ABOVE: ADAM PALLY
It is perhaps tempting to dismiss Adam Pally’s style of acting as a man-child cliché—his characters are often immature beyond their years and on the receiving end of other character’s jokes for an easy laugh. But it would be unfair; the context in which Pally utilizes his “man-child-ness” not only makes him interesting, but also extremely laudable and progressive.
In the now cult-classic Happy Endings, which ran on ABC for three seasons before its cancellation in 2013, Pally portrayed Max Blum: a freeloading, unkempt, often-unemployed and lazy slacker who had a penchant for reclining on couches while watching TV and playing video games. Cliché? Absolutely. However, his character was a gay slacker, thus paving a new road for anti-stereotypical depictions in the LGBT community. His dry-witted and deadpan portrayal of Blum (“Oh boo-hoo, you can’t get a cab, I can’t get married or into heaven”) afforded him a copious amount of praise and positive recognition throughout the series’ run.
Soon after the demise of Happy Endings, Pally was offered perhaps his best-known role as Dr. Peter Prentice on The Mindy Project, which he began in Season Two. Pally portrays Prentice in the manner of a man-child, bro-ish hybrid on the exterior —swearing his lifelong allegiance to his fraternity at Dartmouth while over-sharing his sexual conquests—but again with an anti-stereotypical twist: he’s a very respectable and talented gynecologist (and he even fakes most of his “sexual conquests,” to boot). You can’t help but root for his slightly flawed yet lovable demeanor.
Pally is not only recognized for these roles, of course. A talented improviser, he frequently performs with the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles, and had small roles in the films A.C.O.D., Iron Man 3, and The To Do List. Later this year, he’ll be starring in his first role as a leading man in the buddy-comedy Search Party.
Earlier this month, Interview called up Pally while he was on-set for The Mindy Project in Los Angeles to discuss the show’s third season, improv and potential dramatic roles.
DEVON IVIE: When did you first realize you were funny?
ADAM PALLY: I moved around a lot as a kid, and when you’re always entering new places at that age, you kind of have to learn how to adapt yourself, and I felt a really powerful way to do that was to make people laugh. So I always looked at each class like a new stage—I was a precocious kid. And I think it started all from there.
IVIE: You started off at the University of Arizona before transferring to The New School to pursue a career in the arts. Did you have an “a-ha” moment that solidified that you wanted to start anew and pursue this type of career?
PALLY: It’s interesting. My parents were entertainers. My dad was an actor and they were both in a band called Pally and Pal that toured the Catskills—that’s how they made their money. So I was always interested in the entertainment industry and I always knew it was want I wanted to do. But I was also the worst student on the planet, like borderline brain-dead. The school psychiatrist would talk to me and be like, “Did you not understand the problem?” “Are you just not paying attention in class?” “What is happening?” But I had no answer for her. So the only college I got into was The University of Arizona, and I kind of wanted to go there and party. I was in a great fraternity and I had a fun time. And then at around 19 I realized that I really didn’t have any skills other than making people laugh, so I should probably pursue it full-time. So I moved back to New York, where I’m from, and started The New School on the same day and then the Upright Citizens Brigade.
IVIE: Speaking of Upright Citizens Brigade, do you prefer improv and sketch comedy to a scripted series, or vice versa?
PALLY: I say that I like both, because I just like being funny. There’s a common misconception with sketch comedy that you just go up there and wing it, but it’s written, and there really is order.
IVIE: Do you remember how your first improv show went?
PALLY: I don’t remember any of the bits from it, but I remember doing a bunch of stock characters and voices. I really wanted to get a laugh, and I got the laughs. I think I played Barack Obama and Morgan Freeman talking about The Shawshank Redemption.
IVIE: What was your audition process like for Peter for The Mindy Project?
PALLY: I didn’t actually audition for Peter. I was a little friendly with Ike [Barinholtz] and Mindy [Kaling], and I saw Chris [Messina] a little bit in New York. My previous show Happy Endings got cancelled on a Tuesday, and I got the call with an offer luckily enough on that Friday. I really respected and admired Mindy, so I thought it would be a cool way to work on a different project. I was all in.
IVIE: It seems that despite your character only coming on for Season Two, you’ve already amassed a greater following than most of the characters that have been on the show since day one. Did you realize how popular Peter was going to become when you were reading the first few scripts?
PALLY: No! Because I was actually only supposed to come on for one episode, and then it kind of started growing and growing. I try not to read any stuff about it because I don’t want to be worrying about the writing or worrying if I’m going to be on next week. So no, I didn’t know, that’s very cool.
IVIE: What can we expect with Peter’s storylines this season?
PALLY: You’re going to see a lot of Peter’s dating life and a lot of his single life. Now that Mindy and Danny are together still, I think Peter’s the logical character to tell these storylines. I think Peter may grow up a bit, which will be fun to get to play.
