Jay Baruchel a hapless hero in new FXX comedy 'Man Seeking Woman' - InfoNews

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Jay Baruchel a hapless hero in new FXX comedy 'Man Seeking Woman'

Jay Baruchel arrives at the LA premiere of "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" And "Man Seeking Woman" at the DGA Theater on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, in Los Angeles. Baruchel plays a hapless hero in the new FXX comedy "Man Seeking Woman." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
January 14, 2015 - 10:40 AM

TORONTO - The scene: a community hockey rink in northwest Toronto. On the ice: two figure skaters practising their moves. Lurching in and out of the spotlight: Jay Baruchel.

The 32-year-old Ottawa native wrote and starred in the hockey feature "Goon," but on this day his skating style is more buffoon. He's wearing an old Paul Henderson-style hockey helmet along with skates and street clothes. Awkward and gangly, he's stumbling all over the ice like a camel on roller skates.

The director lets the scene run on for a full three or four minutes. "I'm all sort of beat up now," says Baruchel later.

The things he won't do for "Man Seeking Woman," a new comedy premiering Wednesday on FXX Canada.

Baruchel plays Josh Greenberg, a painfully shy, twenty-something loser who just broke up with his girlfriend. He seeks true love, but is truly a disaster at dating.

The series is wildly weird and imaginative.

Greenberg is set up on a blind date with what turns out to be a troll. His ex-girlfriend has a new man in her life — a still-alive Adolf Hitler. A little rain cloud follows him wherever he goes — literally.

"It's basically a very simple show about a guy looking for love," says showrunner and executive producer Simon Rich.

Despite the Larry King suspenders he wears on set, Rich looks ten years younger than his 30 years. When he was 22, he became one of the youngest "Saturday Night Live" writers ever. A Harvard grad, he's penned comedy pieces for the New Yorker and "The Simpsons" and even worked at Pixar. He's never been a TV showrunner before, but FX president John Landgraf loved his pitch, based on his book of short stories, "The Last Girlfriend on Earth."

Baruchel, says Rich, was always key to the project. Rich first saw him in "Almost Famous" and tracked his career back to the short-lived Judd Apatow comedy "Undeclared." He knows it sounds like hyperbole, but Rich compares Baruchel's gift of physical comedy to the great silent film star Buster Keaton.

"He radiates sympathy" and is the "perfect underdog hero," says Rich. "The dream was if we could get Jay maybe we could pull this off."

The actor says he was blown away by the script.

"It read like the best short film I'd ever seen," says Baruchel, who could relate to Greenberg's sense of inferiority.

"I was the same size as every other kid until I hit Grade 7," he says. "Then they kept growing and I stopped."

Baruchel says he was beat up for years "by kids twice my size." He decided to beat himself up first.

"I started flinging myself into lockers," he says. "Pretty soon they left me alone."

Around the same time he discovered Keaton, Rowan Atkinson from "Mr. Bean" and Michael Richards on "Seinfeld." Slapstick became a calling, although he is humbled at any comparisons to those comedians.

"The height of creativity is to be able to do something super funny and super depressing in the same beat," he says, giving all credit to Rich's script.

"Nobody cares about a sad sack if there is nothing funny going on."

Still, Rich isn't the only one on the set who feels they've struck gold with Baruchel.

"He's the best actor in North America," says veteran comedy writer Ian Maxtone-Graham ("Saturday Night Live," "The Simpsons").

"His facial acting and his emotion are so good. We sit and watch his face on monitors for 12 hours a day. This show puts him through hell — emotional hell and physical hell and embarrassing hell and he's got to do something interesting every time. And he's got that many moves."

On one episode, says Rich, they actually send the character to Hell — the location of a destination wedding.

"Our show is essentially we just torture him for 21 minutes a week," says Rich.

Stand-up comedian Eric Andre ("2 Broke Girls") plays Greenberg's smooth buddy Mike. Britt Lower and Maya Erskine play his sister and his ex. Bill Hader shows up in a key role, although viewers may not spot him until the credits. Ennis Esmer ("The Listener") put on skates for the ice rink episode. Lorne Michaels is among the executive producers.

Baruchel is especially pumped that Mark McKinney plays his dad.

"That show raised me," says Baruchel, a big "Kids in the Hall" fan.

"We're raised to think Canada's not cool, then I saw 'Kids in the Hall' and I saw that bad-ass opening sequence where they're all ambling down the streets of Toronto in black and white and I thought, why not? Why aren't we as cool as anywhere else and what is cool?

"Those guys are a massive inspiration to me. To get to work with him and pick his brain and find out he's equally a patriot and also a history nerd like me — we became fast friends."

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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