In a matter of hours, Reno 911! will return to Quibi. The newest service to join the world of streaming video, Quibi is an amalgamation of "quick bites," as it focuses on short-form storytelling for the people always on the go. Built for mobile devices, Quibi conveniently feels built from the ground-up for the return of Reno 911!, the sketch comedy show that once found its home at Comedy Central.
Over a decade after airing its last channel on television, the series — led by the likes of Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and more — makes it triumphant return with a service specializing in content seven minutes or less. In the three episodes sent to the press ahead of its release, it's apparent the cast and crew is still firing on all cylinders as they pump out some of the best skits the show's seen in its seven-season history.
Ahead of the release, we had the chance to speak with Lennon (who plays Lieutenant Jim Dangle on the show) to chat about his workflow during the coronavirus quarantine, the return of a beloved improv show, and more.
Keep scrolling to see our full interview with Lennon:
Keeping Busy in Quarantine
ComicBook.com: First and foremost, we've got to ask: what have you been up to?
Thomas Lennon: What have I been up to? I've been shooting a lot of sketch comedy in my backyard. I've been doing the talk show circuit from my backyard, which is kind of interesting. The Wi-Fi and internet went out about eight days ago pretty much permanently. It's been a test. Basically, did you ever see the movie the Name of the Rose?
Well it's about like a murder and there's a bunch of weird monks that are cloistered up in the mountains. We're living like that right now.
I saw your yoga post on Instagram and now, I'm totally waiting for that Masterclass to come out.
It's so funny because I shot one yesterday and I didn't like it, so I kept re-doing it, but I haven't posted it yet. But stay tuned because there definitely is a followup to the douchey Hollywood yoga douchebag that I am.
That's brilliant, I like that.
Well, this walks a really fine line. When I post stuff like that, I'm posting a piece about how much of a douchebag I am, but it's also really accurate. This is where we start to get in a blurry area of like, am I pretending to be a Hollywood douchebag or am I a Hollywood douchebag? We may never know.prevnext
Returning to Reno
RENO 911! I watched the first three episodes and it's obvious you guys haven't skipped a beat.
Right? I feel like, not only weirdly would these be good representatives of the old show with really no changes, but they would probably be among the best episodes of the old show.
Let's go back to the beginning of development. Quibi comes out and offered you guys a show. Was it a no brainer for everyone involved or were there some hiccups along the way?
We definitely had to think about it for a second because it's always been hard to get Reno together mostly because the cast is so egregiously successful on their own. Just to schedule the one time that we wanted to have dinner last Christmas took a while to schedule.
It really came about almost 100 percent because of a person named Doug Herzog. Doug is an executive at Quibi, but he also is the person who put The State on the air in the early '90s at MTV. He put Viva Variety on the air at Comedy Central, he put Reno 911! on the air at Comedy Central. Doug has been sort of shepherding Reno 911! for its entire life. Doug then went to Quibi and he's like, "Why don't you do a new Reno 911!? The shows are going to be 10 minutes long. That's perfect for you guys. Just do it." We're like, "Yeah, great. Sure."prevnext
It's legitimately weird. People told us they're going to just do movies, they're going to do this, they're going to do that.
And I'm like, that's all well and good, but if you were custom making a Reno 911! format right now, the episodes would be about seven minutes and you wouldn't have to think about much else. And it'd be over. I've got to say, I miss nothing in the new episodes. I feel like they're just a slightly stronger distillation of what we do.
Right. No, absolutely. Development-wise, writing this and actually producing this, have you noticed a difference because of the shorter format?
It's always different for us because we operate only off of outlines. So the two thoughts that we had to keep in mind on this were, "don't meander." We used to improvise sometimes when we did a sketch like Guns on the Highway. That was the one where Trudy had lost a box of donated guns off the roof of her car. So We had to go pick them up on the highway. We used to shoot takes like that for almost 40 minutes straight.
I think we do it a little less. I don't think...I know we do definitely less 40-minute takes these days. Always keep in the back of your mind, someone could be watching this in a very small format.
Don't get too subtle in the background. Well, that's a good thing for us. We're very subtle, we're very not subtle, and we're incredibly dumb. So we're the perfect sort of junk food programming, I would say.
Super high in calories, and not good for you, but astonishingly satisfying.prevnext
Writing for Improv
Right, right. So you say you operate off an outline. How many, how many takes do you do per scene then since it's a lot of improvising?
I'd say what's interesting is that generally if we do a ton of takes of something, it's because it wasn't a really great idea.
Usually, things are clicking by the second take, but we never will belabor anything because our general feeling is, if we're on the fence about something, shoot it. See what happens, but don't belabor it. If it turns out, it'll probably turn out pretty soon. But if you feel that people are flailing and nothing's landing, maybe it wasn't a good idea, so let's just move on.
Right. How, how much stuff do you often cut?
We always end up with a little bit more material than we expect also, which happened again with this season because you always plan for, "What if 90 percent of the stuff doesn't work at all?" and we just don't land it.
