IFC’s latest comedy, ‘Brockmire’, follows a disgraced sports broadcaster making a comeback. It stars Hank Azaria, Amanda Peet, and Tyrel Jackson Williams. We got an interview with Azaria and Williams, as well as the executive producer & writer Joel Church-Cooper. Be sure to check out Season 1 when it starts airing Wednesday, April 5th at 10 PM!
Knockturnal: What is ‘Brockmire’ about?
Church-Cooper: The series is about Jim Brockmire. He’s a legendary broadcaster, sort of the Vin Scully of Kansas City. He’s been there for twenty years, and the day we meet him, he goes home and finds his wife having an orgy, and realizes she’s been cheating on him for some time. He then calls that day’s game, and while normally he would have three or four beers, he has a bottle of rye whiskey. So he has a breakdown in the seventh inning of the game, and it becomes legendary. It kills his career, he leaves the country for ten years, and comes back to call minor league baseball games – Single-A, lowest level of the minor leagues, in small-town Pennsylvania, thinking that he’s moved on. He finds out that that freakout clip, ten years ago, was the original viral video. He’s the Winnebago Man, he’s the Grape-Stomping Lady – you say “Jim Brockmire” and all everyone thinks about is that moment. Every other aspect of him has been forgotten, so what he once thought he could get beyond is clinging to him. [Brockmire] is about whether he can get beyond that level of infamy and find a new life in this town, with the people that he meets, calling baseball again for the first time in ten years.
Was it hard to balance the old-school media of broadcasting with new media, with the viral video aspect?
I think that’s actually the fun of the show. You take this old school character who – even though we catch up to the current day and he’s only maybe 52 – even when he was younger, he was still old school. He’s reaching back to a time of those old-school broadcasters, even though hes a little younger than them, and having that character be outside of America for ten years, then coming back in the present day. To me, it was an interesting contradiction that allowed for comedy. He’s a man out of time, a fish out of water, and that, to me, is what’s fun about the character. I specifically set him in this time and place to have the fun of a man who is an internet Hall-of-Famer that doesn’t use the internet. We have fun with his old-school sensibility, and then we pair him with his sidekick, a sixteen-year-old kid whose LIFE is the internet. So I thought having that back and forth was comedic gold
Were you a big sports fan before doing the series, or did this series turn you into one?
I’m a huge sports fan. I think it’s what allowed the series to have a level of groundedness. You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy ‘Brockmire,’ because I think there’s plenty of comedy and sex without baseball, if you don’t like baseball. But if you are a baseball fan, there’s a lot of baseball history and knowledge in the show that comes from Hank and I’s love of the game. I think that’s in the DNA of the show, and you don’t have to pick up on it, but if you’re a sports fan, I think you will. I think touchstones for me were films like Major League, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams – there was an inherent love of baseball that allowed those sort of sports movies to, even if you didn’t love sports, love the movies, because those movies loved sports. That’s what I wanted to have in the show.
TYREL JACKSON WILLIAMS
Knockturnal: Can you tell us a bit about your character?
Williams: I play Charles, who’s the social media expert for the stadium that Brockmire announces for. He’s a normal teenage kid who hates where he grew up, and wants to leave it in any way he can find. Brockmire is this new, scary whirlwind of a person that makes Charles’ life more interesting.
Did you find you were playing a stereotypical millennial? Do you think the show did a good job avoiding the stereotypes?
I felt like it got close to being a stereotypical millennial character. But there’s a lot of depth to Charles, and he’s not just a one-sided, phone-addicted character. I’m not a huge fan of that, because there’s more to this generation than that, and there’s more to Charles, so I really did appreciate that it was written that way. What I like most about this show is that it doesn’t see anything as one-sided. There’s nothing that’s really black and white – there’s shades of gray everywhere.
What was it like to riff with a comedy legend like Hank Azaria?
It was so great. It was easy, because he knew what he was doing. It was like dancing with somebody else who knows the choreography, but like really well, like better than you do. It was really good, and a lot of fun. There were a lot of times where I couldn’t hold it together, and I ruined takes, but what can I say? I was working with Hank Azaria.
Are you a big sports fan? Did the show make you more of a fan?
I’m actually really not a sports fan at all. I was hoping that this show would make me more of a fan, but it didn’t.
In that case, do you have a favorite fictional sports team?
Whoa, I’ve never gotten that question before. (beat) Man, that’s a great question. For now, I’ll say The Frackers, but I have a feeling there’s one I’m gonna remember, and I’m gonna really regret not saying.
Knockturnal: Can you tell us a bit about your character?
Azaria: Jim Brockmire is a baseball announcer. He was the man in Kansas City, until about ten years ago, when he walked in on his wife in flagrante delicto, as he would say, with another man. He had MUCH too much rye whiskey to drink, and blacked out & freaked out on the air, and got thrown out of baseball. And the series starts with that freakout, and then picks up with him ten years later, trying to make it as an announcer for Amanda Peet’s very bottom-of-the-barrel minor league baseball team.
‘Brockmire’ was originally a Funny or Die sketch. Did you know the sketch would be spun off into a series when you did it?
No. I mean, that’s sort of the idea, but that’s always the idea. It’s like “hey, if it’s any good, we’ll develop it into something.” But that never works out – except for this one time.
What drew you to the project in the first place?
It’s been an idea I’ve had since I was a teenager, in one way, shape, or form. I wrote the short with some friends of mine, and with a very good writer over at Funny or Die named Chris Kula. And then we just thought it worked, and that it would be really natural to tell the story of this guy. It’s about things I love – it’s about baseball, and sex, and hard drinking. They all go together – I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to have sex or watch baseball sober, but it’s very difficult to accomplish, so you want to combine those interests.
Are you specifically a sports fan, or are you a fan of sports in general?
Oh, I’m a Mets-Jets-Knicks fan. I’m a huge sports fan. I love baseball dearly, and when I think of guys like this – loving baseball itself is kind of an old-school thing to do. And this guy [Brockmire] is old-school, even for those guys. So how does a guy like this navigate the modern world? That’s one of the things the show is about.
Do you have a favorite fictional sports team?
FICTIONAL sports team? Well, that’s a very good question, because I love sports movies. I’d have to go with the Charlestown Chiefs, from the movie Slap Shot. I would say the team from Hoosiers, but they were real. That was based on reality, so I don’t know if I can count that.