Fresh off the second season of Silicon Valley, editor Tim Roche now finds himself editing comedy year-round, splitting his time between Silicon Valley and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Though there are two editors on Silicon Valley, there is no first or second chair—instead, Roche edits odd-numbered episodes, while editor Brian Merken handles the evens.
“It’s an experience just to sit there and have someone tell you jokes all the time,” he says of the appeal of working in comedy. “Even in the cuts you don’t use or the improvs that don’t get in the final episode, you’re constantly laughing, and you want to keep the spirit of that sort of feeling alive.” With such actors as Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller and Kumail Nanjiani to contend with, Roche says his job is to “basically just try not to get in the way.”
A large part of the challenge of editing the series is also what is so appealing to Roche—managing the constant tonal shifts. “I love having a comedy scene buttoned up against a scene that’s maybe a little more emotional,” he says. In the first episode of Season 2 (“Sand Hill Shuffle”), for which he’s nominated for an Emmy this year, Roche had to balance a profanity-laden comedic montage against a somber memorial service for one of the show’s most beloved oddball characters, Peter Gregory. And despite the improv backgrounds of its lead cast, much of the series isn’t improvised. “I would say it’s 90- or 95-percent from the script,” Roche says. “Obviously, our initial pass is a little bit longer and we’ll definitely try to put any improvs in if we think they work.”
One of Roche’s favorite elements in his toolbox is the reaction shot. “What’s interesting about Richard (Middleditch), our main character, is that he’s a little bit of the eye of the storm, the sort of straight man of the show,” he says. “But (Middleditch) is so specific-looking that his reactions really tell you… He gets his best comedic performance, I think, a lot of times with the chaos around him; him reacting is the funniest stuff.”
Depending on the episode, the editing process takes between four and six weeks per episode. Roche’s background in reality TV lends to a working process that is somewhat unconventional. “Very early on I am scoring, I am sound-designing every moment,” he says. “(In reality TV) your pass has to be tight, and it has to have score, music, sound effects, the whole bit. Scripted TV has been different. I know a lot of people don’t do that. You’re trying to sell a cut, and that’s what you need to do.”
Back at work on Season 11 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Roche will then return for Season 3 of Silicon Valley.
To see some of Roche’s handiwork, click play below: