Last week's episode ended with Kenny holding a dinosaur dildo. But that was a toy he made for his kid, and the kid just went away with his mother, so it was a surprisingly downbeat and almost touching conclusion. Do those kind of moments surprise you?
I don't know. You set up these things and they just have a way of working their way in. We do write jokes. I don't want to act like we don't. But the way we structure the scenes are just like a drama, and then we put jokes into it. We think it's funny that Stevie (Steve Little) puts on a wig to dress up. So what you have is essentially a dumb wig joke. But what he's putting into it is a lot of meaning. He's doing this to get his girl back. It's the same thing with the dildo. We think it's funny, but we try to play things sort of realistically: It's not just, "Here's a dildo," it's "Here's a dude and a wacky dildo joke in a realistic way."
I think it also speaks to the wiggle room you have on TV now. You probably could not have made an explicit dildo joke on TV a decade ago.
We just write what we think is funny and HBO lets us do it.
They've never censored you?
There was an issue with one show we wrote during the first season. Back then, HBO was more nervous because they didn't know what the show was. We wrote this episode where Kenny gets his car stolen and Craig [Robinson] gets kidnapped by devil worshippers. HBO freaked out because they thought these were supposed to be real devil worshipers, like Charles Manson or something. Really, it was like redneck dudes wearing baggy raver clothes who were into "Star Wars" as well as the devil. It ended with Danny bringing one of the devil worshippers to church and trying to cure him on the altar.
Yeah, exactly! We're going to make that episode at some point. But that was the only one they ever really protested. They still joke about that episode whenever we write something they're not comfortable with. They're like, "Is this the devil worshipper episode?"
Has your work on the show had any impact on your production company, Rough House?
"Eastbound" opens us to doing different things. It's a comedy that breaks all the rules that TV comedies adhere to. If anything, it lets us have a little more creative freedom. People want to see a different take from us. Nobody comes to us and ask for an odd couple NBC show. And we're very protective of our image. We don't want to come out with some cookie cutter shit because there's a lot of money involved.
Assuming the show goes away for a while, what's next for you?
I'm just writing this feature now. I want to tell you about it, man, I just can't yet. It's not a comedy. I'll say that.
With that project plus David Gordon Green's upcoming "Suspira" remake, it sounds like you guys are making a coordinated move away from comedy.
I never wanted to become a comedy director. I made "Foot Fist Way" and some doors opened. I'm trying not to limit myself to a genre.