Lost in Thought: In Conversation with Paul Scheer

You might know him as Andre from “The League”—which ends its seven-season run this week—but Paul Scheer is cooking up many a strange brew.
Art & CultureFilm + TVIn Conversation
Lost in Thought: In Conversation with Paul Scheer

You might know him as Andre from “The League”—which ends its seven-season run this week—but Paul Scheer is cooking up many a strange brew.

Words: Jason P. Woodbury

December 04, 2015

Paul Scheer / credit unknown

Paul Scheer isn’t much like Andre Nowzick—the needy, brutalized plastic surgeon he plays on The League, which concludes its seventh and final season this week on FXX. But if he does share something with Andre, it’s his unceasing enthusiasm. For Andre, that on-board-ness leads to urban foraging and daft fashion choices. For Scheer, it fuels a pop cultural obsession.

And that means he’s a busy guy. In addition to working on Fresh Off the Boat and Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Scheer hosts the movie podcast How Did This Get Made? with June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas. He created and stars in the action spoof NTSF:SD:SUV for Adult Swim. And, of course, there are his two webseries: The ArScheerio Paul Show, in which he recreates old Arsenio Hall interviews, and Scheer-RL, in which he does the same thing with MTV’s TRL.

He’s also employed as a producer for Dannah Phirman and Danielle Schneider’s faux reality show The Hotwives, spearheads the Wolfpop podcast network, and pens comic books for Marvel.

We called Scheer to discuss the end of The League, his favorite podcasts, and how Transcendental Meditation has influenced his work life.

I’m sure that the end of The League is bittersweet for you, but in some respect, you’ve got to be okay letting go of Andre Nowzick, easily the most disrespected character in the history of shows about fantasy football.

[Laughs.] Yeah, it’s a large category. I’ve never worked on anything this long. It’s been seven years, eighty-four episodes. I think there’s a part of it that’s like wanting to get out of summer camp: “I’m done, let me go home now.” And then the minute you get home you’re like, “Wait a second, I miss everybody.”

Other characters use the word “douche” to describe Andre a lot, but he doesn’t seem like a bad guy to me. He’s the sweetest and the most thoughtful character on the show.

Andre cares about this friends; he cares about everything. I think he’s just hammered no matter what he does. Everything he does is not quite right. Even though he makes more money than the other guys, and is more successful than any of them, he’s still the kid they picked on in high school. Yet his confidence is pretty high. I think that was something I decided early on with the show: If you let this character be affected by how cruel these people are to him, you would root for him to kill them at the end. Go postal and gun them down. Andre has his moments when he gets sad, but for the most part he’s always able to spin things into something good—even the insults. He likes the way he’s dressed, he likes the way he lives, he likes the art and food he gets into.

I think there’s a part [The League ending] that’s like wanting to get out of summer camp: “I’m done, let me go home now.” And then the minute you get home you’re like, “Wait a second, I miss everybody.”

Even with The League ending, your schedule is insane. How do you know what you’re doing each day?

The benefit of what I’ve been able to do is that everything shoots in short amounts of time. The League only takes up about four months of my year. During that time, I’m jumping off to do Fresh Off the Boat when my schedule allows it. I think it’s the way I’m built, and I think it goes back to Upright Citizens Brigade and studying there and doing a lot of shows there. There would be weeks where we’d be doing five or six shows a week, especially when the theater first opened. We’d be doing something completely different every night, and every show was equally important. I like having a lot of stuff come in, because the thing I’ve found that makes me a little bit saner is not waiting around for someone to cast me in something. If I can go off and make my own opportunities, I feel more balanced and level-headed.

I get the sense you take a lot of joy from working. Has it always been like that?

I love performing. I love working with my friends. What I love more than anything is that every week I still perform at the UCB Theater, where I started, and I do two shows a week there. I always loved having that place, because no matter what you were doing [in your career]—working or auditioning—you could always go there and have a good time and play with your friends. Just do a fuck-around show. Lately, it’s all been about how we can take that mentality from UCB and bring it into the professional world. There are so many more opportunities now, as every cable network is producing original content, there’s internet/new media things, all these places where you can go and do what you want.

I love How Did This Get Made?. Like NTSF and Scheer-RL, there seems to be a specific kind of appreciation for the stuff you’re riffing on or goofing on. There’s a thread of pop culture obsession.

I’m totally driven by a love of pop culture. At the end of the day, I’m always a fan of—it sounds so general to say “entertainment,” but I get suckered into movies. I’ll cry, I’ll laugh. I’m not too proud. I have a filter so that I know when stuff is really good, but I can enjoy anything, really. I don’t know if it’s just from being a latchkey kid who just watched a ton of TV or what. I think there’s something ridiculous about past pop culture. Doing ArScheerio and Scheer-RL, it’s fun because you look at the seriousness and gravitas these performers have interviewing *NSYNC or Limp Bizkit. Looking back on it now, you’re like, “They are taking things so seriously.”

With How Did This Get Made?, you walk this fine line of both appreciating and pointing out the absurdity of the films you watch. Despite the show ostensibly existing to make fun of movies, more often than not I want to see the movies you discuss.

We genuinely enjoy these movies. Jason, June and I, we’re all writers, we’re all performers and producers; some of us direct, [so] we all understand how hard it is to make something good. It’s never coming from a place of meanness, but I think it’s coming from a general sense [of] “Oh my god, have you seen this thing?” That’s the goal of our show: we saw this movie that’s so crazy, we gotta tell you about it.

I’m totally driven by a love of pop culture. I get suckered into movies. I’ll cry, I’ll laugh. I’m not too proud.

You head a podcast network, Wolfpop. What are a few of your top podcasts right now—your favorites?

I love Note to Self, which is an NPR podcast about dealing with the technology we have in our lives. I enjoy the Dan Carlin one—not Hardcore History, but Common Sense, where he takes a weekly event and views it through the perspective of history. I’m a big fan of Tom Scharpling’s The Best Show, which recently went from WMFU to podcast.  I think that show is genius. I love listening to this show OMFG, which is actually on Wolfpop, about two women in their late 30s who are trying to stay cool and hip. They have people on their show, and the only rule is that you have to be under twenty-five, and they interview them about what’s going on in their lives. It’s just fascinating.

You’ve written Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy comics and your own book, Aliens Vs Parker. Do you have plans to do more?

Marvel has given my partner Nick Giovannetti and I pretty much an open door to come back and do another book. It’s just an incredibly time-intensive job. We’re definitely going to come back to it. Right now Nick and I are focusing on doing a cartoon for Adult Swim, but we’ll always come back to comics.

You practice Transcendental Meditation. How does that factor into your creative process?

I stumbled upon that. I’ve heard Howard Stern talk about it for a long time, and I had some friends who were doing it. My wife and I took a class. I don’t know if you could call it “getting certified,” but we took a class and it’s enormously helpful. I have a baby—eighteen months old—and whenever I’m not working or at home with him, I’m sleeping. [Laughs.] To take those two twenty-minute chunks… Sometimes I’m able to get them, sometimes I’m not, but I keep on trying. What I love about it is that it gives you twenty minutes for yourself. It takes everything out of the equation. In those moments, I find ideas generate, problems get solved. It’s just shutting everything out. It’s so rare to get that, with my schedule and with the baby. To take twenty or forty minutes a day and say “everything is nothing right now” is this kind of magical awesome moment. I really strive to do it and continue to do it. I wish I were David Lynch and could just do it non-stop for the rest of my life, but I’m trying. FL