The comedy trio of Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl, and Ben Roy, three stand-ups previously based out of Denver, are about to see the second season of their TV series Those Who Can’t wrap on truTV. A workplace comedy set in a failing high school, with the three creators playing teachers as mature as their students (the fourth member of their group of misfits is librarian Abbey, played by Maria Thayer). In the first season, fellow stand-ups Rory Scovel and Kyle Kinane filled out the cast as peaceful Principal Quinn and hard drinking Rod. In season two, comics such as Cheri Oteri, Jason Sklar, Susie Essman joined the school staff as well. Before the show ends season two tonight, Adam and Andrew talked about how the show has evolved, high school comedy, and that questionable mustache Andrew sports as coach Andy.
Watch the season finale tonight! only on truTV!
The Interrobang: Did you approach production differently this season after being picked up for a second season before the first season aired?
Andrew Orvedahl: We wrapped season one before we were picked up. We weren’t still in production on the show when tru announced that. The show was already done. But approaching season two, we went in feeling less pressure because we knew for sure these episodes would air. Now we’re waiting to hear about a season three pickup and watched season two with a focus on how the show was being received by audiences, and that’s way more stressful.
The Interrobang: Did you find it easier to build on previous episodes and build stories around recurring characters this season, after audiences got a taste of what the show was really all about? Rory Scovel’s character left the show late last season, but you didn’t drop that storyline and now he’s back.
Andrew Orvedahl: Rory’s character went to prison at the end of season one, but came back at the end of season two. And we’d mention it here and there, but assumed people would keep that character in the back of their minds. We always strived to make a show that felt like episodes could stand alone, so people could drop in without feeling like they’d missed something and couldn’t catch up. But we also wanted the show to feel like it takes place in a larger world and we could include inside jokes or repeat things that viewers watching over weeks would catch.
The Interrobang: I read one of the biggest changes you made when the pilot was made for Amazon but the show was picked up by Tru was Maria Thayer’s character, Abbey. She went from being Adam’s love interest to being more like Elaine from Seinfeld and just became part of the crew. Why did you make the switch?
Andrew Orvedahl: When we wrote it for Amazon, we thought it would offer us the classic “will they-won’t they” relationship, kind of the Jim and Pam. But almost as soon as we started writing it, we felt like that was tired, and wanted to integrate Abbey into the story. So in the first episode, it’s addressed and then they make it clear they’re friends, they’ll stay friends. And it gave Maria more opportunities to just be funny and be her own character. We didn’t want to make her beholden to Adam’s character.
Adam Cayton-Holland: When we wrote and shot the pilot with Nikki Glaser in that role, we wrote the character that way because we were novices and thought, that’s what you do on a sitcom. There’s a love interest. Once we got more involved and started writing the show after it had been picked up, we thought “why is it always like that?” Let’s make her another character.
The Interrobang: Did that change the way you wrote your character?
Adam Cayton-Holland: It did. I wouldn’t call any of the characters the straight man. But the love interest is usually close to the straight man, and I started out that way. But when he didn’t need to carry the burden of a love interest, it allowed Loren to be weirder.
Andrew Orvedahl: Loren became more fun to write once we decided he wasn’t the ladies’ man, but just as pathetic as Andy and Ben.
Adam Cayton-Holland: I agree. It’s the Ross-Rachel situation. The romantic storyline almost elevates his narrative importance over the other two guys. And it’s more fun for the guys to be equally inept in their own ways.
The Interrobang: Is the high school on the show based on any of your high school experiences?
Andrew Orvedahl: We had pretty different high school experiences.
Adam Cayton-Holland: We aren’t trying to make it an accurate depiction of a school. This school would have been shut down. But I think we all draw from shared experiences we had in high school. The character of Tammy, played by Sonya Eddy, is based on my high school’s front office, and the bad-ass black women who wouldn’t take any shit from these kids. And I remember them being very funny, so I immediately wanted to write a character reminiscent of those women.
The Interrobang: Some of the students recur, but none of them have become main characters. Why keep them in the background?
