This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us.
Drew Tarver plays Baxter Reynolds on Seeso’s “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$.” I sat down with Drew at the recent ATX Festival to talk about the show, whether he would want to create an improvised television show one day, and his DIY skills. Read on to see what Drew had to say!
How did you first get involved in “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$”? What was the audition process like?
Well I had, the comedy community in LA is surprisingly small — improv and sketch, that is. That’s the comedy that I came up in, taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre there. I had probably been doing improv for six, seven years, just like in shitty awful shows. Then eventually you get to a place where you can audition for a UCB team and try to get on a team there so you kind of have more of a built in audience, all the students are there. I obviously knew Kulap [Vilaysack] and Scott [Aukerman]. Scott had asked me to be on “Comedy Bang Bang,” his podcast, once, and I couldn’t do it. And then he never asked me again. It was like a one-off. I was like “Oh yeah, but I can’t,” and he was like, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll get you on it again.” And I didn’t hear from him ever again, and I was worried that I had missed my chance.
But they held auditions. My manager told me there was this project that Kulap was doing and I was just like, “I want to work with her so bad.” So yeah, I just went in and did a little scene and did some improv with Kulap. I did a few auditions, and they ended up casting me.
How would you describe it to people who haven’t seen it before?
I would say it’s a parody of “Million Dollar Listing” how “Reno 911” was a parody of “Cops.” That’s the quickest way I could explain what it is. It’s got that same “Reno” vibe to it.
How much did you know about the real estate world prior to this? Did you have to do any research for the show?
I hadn’t seen “Million Dollar Listing” hardly any, but I know those types of people; It’s that same LA-Grove kind of rich person if you gave them that job. I had been kind of dabbling in real estate myself, in my personal life, just being like, “Oh I want to try and buy this condo, put a new kitchen in it, live in it for a while, and then flip it.” So I knew some terms but I wasn’t too familiar. Then when I started auditioning for it, or once I got a callback, I downloaded a couple episodes [of “Million Dollar Listing”] and was like, “Oh yeah I saw what this was in my head.” It’s basically if you made the Kardashians sell real estate.
That would be one heck of a show though, if the Kardashians tried to do it.
If they had real jobs. [Laughs]
Right, exactly. Obviously you guys have some great guest stars. Do you have a favorite one that you’ve worked with?
I’m a huge Nick Kroll fan, and I got to do a scene with him. I got to hang out, I don’t think I got to do a scene with him, but Weird Al [Yankovic] was huge for me. Weird Al was the first real comedy I ever heard. I had his cassette tape.
Back in the day.
Yeah. [Laughs] But it’s really fun because every day someone I look up to is in the makeup trailer, and it is so fun to get to play around with them because you get to improvise a lot of it.
Do you have a dream person that you would like to have on as a guest star, and what would you want them to play?
Oh man. I’m a huge Danny McBride fan, and I would love for Danny McBride to come on and play my older brother or something who is just like a scumbag or like somebody who bullies or something. I’m obsessed with anything he does.
So anything he does you have to go see, whatever it is?
Absolutely. His first movie, “The Foot Fist Way,” I own, and when I first saw it it blew me away because he was just so specific, because I grew up in the South. I know those guys. I grew up in rural Georgia, like “Honey Boo Boo” territory, kind of near Savannah. So that was, when I saw “The Foot Fist Way,” it blew my mind. It was so funny.
Does the show shoot in the way that a normal episodic television show would shoot since it is so heavily based on improvisation?
It’s not at all like the normal shows I’ve done. They both have their pluses I think. The editors have it much easier on a real show versus our show because they just set up three cameras…There are different types of scenes. The office stuff has an arc and is like kneaded out from episode to episode, but how you get around within those beats is up to you. So we do like 15 minute takes where you go off on tangents and get back to it. Some of them are very strict like, “Alright, Baxter [Drew’s character], we need you to make Andrew feel like you’ve murdered someone, but be vague about it. Scare him.” So it can be pretty structured like that. But then it can also be like, “Alright, one of you wants to buy a bike. Go.” With those there is no real direction. And with the guest stars it’s a whole different thing because your comedy is dialed down, and you are there to facilitate them. So you’re basically–in improv it’s either straight man or crazy man; it’s usually one or the other in a scene. You either come in and straighten the crazy, or you are the crazy. When you’re in the office, you are the crazy. But when you’re out of the office and straightman-ing guest stars, it’s more about their characters. You kind of do double duty a lot. But yeah, long fifteen minute takes that we do three versions of and then the editors have to go, “Shit. What do we do we do with all of this stuff?” They really make the show. Because when we watch the show back, we’re like, “I don’t remember doing that stuff.” You’re kind of watching it for the first time.
