Paul Scheer is definitely someone that wears many hats. An award-winning American actor best known for his roles on hit shows such as Black Monday, The League, Fresh Off the Boat and Veep, Scheer is also a comedian, producer, director, Marvel comic book writer and podcaster.
From his early days of doing improv with the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) – a highly influential comedy company co-founded by Amy Poehler whose alumni includes the likes of Donald Glover, Aubrey Plaza and Ed Helms – in the late ’90s, Scheer has been working nonstop and continues to fill out his jam-packed resume with new and interesting creative pursuits. For someone with such a prolific career, what’s some of the most memorable work-related advice Scheer has received?
“Follow what you’re passionate about and don’t let anything dictate it either way,” he shares. “So, if everyone’s doing a podcast and you have no reason to do a podcast – don’t do a podcast. Just don’t follow a trend because it’s happening. Instead, I think it’s better to do what you want to do. That’s always something I feel is important to say because so many people are just doing the things that they think other people want. But I think what people really want is what you want to do.”
When approached by both young up-and-comers and more established professionals who are looking for tips on how to boost their own creativity or moving ahead as an actor, director, podcaster, writer – or in any career for that matter – Scheer offers similar tips. For him, the key to truly succeeding is doing something that makes you happy and that you’re proud of.
“It’s always about passion and then finding like-minded people to collaborate with,” he says. “I think whenever there’s something like financial considerations or perceived coolness dictating a choice, that’s the wrong way to approach stuff. A lot of people often ask about how to achieve success when I think the question they should be asking – and this can be really hard to answer – is am I happy with what I’m doing?
“The only thing you have total control over is creating a body of work that you’re proud of. Fame is fleeting and success can come from the weirdest things. So as long as you keep doing things that you’re proud of, you’re winning.”
When asked what drives him to keep such a busy calendar, Scheer’s answer is simple: “I just want to keep on making stuff.” He goes on to explain that a show like Black Monday is filmed over the course of 12 weeks leaving him with lots of time to take on the many other things that pique his interest.
He feels that his early training with the Upright Citizens Brigade helped instill a sort of punk rock aesthetic of how to do comedy and make things happen in your career – which is essentially to do it yourself. That mentality is definitely beneficial to anyone looking to branch out and try new things.
“Don’t wait for other people to call you,” he says. “That’s been the thing that I always go back to, no matter what I’m doing. I can create my own opportunities. But that’s not to say they always work. When I was first starting out, I was doing seven shows a week, sometimes to four people in an audience. One time I did a show and there was only one person there. But you just keep on going. And you really need to find like-minded people. I still work with people from UCB to this day. We’ve still all got each other’s back.”
Although Scheer co-wrote the Marvel comic book series Cosmic Ghost Rider Destroys Marvel History and has worked on Deadpool and Ant-Man comics as well, getting the chance to act in a Marvel film is still on his list of things to achieve. Scheer is quick to admit he’s a huge fan of big budget flicks and would love to one day star in a superhero, Star Wars or Mission Impossible movie. In the meantime, though, he continues to network and build relationships with people he can learn from and potentially one day work together with on bigger and better things.
“I’ve made some amazing connections on every project and hopefully can collaborate again with those same people on something different. And I’ve been very lucky to be supported by people who I really agree with and respect. Seth Rogen is someone I think is absolutely amazing and every chance I get to work with him I’m always taking notes because he’s the guy who is writing, directing and producing. He’s smart, funny and a great actor. It’s people like him that I really look to and model any kind of career on. I’m like yes, more of that! More of these people who are so passionate and are able to work in so many different fields.”
Scheer continues to gain more attention for podcasting. He had done radio shows in the past but wasn’t a fan of the set schedule and the structured format that most programs tend to have. But podcasting gave him the freedom to do something he enjoyed on his terms without having to make significant time, financial or emotional investments.
“The idea of getting into podcasting was purely for a love of the format,” he says. “And I think also it shares a disposability with improv, you know? You record it, you release it and you’re done and can move on to the next thing. I’m always looking for those kinds of things in entertainment. There are shows that we work so hard on and you spend weeks and months breathing a story, editing, acting, doing it all. So, it’s nice to be able to have things like podcasts that you can just do and they’re like little pops. I love that.”
Scheer started his How Did This Get Made? podcast in 2010 with his wife, actress June Diane Raphael (Grace & Frankie, Long Shot), and actor Jason Mantzoukas (The League, Brooklyn 99, Parks and Recreation). The trio have now worked together for nine years and have produced more than 200 episodes celebrating truly terrible movies. Last year, Scheer also started his Unspooled podcast with film critic Amy Nicholson. Unspooled examines the greatest flicks of all time and was included on Esquire Magazine’s “The Best Podcasts of 2019 (So Far)” list in June.
Just for Laugh’s Toronto festival JFL42 runs until October 1 and will feature a live episode of How Did This Get Made? Scheer is excited about doing the show in Toronto and explains that he and his co-hosts strive to create unique experiences for each crowd and encourage audience participation to get everyone involved in the process.
“First and foremost, we’re all live performers,” he says. “So, we love getting on stage and interacting with the audience. Every show is completely different and we never know what’s going to happen, which makes it more fun for everyone. Everybody gets to be a part of the show. Whether that’s just as an audience member who’s enjoying the jokes with us, or somebody who’s asking questions, or singing a song or coming in costume, for that night we all share one experience.”
Before concluding our chat, we wanted to ask Scheer about insurance. As someone who is involved in so many different fields, is there anything he’d like changed about the world of insurance?
“I think what I would love is making sure that when you’re choosing an insurance policy that you have some transparency to really match you up with the right company for you. Sometimes it can be very daunting. There’s a lot of small print in that field, and it’s important to feel like you really are understanding what you’re getting and have a personal connection with somebody who isn’t just there to sell to you and make a commission, but they actually want to protect you for the life that you live.”