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

Action royal family true crime Oscar dc book adaptation Pirates BBC One Pop TV Comedy unscripted anime docuseries 20th Century Fox Women's History Month a nightmare on elm street trailers CMT Pacific Islander Nickelodeon Watching Series technology 90s Bravo thriller NYCC gangster golden globe awards 45 anthology VH1 Avengers Amazon Prime Video Winners BBC America 71st Emmy Awards summer preview Countdown new zealand cooking Fox Searchlight Toys ESPN hollywood theme song Neflix docudrama Turner singing competition Pixar debate toy story indie crime drama Awards Tour award winner HBO Max Logo 2018 adaptation historical drama Heroines Disney+ Disney Plus discovery blaxploitation new star wars movies travel Hear Us Out vampires supernatural sequel dceu Writers Guild of America Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2021 marvel comics south america ghosts leaderboard comics slashers king arthur serial killer black sitcom lord of the rings Cannes cancelled Spike First Look screen actors guild target scene in color Summer Sony Pictures cinemax critics video on demand Emmy Nominations Lionsgate mockumentary zombie 94th Oscars DC streaming service scary Amazon political drama 93rd Oscars hist Animation revenge VICE CW Seed hispanic spanish Music spanish language National Geographic Universal animated 73rd Emmy Awards french prank Crackle transformers Marathons Apple Instagram Live History finale Character Guide Esquire canceled DC Universe VOD 79th Golden Globes Awards stop motion Premiere Dates elevated horror scene in color latino TIFF Polls and Games Cartoon Network christmas movies international aliens zombies Columbia Pictures Drama spy thriller football crime rotten movies we love Legendary Cosplay New York Comic Con ID YouTube vs. Holidays Film Festival FOX free movies young adult 2019 razzies 1990s Broadway diversity Best Director superhero Sundance comic TCA Winter 2020 Spring TV heist movie miniseries Baby Yoda 21st Century Fox The Witch game show high school Musical Set visit Geeked Week Exclusive Video Walt Disney Pictures cults President spain Amazon Prime blockbuster Fox News TV renewals talk show worst movies Pop PlayStation Valentine's Day Acorn TV Marvel Television cancelled television wonder woman Paramount Pictures NBC Wes Anderson TNT jurassic park dexter documentaries renewed TV shows comiccon mob Emmys scene in color film series Apple TV Plus PaleyFest Fantasy Superheroe scorecard Stephen King 72 Emmy Awards Certified Fresh jamie lee curtis MSNBC TBS ratings mutant DGA 2016 halloween dark Warner Bros. black comedy American Society of Cinematographers Best and Worst TruTV period drama biography movies summer TV ABC Family Musicals X-Men Shudder Lucasfilm festivals movie TCA 2017 binge TCA Podcast versus game of thrones GoT Marvel Studios marvel cinematic universe facebook medical drama Syfy Tumblr fresh Television Academy Television Critics Association LGBTQ Epix obi wan aapi rotten comic book movie kong nature WGN DC Comics Native Sony Turner Classic Movies casting Hallmark Christmas movies sequels Anna Paquin king kong Lifetime Christmas movies name the review 2020 Mindy Kaling stand-up comedy cancelled TV series sopranos Star Wars Celebration YouTube Premium MGM news Teen video natural history rt labs critics edition breaking bad Election new york broadcast Captain marvel GIFs fast and furious comedies CBS emmy awards Image Comics italian Hulu all-time rt archives book criterion Showtime Photos Vudu Tags: Comedy E! australia 24 frames critic resources Grammys romance justice league women Mary Tyler Moore 007 interviews Rock Ellie Kemper Rom-Com ABC SundanceTV Universal Pictures stoner Crunchyroll Netflix Christmas movies See It Skip It A&E venice mcc kids BAFTA Infographic monster movies Comic Book Paramount streamig Martial Arts Ovation Sci-Fi richard e. Grant social media ITV live action summer TV preview The Arrangement green book Schedule Trophy Talk Amazon Studios cats APB Shondaland IMDb TV E3 films Freeform Comic-Con@Home 2021 Pride Month Focus Features BBC reboot teaser remakes SXSW A24 Classic Film TV Black Mirror cars TV Land tv talk nfl Song of Ice and Fire Star Wars Disney police drama Sneak Peek Academy Awards doctor who kaiju independent IFC Winter TV TLC Marvel SDCC die hard Tokyo Olympics RT History 99% Super Bowl spider-man telelvision HFPA Sundance Now target child's play Country Video Games trophy Sundance TV Reality Tubi sports franchise Rocky dramedy streaming movies Ghostbusters science fiction live event Mystery best zero dark thirty San Diego Comic-Con Year in Review legend Comics on TV HBO Go 4/20 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Actress Dark Horse Comics Opinion TV One classics Box Office 2015 chucky Pet Sematary pirates of the caribbean Chernobyl Awards The Walt Disney Company Apple TV+ Superheroes Star Trek dogs reviews japanese know your critic FX on Hulu documentary Paramount Network laika Thanksgiving boxing Alien suspense Binge Guide quibi YA universal monsters Hallmark adventure politics james bond BET Awards 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards GLAAD composers spider-verse what to watch scene in color series Starz Endgame The CW SXSW 2022 RT21 popular cops Biopics Film festival Rocketman Peacock DirecTV YouTube Red olympics scary movies dreamworks TCM Mary Poppins Returns Indigenous PBS spinoff joker Fall TV Food Network based on movie Kids & Family Horror hispanic heritage month comic books psycho foreign Elton John ABC Signature LGBT Travel Channel godzilla twilight halloween tv Mudbound TCA Awards Family AMC Plus Britbox FXX robots MTV Arrowverse superman Prime Video Lifetime USA Network crossover Interview art house toronto sag awards nbcuniversal parents rt labs Christmas South by Southwest Film Festival Creative Arts Emmys OWN Discovery Channel genre Comedy Central disaster Paramount Plus harry potter Disney Channel Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt slasher Masterpiece Disney Plus Nominations Best Actor Tomatazos First Reviews action-comedy BET The Walking Dead cartoon obituary MCU screenings asian-american Reality Competition AMC saw archives Quiz ViacomCBS El Rey Mary poppins psychological thriller boxoffice Fargo CBS All Access space Disney streaming service FX The Academy The Purge worst romantic comedy OneApp Brie Larson crime thriller Trailer Extras Calendar japan Western hidden camera NBA television cancelled TV shows Oscars IFC Films concert CNN Trivia Funimation canceled TV shows Spectrum Originals USA strong female leads posters Netflix basketball Black History Month biopic series dragons war comic book movies blockbusters batman HBO Red Carpet Tarantino Best Picture TV movies satire witnail Nat Geo feel good WarnerMedia indiana jones streaming rom-coms 2017 children's TV directors golden globes Adult Swim deadpool werewolf mission: impossible adenture Holiday