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

Warner Bros. Crunchyroll Infographic YouTube Premium Year in Review TCA Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt FX Teen Thanksgiving Apple GIFs Disney space canceled TV shows christmas movies composers CBS Best and Worst sports crime werewolf psychological thriller Esquire game of thrones Netflix Mary poppins Musicals kids game show Mary Tyler Moore spain Brie Larson dceu 2018 Box Office renewed TV shows Amazon Nominations FOX Marathons Ghostbusters rotten movies we love Polls and Games Red Carpet cinemax Disney+ Disney Plus ESPN festivals hispanic YouTube Red Fantasy zero dark thirty robots Valentine's Day Lucasfilm finale Disney Channel Black Mirror batman joker crime drama Photos Food Network true crime Marvel Television SDCC adventure diversity aliens mockumentary CW Seed Extras Toys NYCC Spectrum Originals breaking bad dc Anna Paquin Awards The Witch SXSW Ellie Kemper Sneak Peek 007 miniseries Binge Guide Comics on TV SundanceTV 2019 talk show unscripted 2016 Bravo CMT richard e. Grant Tumblr Superheroes PBS See It Skip It toy story E! TCA 2017 boxoffice Awards Tour LGBT Podcast medical drama blockbuster Comedy Set visit Peacock Opinion 71st Emmy Awards Reality based on movie Adult Swim Fall TV USA Sci-Fi golden globes dramedy cancelled TV shows Trophy Talk Acorn TV political drama The CW Horror justice league WGN Apple TV+ 2017 Ovation anthology historical drama streaming Apple TV Plus nature AMC Super Bowl foreign facebook Pop Hallmark cancelled television IFC adaptation BBC comic Grammys singing competition vampires screenings Music theme song Walt Disney Pictures serial killer Arrowverse VICE cooking Musical Netflix Christmas movies A&E Lionsgate elevated horror Star Wars Winners spanish language TLC Cartoon Network Reality Competition travel President Television Academy Cosplay sitcom BBC America Turner Classic Movies Writers Guild of America strong female leads Hulu Britbox cults Rocky The Purge Schedule Comedy Central Countdown ghosts cops Comic Book Mindy Kaling DirecTV Captain marvel book RT History 21st Century Fox 2015 PaleyFest Holidays NBC ratings First Reviews 2020 Heroines YouTube TV children's TV Marvel Studios cars Sony Pictures History Premiere Dates ITV Star Trek Columbia Pictures Amazon Prime Video Rock Election Chernobyl Creative Arts Emmys Mystery Vudu Winter TV video romance Chilling Adventures of Sabrina revenge Calendar thriller supernatural dragons Pixar CNN series BET DC Comics MCU technology Christmas Video Games jamie lee curtis Shudder witnail Western Stephen King Mary Poppins Returns Biopics Pride Month Logo cancelled Disney streaming service USA Network LGBTQ spy thriller ABC Family Oscars cats television Drama independent Masterpiece MTV Hallmark Christmas movies APB Starz IFC Films GoT Spike National Geographic Women's History Month 20th Century Fox 45 DC Universe FXX crossover Paramount Kids & Family casting TV Land Spring TV Shondaland slashers OWN Superheroe binge Cannes movies zombies Pirates police drama period drama TCM Watching Series Family what to watch DGA latino TV renewals Interview green book Universal halloween award winner GLAAD San Diego Comic-Con Trailer anime Tarantino politics Elton John Trivia Disney Plus Rom-Com American Society of Cinematographers Film 24 frames Syfy TIFF HBO RT21 A24 transformers X-Men comics Martial Arts indie Certified Fresh Turner E3 Lifetime Christmas movies biography natural history versus MSNBC Marvel Nickelodeon harry potter Emmy Nominations Film Festival comiccon Paramount Network The Walking Dead spinoff TBS blaxploitation quibi Action VH1 Country spider-man TruTV Sundance Now Lifetime tv talk docudrama Character Guide Animation social media Freeform hist Song of Ice and Fire teaser mutant Rocketman Emmys science fiction ABC south america psycho DC streaming service YA Summer Mudbound stand-up comedy Showtime romantic comedy CBS All Access The Arrangement free movies HBO Max discovery Amazon Prime Fox News Dark Horse Comics El Rey WarnerMedia Sundance animated New York Comic Con zombie cartoon First Look Holiday cancelled TV series Classic Film Pet Sematary Tomatazos crime thriller sequel Crackle doctor who Nat Geo TNT war canceled Epix disaster Quiz