Adam Cayton-Holland: We just always wanted to keep the story focused on the idiocy of the students. We have a few teens that feel like cult classic characters like Beth or Little Debbie. And they’re fun to have around, but we never want the show to feel too student heavy. When it does, we tend to dial it back and try to refocus our attention on the adults and their terrible behavior.
Andrew Orvedahl: The high school landscape is so expansive in pop culture already. There are plenty of high school movies and TV shows. But the world of teachers and administrators is underrepresented, and we already are juggling a lot of characters.
Adam Cayton-Holland: But if you watch the entirety of season two, you’ll notice the recurring teenage characters.
The Interrobang: You actually film in a high school?
Andrew Orvedahl: We actually film in an active high school. We film in Van Nuys High School. It’s where they filmed Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And some of the kids in the background are just real students, not extras. Those kids could not care less that we’re there. They don’t even glance at the cameras any more.
Adam Cayton-Holland: All the mystery and magic of Hollywood has just been squeezed out of them at this point.
Andrew Orvedahl: We’re essentially making a show about a terrible high school while making a real high school more terrible.
Adam Cayton-Holland: Excuse me, are you trying to have a future? Because I’m trying to film a TV show.
The Interrobang: Do you talk with any of the teachers about the show to see what they think about how you’re presenting their profession?
Andrew Orvedahl: Every teacher I’ve spoken with has said they loved it. A couple said it’s their fantasy. We’re showing something they could never do without facing the consequences. They seem to love it. And their feedback means a lot to us. We want everyone to enjoy the show, but to hear that real life public school teachers get a kick out of it after busting their butt all day for no money is great to hear.
Adam Cayton-Holland: One of the coolest things that happened is, we do live shows and we’ve started getting a lot of teachers in the audience. Teachers having their Saturday night out are coming to our shows in groups of like, 20. That’s the highest compliment we could get. We love it, we take pictures with them all the time.
The Interrobang: You’ve started to have a lot more guest actors from the comedy world, but Rory Scovel and Kyle Kinane were on it from the beginning. How did you get them involved?
Andrew Orvedahl: The show’s very stand up driven, the three of us being stand-ups. And we love both of their stand up work. And we became good friends. Kyle and I went to South Korea together. So the minute we got the pilot on Amazon, we knew we wanted them onboard.
Adam Cayton-Holland: They breathe incredible life into the characters they play.
The Interrobang: Have other comics asked about being on or needled you about a role that might be coming up?
Adam Cayton-Holland: We had this character, a guy running for mayor that felt like a very Trump inspired character. And we immediately thought of Patton Oswalt for the role. And his agents said “oh, Patton’s a huge fan!” And just the idea that he knows who we are was pretty great. That blew our minds. So he didn’t ask about being on, but just the fact that we didn’t need to convince him was amazing.
Andrew Orvedahl: Or Cheri Oteri, because her run on SNL was such a formidable time in our lives, and now we get to act opposite of her. Working with comedy icons is a great opportunity for us. And we get to help out a bunch of our friends, especially our friends from Denver.
Adam Cayton-Holland: We’re all about Denver. We take any opportunity to bring friends in the comedy world from Denver, who aren’t known nationally yet, and give them a part.
The Interrobang: You seem to take particular delight in focusing on Sex-Ed and health class. Why do you think that particular area of high school is so rich in comedy?
Adam Cayton-Holland: I don’t think we were trying to make a point, but we knew there would be humor in the taboo. Teachers talking to students about sex is inherently inappropriate, so we knew that world would be pretty funny. And Andy’s character is such a dummy, it’s funny listening to him explain the birds and the bees.
Andrew Orvedahl: None of them should be teaching that class, but someone that inept and with such little experience, makes it especially funny. My Sex-Ed teacher actually was the basketball coach, hated having to teach the class, and just showed grainy VHS tapes of horrific images of STDs.
The Interrobang: And then you have the added humor of that creepy mustache your character’s sporting.
Andrew Orvedahl: That is a gym teacher issued mustache.
Adam Cayton-Holland: Andy shaves that as soon as we wrap production, and now I just hate looking at his face without the mustache.