Brian Huskey looks like the unassuming everyman. But that’s where his comedy lies.
Huskey, an original member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, has made a name for himself by playing average-looking guys with a dark core. That successful formula is on full display in “Mr. Neighbor’s House,” a twisted take on a children’s TV host that premieres Friday night on Adult Swim.
“I’ve always been fascinated by human struggle and insanity,” Huskey told IndieWire. “I’ve always found really dark stuff to be funny. I think a lot of comedians do. I realize for myself, because I do get cast in a lot of ‘everyman’ roles, it’s almost a source of pride for me to say, ‘I look like this, but I can do this.’ And this is what I get excited to express myself, through a darker explosion.”
Huskey is also a regular on TBS’ “People of Earth,” and has been seen on “Veep” and “Another Period,” in addition to commercials for companies such as Sonic Drive-In, Toyota and T-Mobile.
“Brian Huskey makes me laugh harder than almost anyone else in this world,” said pal Jason Mantzoukas, who is also an executive producer on “Mr. Neighbor’s House.” “His mild-mannered demeanor is the perfect mask for the dark, comedic genius within. Nothing makes me happier than getting to do this show with him. Both he’s a singular talent I love watching and because he’s a dear friend that I love getting to work with.”
In “Mr. Neighbor’s House,” Huskey plays a cheery, genial kids’ TV host who lives in a “Mr. Rogers”-style neighborhood. (Well, if Mr. Rogers lived in the bad part of town.) But soon the facade cracks, and viewers see Mr. Neighbor’s troubled psyche and struggle to maintain a grip on reality as he hosts the 31st anniversary of his 5th birthday (the day his mother abandoned him).
“It plays with the idea of having a very tenuous grip on control and reality,” Huskey said. “I like the idea of in a kids show, you have to have a lot of control over your tone and how you’re approaching your audience. We were trying to be faithful to that kind of tone and approach to the audience, the back and forth of the reality of a kids’ show and the reality that happens in one’s mind.”
“Mr. Neighbor’s House” was originally developed as a series pilot, which didn’t move forward, but it then became a special (although a series is still ultimately possible). The idea came from Huskey, Mantzoukas (“Childrens Hospital,” “The League”), and Jesse Falcon, all of whom do an improv show together. After one performance, the three began talking about children’s television, and sketched out a loose framework for the show.
Their buddy Rob Corddry (“Childrens Hospital”), who happens to be Huskey’s former roommate, had a deal at Adult Swim to develop projects, and together, they pitched the network.
“Adult Swim is very generous with letting you do what your idea is,” Huskey said. “They would only give notes that would guide the project toward what their demographic was. They liked that the show had a slow calm kids pace. But for the Adult Swim audience you needed more action to happen sooner.”
Nick Kroll, Mary Holland, Jon Daly and Steve Agee also guest star on the special.
Ultimately, Huskey said “Mr. Neighbor’s House” was inspired by David Lynch – and the idea of what a Lynchian kids’ show might look like. But he also watched “Mr. Rogers” and more recent shows like “Teletubbies” and “Yo Gabba Gabba” for influence.
“I also watched a lot of things from the 70s,” he said. “A lot of kids shows in the 70s had an idealism that also had a weird tone of menace to them. Sid and Marty Krofft, New Zoo Revue. I remember as a kid being really terrified by ‘Zoom.'”
Here’s a sneak peek at “Mr. Neighbor’s House,” which airs Friday, Dec. 2 at midnight ET (as Friday turns into Saturday):