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

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