IVIE: Have there been any particularly memorable moments on set shooting Season Three thus far?
PALLY: No, no, no. I’m checked out. I don’t remember much of it. [laughs] Every day is super fun—you’re working with the top tier of comedy writers who have worked on The Simpsons, The Office, and 30 Rock and you’re also working with the top tier actors. What could be better? It’s hilarious every day.
IVIE: Do you have a lot of teens come up to you in the middle of the street, gushing about the show and asking all sorts of questions about Mindy Kaling?
PALLY: No, I would say that in general people think I went to high school with them or that we made out at sleepaway camp. Or they say that they love me on New Girl. [laughs] I would kill to be one of those guys that Hollywood shoves down your throat. Give me a couple of chances and I’ll take them.
IVIE: You’re also starring as a leading man in the film Search Party, which will be out this fall. How did your involvement with that come about?
PALLY: I had known Scott Armstrong for about 10 years, who’s the director. He also wrote Road Trip and Old School with Todd Phillips. I read the script and I thought it was super cool, it was a like a “bro-farce” that was really fun. I really wanted to do it —Todd is one of my idols and Scott is an amazing writer. And then I found out they cast T.J. [Miller] and Thomas [Middleditch] who are two of my buddies, so then I was like, I have to do it no matter what. So I kidnapped Scott’s family. Scott held out for a month, and was willing to let his family perish. But then I think he felt guilty so he came around and gave me the lead. We shot it last summer and it was awesome and funny.
IVIE: Did you enjoy shooting in Louisiana?
PALLY: No. Jews are not super welcome there. The people are great, but not the humidity. You know what I mean? It was rough. [laughs] I actually liked shooting in Albuquerque—it was kind of cool to be dropped off in the middle of the desert and not see anything for miles; it was pretty bonkers.
IVIE: Have you ever had an interest to pursue drama as opposed to strictly comedy?
PALLY: Yeah, I would love to do a drama. I don’t get a ton of scripts for any of that, oddly. I did this movie over the summer called Night Owls—it was really small but hopefully it’ll get into some festivals. It was kind of a drama. It’s mostly two actors, me and Rosa [Salazar], who is amazing. Maybe if people see it and they like it, I’ll be cast more in dramas. People reading InterviewMagazine.com, I’d love to do a drama!
IVIE: This can serve as the official public service announcement for all casting directors out there: Adam Pally is looking for a drama!
PALLY: Yeah, totally! I’d play whatever, do whatever! I’m looking for a hot drama! [laughs]
IVIE: Who are your all-time favorite comedians?
PALLY: I have a ton of them. Bill Murray. Michael Keaton. I really like Steve Martin. I would see anything that came out of theirs over and over again. Comedic leading men were my idols. I like Paul Rudd a lot. That kind of “comic leading man” I really respond to well. And there are so many amazing women right now in comedy, an embarrassment of riches. [Amy] Poehler is probably the funniest person alive now, maybe. And Tina [Fey] and Kristen [Wiig] and Mindy and Casey [Wilson], there’s so many. I think that’s a good answer. And now another public service announcement to anybody that I mentioned: if you give me a job in the future that would be great, I’d appreciate that.
IVIE: I’ll print that in verbatim for you, don’t worry.
PALLY: Cool, great, awesome. There’s a ton of people I’d like to work with, I’ll send you an IMDb list. This article is going to be titled “Pally Looking for Work.”
IVIE: No shame in that, Adam. Don’t worry.
PALLY: There’s a ton of shame in that. [both laugh]
IVIE: Do you have any other projects that are currently in development?
PALLY: Yeah! I finished Night Owls and really have my fingers crossed for that one. And then I shot this other small independent, improvised romantic comedy with Sarah Burns from Enlightened. That was super fun as well—we got to go in everyday and get to improvise a movie, basically. It has this really cool documentary filmmaker, Don Argott, who directed The Art of the Steal (2009). The cast is awesome, like Bobby [Moynihan] and Cecily [Strong] from SNL. Again, when you do those small independent movies you never really know what the deal is going to be. I wrote a movie for Disney with Gil Ozeri, so hopefully I’ll be finding out soon if they’ll be making that. And more The Mindy Project and hopefully some other stuff. I think I’m going to invest in a newspaper.
IVIE: A newspaper?
PALLY: A newspaper, like a regular newspaper. I think it’s going to be a business that comes back despite what people say. “The Pally Gazette” or something—harking back to how we originally got our news stories. Call it a brick-and-mortar newspaper, if you will.
IVIE: As a lady of journalism, I support this idea.
PALLY: Really? Because that may be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. [both laugh]
THE MINDY PROJECT PREMIERES TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 ON FOX. SEARCH PARTY WILL BE RELEASED LATER THIS FALL.