Right. And in a scripted series, you know how it’s going to unfold. Obviously seeing it for yourself is different, but you have the scripts, so you know that comes after that.
Yeah. But I like it because you are actively thinking and creating all day. Versus when you are doing scripted stuff; it’s exciting too, but you just do your lines, and then you get the other side of it, same lines. There’s no surprise. All day I am laughing filming this show. The editors have to cut me out. According to the editors, Dan Ahdoot laughs the most, and then I’m right underneath him [laughs]. Like we’re tied for breaking the most because I just think everyone on the show is so funny that it is hard for me.
Would you eventually want to one day create your own improv-style television show?
Yeah, for sure. I write, and am attempting to sell, my own material too. For me, I’m in a sketch group in LA called Big Grande. We met at UCB and are developing a show for Comedy Central. The way we, and I, prefer to write is having an awesome script so that you can be like, “At least we got this.” I don’t trust myself enough to be like, “We’ll find something genius.” Even though I know if I surround myself with really funny people it’ll be fine. But I prefer to go in with something awesome and improvise off of that. If you get other great stuff off of that, awesome, which like “Bajillion” really has. We go in and do a table read before every season. There is a ton of stuff there.
For you to use to your advantage, I assume?
Yeah. But the way I do my sketch stuff is have an awesome script where the jokes are already there, so I don’t have to panic if some side bit I’m doing isn’t working, I can always go back to what’s already there.
Let’s move on to some fun questions. What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Lately I’ve been doing DIY projects. I rent, and I haven’t told my landlord about this stuff.
So DIY for your house or apartment or whatever you live in?
Yeah, for my apartment. I painted my kitchen floor, my tile kitchen floor.
I stenciled it. I painted it like a grey/black and white color… when you get in there, you’re like, “Oh I see that this is paint.” So I did that, and I love going to IKEA. There’s this website called ikeahacks.com or something like that and you can buy half of a cabinet and put different things on it to modify it to make it look better. So I’ve been doing a lot of that stuff. I also play guitar, but I can’t really commit. When you do comedy, committing to singing a song is really tough. I can’t take myself seriously.
Obviously we’re here at ATX celebrating the world of television. What are you watching right now, and what are some of your all-time television shows?
Right now, I’ve almost finished the second season of “Baskets.” I’m a big Zach Galifianakis fan.
I don’t know what that is.
Zach Galifianakis has a show on FX called “Baskets” where he is like a failed rodeo clown. No, he is a failed clown, and he becomes a rodeo clown beause that’s the only job he can find, and he’s obsessed with clowns. And Louie Anderson plays his mom, like dresses in drag and plays his mom. When I first started watching it, I was like, “Oh this is so funny. They put Louie in drag.” And then Louie, he’s playing it so real; it’s comedy, but it’s also devastating. I started being like, “Oh this show is so funny,” and the last few episodes I’ve cried in them. Because it’s comedy, but it’s like that dark sort of Louie world. This character reminds me so much of my mom and my grandma that I just cry watching, like how nuanced and real this character is.
It has some heart behind it.
It’s devastating. Maybe they’re not going for that at all [laughs] and I’m reading it the wrong way, and I’m crying when I’m watching this funny scene. But it’s like so real, that character is so real. It’s so good. Love that.
I was a big “30 Rock” fan; I could always watch an episode of that. And then I watch a tons of crime dramas, like not necessarily funny stuff. Even though “The Jinx” is horrifying, but it’s also really funny. [Laughs]
I don’t know what that is either.
It is Robert Durst. The best episode of television I’ve ever seen is the final episode of “The Jinx.” It’s like a six-part crime documentary about this wealthy guy in New York who apparently has killed multiple people. I couldn’t recommend it more. The last episode has–I’ve never screamed at the TV before then. It was crazy; it is really awesome.
Last question: our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, so what do you nerd out over?
I nerd out over Japanese fashion, like Japanese men’s fashion. I went to Tokyo over New Year’s. Even before that though, that was like a real experience for me because I rarely wear any of this stuff, but I love looking at it and fantasizing about wearing a big hat and a baggy pair of pants and dressing like a civil war soldier. But I really nerd out over Japanese fashions. Like it’s weird, but John Mayer is a big Japan fashion nut. I read this article once, and he was talking about his favorite Japanese brands, and I got to into it via John Mayer, which is a weird way to get into something like via John Mayer. But hey, it’s how it happened.
Every episode of “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$” is available to watch online on Seeso.