: It helps. I take it into consideration. I’ll go like, ‘Alright. It’s getting a lot of recognition so I’m assuming there’s something there.’ and then I’ll take it on. My arc with Girls was interesting in that I watched the first one and didn’t like it, and then — no one’s going to believe this — but Blake Griffin of the Clippers told me to watch it. He watched the next four and was like, “No, I’m telling you — watch it.” The least likely guy in the world. I watched Girls because a jock told me to.

RT: And now how do you feel about it?

Brennan: I really love it.

RT: So Blake Griffin was right?

Brennan: [He] was right.

RT: What would be an example of something despicable and lowbrow, so that it would be in that bottom, left-hand corner of the matrix? Reality TV?

Brennan: Yeah, I’d put Real Housewives in there.

But just because something is lowbrow doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it, right?

Brennan: Yeah. The best example of lowbrow-brilliant in the history of television is Jackass. Jackass to me was about as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen. Jackass is one of the only shows where I lived in New York when it was on the air and I told somebody, “I’m going to walk to L.A. and volunteer to work on that show.” I couldn’t f—ing believe it. I mean, I still can’t believe it. I’ve never seen a show capture the spirit of young men better than that show… when they always talk about Sex and the City for guys? That’s the Sex and the City for guys. It was so good.

RT: Many of these lowbrow shows are just so weirdly fascinating.

Brennan: Yeah, I think Jersey Shore is that. They’re just getting drunk, but it’s an amazing show. It came out of that True Life [I Have a Summer Share] on MTV and it was so good that they were like, “We should do a full show of this.” Jersey Shore is one of the best shows of all time… They had so many hooks. They had ‘t-shirt time,’ they had ‘smush,’ they had ‘gym, tan, laundry.’ They had these great dumb things like ‘grenade.’ The had these things that you really felt like part of the group and it was just amazing. I have nothing bad to say about it.

There’s also that thing I say [about Jersey Shore]: are they not actors? Because if it’s written for them, they’re really good actors. I don’t say that facetiously. In the fame episode [of The Approval Matrix], I say to Jason Biggs that I don’t think acting is that hard because I’ve never met a doctor who said, “Yeah, I never went to medical school. I just sorta picked it up.” People go, “Acting is so hard,” but obviously acting is not that hard. Like, Jon Hamm was slamming the Kardashian sisters and it’s like, “Hey, you went to college and took classes for a year. Be quiet. Stop acting like you’re Laurence Olivier.”

Even athletes have to practice every day. Again, to bring up Blake Griffin. He’s one of the best of the players in the NBA, but guess what? He wouldn’t be if he only practiced for a year.

RT: And also that Blake Griffin guy is not a horrible actor.

Brennan: He’s a great actor! That’s the sad thing. He’s a hilarious guy. That’s proof right there. He doesn’t practice acting.

RT: It can be a little embarrassing for the professionals when you see someone like Drake come on Saturday Night Live and kill.

Brennan: I know! I always say to Blake Griffin that he has a better comedy career than I do.


Blake Griffin and Drake in “Drake vs Blake” at the 2014 ESPY Awards.

RT: OK, so now for the lightning round. I’ll name some shows and you tell me where they fall in your approval matrix.

Brennan: Okay.

RT: The Simpsons.

Brennan: Highbrow brilliant.

RT: The Bachelor.

Brennan: Lowbrow brilliant.

RT: Mad Men.

Brennan: Highbrow brilliant.

RT: Broad City.

Brennan: I’ve only seen one but I’ll go lowbrow brilliant.

RT: Sex and The City.

Brennan: Lowbrow brilliant. And I only put it in lowbrow because of Michael Patrick King’s love of puns.

RT: Big Bang Theory.

Brennan: Only seen a few. We’ll go lowbrow brilliant.

RT: Survivor.

Brennan: Lowbrow brilliant.

RT: Arrested Development.

Brennan: Highbrow brilliant.

RT: Game of Thrones.

Brennan: I’ve never seen it… I guess you could say Game of Thrones could be highbrow despicable because there’s a lot of boobs and violence on it, right?

If only Blake Griffin had made Neal Brennan watch Game of Thrones, we’d have a definitive answer.

To see how Brennan and his panel of guests rate other highs and lows of our culture, tune into The Approval Matrix on Mondays at 11:00 p.m. on Sundance TV.

For more TV news, visit the Rotten Tomatoes TV Zone.

