Talk Nerdy With Us had a chance to chat with writer and producer of The Goldbergs, Dan Levy! In addition to The Goldbergs, Dan has a one-hour comedy special, Dan Levy: Lion, that will be streaming on Seeso on November 17th.
The Goldbergs is currently on their fourth season. As their writer and supervising producer of the show, can you tell us about the shenanigans that are to come?
(laughs) This season there are a lot of shenanigans! I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But you will definitely see Barry Goldberg fall into some ridiculous situations. I am writing a Star Wars themed Hanukkah episode that I am very excited about! There’s a lot more to come.
Adam Goldberg, the creator of this show, made it as an homage to his life in the 80s. How closely does the writing of the plotline align with his actual life?
It’s full-on his real life. Every character on the show is based on someone he knew and who he grew up with. It’s honestly incredible. Sometimes (in the writer’s room) you’ll pitch a story, and it really needs to align with his life for it to happen.
A lot of writers have different writing processes. Can you tell us a bit about yours? Is there anything that particularly motivates you to write, or do you just have an idea and write it down?
For me, I just keep a bunch of notes on my phone throughout the week. What I do when it’s time to sit down and write, I go through my phone, and I’m like ‘oh here’s this idea, here’s that idea!’ Sometimes it’ll be a standup joke. Sometimes it’ll be a TV show. Sometimes it’ll be a terrible idea (laughs).
For example, if I look through my notes right now, I have a note that says ‘stand up at your door video.’ I don’t even know what that means.
I have an idea about Norman Macdonald. Even though he doesn’t know, I have an idea for him. I also have a to-do list and grocery list for Trader Joes. So it’s really just a range of different ideas in my notes.
Well, I’m sure they all come around full circle eventually. Since the show is set in the era of the 80s, was it challenging to create a world through your writing of that decade? Was there a lot of research involved as far as lingo, culture, etc.?
I was born in ’81, so I’m younger, but I lived through that decade. A lot of stuff is nostalgic to me, and a lot of stuff are things I remember. But sometimes I have to use Google. To be like ‘hey what was that event? Oh yeah!’ So it’s that sort of thing.
I have to know…you appeared on The Office. What was it like working on such a critically acclaimed show with such an incredible cast?
That opportunity was really cool because I’m friends with (and I’ve known) BJ Novak for a long time. He directed that episode. So when they needed a guy who could be a ridiculous host, he felt like I was the person who could do that (laughs). He called me, and I went and did it. It was fun; everyone was super friendly. It was the last season; everyone was a pro, and they were in great spirits. BJ told me what to do, and I did it.
That sounds awesome. You’re a talented writer and a hilarious comedic performer. Is there one you favor over the other? Or do you enjoy doing both equally?
I like doing both of them equally. To be honest, there’s a lot more freedom in stand-up. Nobody gives you notes, and nobody can tell you what to do. Stand-up is always ideal because you get this gratification of not waiting for anything. You’re just putting it out there.
For TV you have to write something, and you have to rewrite something. You need to put it on the air. People need to watch it. Then they need to tell you how it is. With stand-up, I can literally think of a joke, perform it that night and leave knowing if it’s good or terrible.
While we’re on the topic of stand-up comedy, your special Dan Levy: Lion, is your first hour-long comedy special. Do you plan on doing more comedy specials in the future or was this a one-time thing that you wanted to try out?
This was a really huge thing for me. I’ve been doing stand-up for 16 years. I did a comedy [event] in 2008, and then I had my second album, Congrats On Your Success, come out in 2011. My plan is to tour in the spring and slowly build up an hour of material that hopefully won’t take 16 years! (laughs)
What’s it like working with such incredible actors on The Goldbergs, such as Wendi McLendon-Covey and Jeff Garlin?
It’s awesome! I love Jeff -I love them all. Jeff Garlin is great. He’s a comedian, so it’s always nice being with other stand-up comedians. They’re super talented, and it’s easy to write for them.
Is there a character you relate to the most on the show? Because they’re all their own kind of special and a bit crazy!
I probably relate the most to Adam, but the most fun to write for, for me, is Troy, he’s Barry. He’s so ridiculous; he does the most ridiculous things. Like in last week’s episode, he was trying to become a gym coach and he took that to the extreme. It’s always really fun to write for Barry. Especially for a comedy show, he’s a hilarious person. We can just get away with a lot of funny stuff for him.
For sure! In your comedy special you talk about your love for HGTV and real estate and home decoration. Is there anything else you nerd out over? Or is that your extent of nerdiness?
(laughs) Oh no! I nerd out over several things. I’m a big sneaker nerd. I’ve been collecting sneakers since 2000. That’s my most nerdy…I can really nerd out over sneakers! I feel like now it’s become such a oversaturated market. It’s almost becoming something I don’t like talking about because it’s everywhere. I definitely nerded out on sneakers back in the day. Not anymore! NOT ANYMORE! (laughs)
I nerd out on knives and weaponry. I spent a lot of my tweens collecting ninja stars, knives, samurai swords, throwing knives and anything else I saw in the Steven Seagal movies. But as I realize from talking about this out loud, it’s less nerdy and more concerning (laughs)! I don’t talk about it that much, but that’s okay.
I’ve also, I think it’s honestly because of The Goldbergs, I’ve slowly, secretly started to collect 90s Ninja Turtle action figures and Bart Simpson t-shirts. But I haven’t told my wife about this yet because this hobby is a lot more expensive than I thought going into it. (laughs)
Make sure you watch The Goldbergs on Wednesdays on ABC at 8 p.m. East Coast time!