Jim Carrey, exec producer of Showtime’s new hourlong dramatic comedy I’m Dying Up Here, set in L.A.’s celebrated, infamous stand-up comedy scene of the 1970s, says he’s wanted to do “something about this era” for a long time.
“At that time there was a beam that could catapult people to the stars, and that was The Tonight Show,” Carrey told TV critics at TCA today. “We all gathered around the heat of that. … If Johnny liked me it meant something to me, that I’m not only good at what I do but he thinks I’m intelligent and likes to talk to me,” Carrey said of starting a comedy career in that era. David Letterman, he added, had the same power. “He could slaughter you in a moment, in a word.”
The series follows an ensemble of up-and-coming comedians in L.A. in the 1970s being mentored by a brassy comedy club owner who runs her business with an iron fist. Watch the NSFW trailer above.
“This was the Era, the Moment, when Carson moved Tonight Show to LA and that became the Scene,” EP Michael Aguilar explained. “It shifted from New York to LA, and these guys were the kings of Sunset Strip.”.
One TV critic, noting that Chris Rock has returned to stand-up comedy, wondered if Carrey was mulling same. “No,” he responded.
“Why not?” asked the disappointed critic.
“Because I’m in the process of shutting layers of persona at this time of my life,” Carrey said.
The young stand-up comics cast in the series got asked if the ’70s stand-up scripts they are performing in any way have informed their current real-life stand up work. Not so much, they seemed to reply in unison.
Not a lot of ’70s comedy holds up today, Al Madrigal explained, calling some of the period material “super-hacky and horrible.”
Except maybe for issues of race and sexism, cast members agreed.
“This new administration is going to take care of all that,” snarked one cast member.
“Because people change once they get into the White House,” said Carrey, wrapping up the session with the punchline.