Comic-Con: The Brooklyn Nine-Nine Team Talked to Us About Prioritizing Comedy With Compassion
It should shock no one that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is popular around these parts. It’s diverse. It’s silly. It’s got a corgi. We’re not the only ones who love the hijinks of the ninety-ninth precinct, either, if their packed panel—and the lines around the block to step into the bull pen at their activation—at San Diego Comic-Con are any indication.
Fans from all over came to participate in their own comic-con heist and toast to the cast that’s brought us so much joy. After a cruel cancelation from Fox, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has flourished on NBC, and that makes sense; NBC has been the home of the rest of the “Schur-niverse”—the collection of shows overseen by Mike Schur, including Parks and Rec and The Good Place. NBC also seems to value comedy that comes from a place of kindness and hope, and that’s so refreshing right now. We talked to some of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s cast and creators about how comedy (and the people that make it) can set an example for a kinder world.
**Find the rest of The Mary Sue’s coverage straight from the floor of San Diego Comic-Con 2019, right here!**
Nine-Nine showrunner and co-creator Dan Goor (yes, he’s “not a doctor”) explained that the humor of the show, which comes much more of situations and self-deprecation than tired clichés and insults, is very intentional: “From the very start of the show, that’s always been the M.O.,” Goor said. “When Mike and I created the show, we had come from Parks and Rec, which also has a similar sort of tone … the characters that we had, we were able to find comedy that wasn’t mean or punching down.”
But doing that isn’t easy, says Terry Crews, who portrays Terry Jeffords. “It’s harder to not be demeaning. A cheap joke is just that. It’s cheap … it’s easy,” Crews said. “When I look at Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it takes a lot of skill to do what we do.” He also understands that that compassion is what has won Brooklyn Nine-Nine such a loyal audience. “This is why we’re here. This is why it’s seven seasons. This is why people have embraced us and we’ve become part of culture now, because of that respect.”
Earning that respect and trust from the audience is something important to Joe Lo Truglio, who plays Charles Boyle. “I think one of the advantages the writers have made is to kind of earn our place at the table to have issue episodes,” Lo Truglio explained. “We’re in a great position to present a perspective of the world that is very inclusive, as well as funny.” That humor makes it easier when Brooklyn Nine-Nine does tackle heavier issues, like sexual harassment, racial profiling or police corruption.
“That makes these episodes more palatable,” Lo Truglio said. “You got to remember that the comedy is why we started.”
Striking that balance between comedy and topicality is hard, according to Goor, but it’s in the writers’ minds. “We try to model the best version of the police possible,” Goor explained, “but at the same time, we really are conscious on not painting too rosy a picture … It’s always a balance with trying to have fun with them being police … and that they are trying to do good and be good, while acknowledging that there are problems in the police force in general.”
It’s a testament to the show, writers, and performers that it continues to be a success and still handle important issues with delicacy and flair. “I think inclusive humor that’s not mean-spirited can survive and can work, and we’ve proven it,” Lo Truglio said. The actors and creators all agreed that it came down to one person who helped set the tone of the show: “It begins with our number one on the call sheet: Andy,” Lo Truglio shared.
Andy Samberg (Jake Peralta) has “created an atmosphere that he’s happiest when he has his teammates get the ball and get the joke,” Lo Truglio went on. “When you have someone like that who’s number one on the call sheet, it trickles down. He sets a nice tone.”
Crews praised Samberg’s willingness to step back and take a B story to allow other characters and topics to be front and center. Goor was in complete agreement that Samberg’s humor and humility worked perfectly with the tone they wanted for show. “With Andy’s personality, and his comedic style, that sort of humor had great synchronicity,” Goor said. “With the actors that we have and the characters that we created, that was the kind of comedy that worked the best.”
When asked about the idea of comedy with compassion and the ethos of the show, Samberg explained that he has always wanted comedy to be something hopeful:
To me the reason that I love comedy and why I got into it is because it’s similar to Sci-Fi or fantasy … it’s a chance to, like, make the world into a cartoon and draw it in an image that is better than how it feels normally. And the way that that affected me when I was younger was to make me believe it was actually possible. And you can make people feel good by putting that good energy out there. And laughing with friends and with other people and with strangers sometimes is the best feeling that I personally felt growing up, and feel now. And it’s just a dream to get to do it for a job.
As an audience that loves to tune in to comedy that gives us hope for a better world, it’s a dream for us, to.
Jessica Mason is a writer and lawyer living in Portland, Oregon passionate about corgis, fandom, and awesome girls. Follow her on Twitter at @FangirlingJess.
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