Tag Cloud

basketball satire Action indiana jones Star Trek aapi Hallmark slasher Cannes 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Opinion Endgame Watching Series Sci-Fi mob TNT foreign USA christmas movies Film dexter comedies Quiz archives Television Academy The Purge based on movie spider-verse Emmys CBS comic books doctor who hispanic Superheroe Lionsgate Food Network Masterpiece jurassic park Sneak Peek 72 Emmy Awards book Interview fast and furious ABC Signature CNN Pixar documentaries talk show gangster discovery TCA Winter 2020 cancelled WarnerMedia cooking ITV revenge binge Bravo ID king arthur sopranos rt archives twilight TIFF latino strong female leads heist movie 45 MSNBC docudrama Tarantino Warner Bros. monster movies toronto Academy Awards Travel Channel reviews Writers Guild of America DGA Instagram Live TBS Reality Competition Musicals Ovation Peacock action-comedy war Marvel spanish language new zealand screen actors guild FX Adult Swim police drama spider-man animated spain kaiju 2017 Pop TV football teaser deadpool rt labs Heroines Countdown technology stop motion Legendary Wes Anderson unscripted Set visit Shondaland italian 4/20 streaming movies scene in color comics Premiere Dates Super Bowl VOD DirecTV blaxploitation Netflix dogs SXSW AMC Plus 93rd Oscars Creative Arts Emmys comic stand-up comedy NBA Amazon Prime Video scary movies feel good ratings Fantasy The Witch VICE harry potter HBO Max adventure comic book movies Family all-time nbcuniversal rom-coms Funimation anime Polls and Games Comics on TV remakes 2016 Epix Turner Drama Mary Tyler Moore OneApp robots nature APB ABC what to watch Syfy asian-american high school AMC Anna Paquin National Geographic LGBT films Toys DC Universe science fiction free movies Tokyo Olympics Image Comics know your critic olympics The Walt Disney Company Paramount sitcom royal family Marvel Television 73rd Emmy Awards ESPN E! festival japanese Trailer Alien 2018 CW Seed Neflix Amazon Black Mirror Emmy Nominations travel zombie young adult Thanksgiving disaster kids movie Disney Plus saw TCM aliens CBS All Access ABC Family Shudder international live action facebook Elton John Ghostbusters target Rock Pop Horror news scorecard 90s TruTV justice league Freeform miniseries Photos ViacomCBS composers PlayStation women Calendar TCA 2017 crime Exclusive Video Western Christmas Fall TV franchise MCU PaleyFest Marathons Classic Film Universal Pictures spanish RT21 History Awards Tour HBO Go Lucasfilm YouTube Red USA Network FXX Starz Black History Month Rocky kong Sundance BBC One GoT popular Comedy dceu reboot trailers OWN romance Baby Yoda versus universal monsters VH1 BET adaptation Lifetime Spectrum Originals concert Disney streaming service legend 20th Century Fox 99% mcc french telelvision Paramount Plus CMT Infographic Columbia Pictures Spike Trivia lord of the rings parents The CW Kids & Family diversity Film Festival australia book adaptation President directors singing competition golden globes Mary poppins romantic comedy Pet Sematary psychological thriller Hear Us Out Cosplay finale best historical drama 21st Century Fox zero dark thirty canceled TV shows Hulu suspense Dark Horse Comics Comic Book LGBTQ king kong TCA Awards Red Carpet supernatural Captain marvel cars Disney+ Disney Plus Winter TV Oscars spinoff TV Land pirates of the caribbean black comedy crime thriller GIFs Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt NBC TV golden globe awards green book Lifetime Christmas movies Teen wonder woman richard e. Grant black Marvel Studios HBO new star wars movies elevated horror politics Vudu indie criterion Mudbound BBC America zombies worst YouTube psycho YA video comiccon cops crossover fresh 2019 thriller godzilla Disney cancelled TV series Reality a nightmare on elm street A24 marvel comics Tomatazos Sony Pictures nfl Mary Poppins Returns The Academy FOX Holiday boxing cinemax critic resources quibi Fox News serial killer Holidays game of thrones Superheroes MTV new york 2020 rotten south america mission: impossible period drama Acorn TV Crackle American Society of Cinematographers First Look 2015 Cartoon Network rt labs critics edition Showtime vampires screenings classics Biopics medical drama Tubi batman YouTube Premium sports Avengers WGN A&E Sundance TV hispanic heritage month mutant laika Spring TV blockbuster dc biopic marvel cinematic universe Tumblr casting child's play sequel Netflix Christmas movies boxoffice Mystery Crunchyroll stoner Women's History Month The Arrangement blockbusters space Television Critics Association Ellie Kemper critics Esquire Walt Disney Pictures Box Office werewolf Valentine's Day Brie Larson name the review transformers obituary natural history dramedy Star Wars See It Skip It Binge Guide live event New York Comic Con RT History Sundance Now Extras cancelled television scary hist renewed TV shows Pirates cartoon Rocketman television spy thriller series Podcast Paramount Network TV One children's TV japan Election Pride Month Nickelodeon theme song E3 comic book movie TLC First Reviews Amazon Prime toy story Grammys Universal IFC hidden camera docuseries Disney Channel witnail SDCC Amazon Studios genre james bond FX on Hulu emmy awards Logo GLAAD SundanceTV vs. die hard Apple TV Plus DC Comics Arrowverse Awards Year in Review cats Hallmark Christmas movies sag awards Apple Apple TV+ TV renewals halloween tv dragons Comic-Con@Home 2021 cancelled TV shows superman IFC Films Summer Certified Fresh 2021 prank crime drama razzies NYCC independent Nominations biography IMDb TV cults documentary art house Comedy Central PBS Mindy Kaling BBC venice Animation 71st Emmy Awards anthology adenture Musical chucky Turner Classic Movies TCA movies joker mockumentary game show Martial Arts Chernobyl halloween Discovery Channel Fox Searchlight Britbox superhero Chilling Adventures of Sabrina social media Schedule DC streaming service video on demand X-Men Video Games jamie lee curtis The Walking Dead sequels Country Song of Ice and Fire Music slashers rotten movies we love dreamworks Winners hollywood Nat Geo true crime tv talk San Diego Comic-Con dark political drama BAFTA Best and Worst breaking bad Rom-Com debate canceled Trophy Talk BET Awards streaming TV movies El Rey 007 ghosts award winner Broadway worst movies 1990s Character Guide 24 frames festivals Stephen King posters Pacific Islander