As we've gotten a little better at doing the show, there's less stuff you have to throw away.
Also I think because maybe we're a little bit older, we're like "Oh let's not try every joke. Let's just see. We're going to improvise for like 12 hours straight, and what if we got done and went home?" because many of us have kids.prevnext
More Seasons, Perhaps?
Yeah, absolutely. Clearly, and I'm not even sure if you can talk about this, BUT are you under contract? What's the extension of the contract you currently have? I guess we call it a season, but how many Quibis is that?
Currently, right now for Reno Season Seven, there are 25 episodes. Do keep in mind that those vary. There are some that are six and a half minutes and there's some that are like eight and a half minutes.
There's no formula for that. It was just what felt funny, and what felt like, "We're over it and let's move on." So there are 25 coming right now. I think everyone enjoyed it so much, I wouldn't be surprised if we did more.
Absolutely. Did you get all 25 done?
They're done. A bizarre thing that happened is we fully finished filming everything right before the quarantine and lockdown, and we actually had several episodes fully done. Then it was starting to look like, "Hey, everything's going to close completely," and all three of our main editors happened to have really great editing systems at home.
So all of the post of the vast majority of the episodes was finished by our amazing editors in their houses. The footage already existed. We haven't seen anybody in person in for, it feels like a couple months now, but a lot of the posts was handled. In a terribly dangerous time, it's also bizarre that we'd never been more perfectly set up to not have to meet and do things, you know?prevnext
No doubt. Another big thing on this show is obviously guest stars. We see Michael Ian Black, we see Patton Oswalt. I think Stephanie Beatriz, I saw someone posted on Instagram. Are there any other guest stars you can try to let us know about?
Sure. Who else do we have? We got Weird Al. I'm not going to tell you who he plays because it's kind of fun. You haven't seen that episode yet, have you?
Weird Al plays a really amazing character that you'll see, and I'm very pleased about that. Patton plays a recurrent character that's really great, who is sort of a right wing radio guy.
If you had to cast the perfect person to play right wing radio guy, it's Patton.
Then, Stephanie Beatriz came in and crushed an episode. She's amazing. Oh, there's a giant running guest star in the entire season who's sort of a major new character, and he's played by Paul Walter Hauser. You know Paul Hauser?
Paul's an actor, but he's also one of the best improvisers you'll ever see in your entire life. And Paul plays, I can tell you right now because it's in an early episode. Have you, did you see him yet in the show?
Yeah, first episode, right?
So what happens is, the Sheriff's department, the actual building of the Sheriff's department has been robbed a bunch of times. So the city has hired a private security guard to sit outside the station and watch the door. That's played by Paul Walter Hauser, who's amongst the top 1% of improvisers I've ever improvised with in my entire life, if not just the best.
Did you see the trailer today?
I did, yes.
Tim Allen came in and played the dude who's training me for Space Force. There's a slight twist to that, but I don't want to give away what the twist is, but for now, he's the guy who's training me for Space Force, and maybe there's a little more to it.prevnext
Digging Into the Plot
The three episodes I saw didn't miss a beat. I lost it at the whole runway, or the model bit. I think that's even in the trailer, it's so great.
Oh, the Concealed Carry. A lot of these things happen. So, Concealed Carry was an idea I had seen. I was like, oh, they actually have fashion shows for how to hide your guns. Totally real. I was like, oh, let's just do that because that's exactly something Clemmy would be making money doing on the side.
Then one day we were walking to get lunch across from the office, back when we were writing the show, and the Hatzolah ambulance went by us. And then we're like "What really is Hatzolah?" Which is the Orthodox Jewish police and emergency force.
So they're the rescue force, and then we wrote the piece, and Michael Ian Black comes in and plays the captain of the Hatzolah team, and it's absolutely one of my favorite scenes of the year coming up.
That's the second one I was going to bring up. I lost it. Probably the one bit that got the biggest chuckle out of me.
Is Hatzolah one of the ones you saw?
It is, yeah. The robbery one right?
Oh yeah. "Hey, my friend!" It's so wonderful, and they've got a helicopter, and they had so much gear. They have everything we ever wanted.
Then you look back and I think it's you, right? You're grabbing your pistol by like the barrel and itching your face. I lost it.
There are weird improv signifiers that I do in scenes, and I don't realize them until I've watched the scenes, but I'm always playing a status game. So, with Michael Ian Black, you'll notice, I'm pointing the gun at myself to give him the power in the scene. He's scratching my face, but I'm definitely holding my gun on it in a way that I'm handing it to him.
Then there's this scene coming up with Paul Walter Hauser with Dangle and Jeffy, and I literally sit cross-legged at his feet outside the station, which is another tell-tale, trying to let someone else be my boss kind of move.
That scene in particular is when I was like, "Man, this is, this is the real deal." Everyone slights reboots or continuations of stuff, but this show hasn't dropped a bit of quality.
I think, and it's going to sound vain and I don't mean to sound vain, but I think honestly these are the best Reno 911s ever. It's not really a comparison. Everybody loves the old ones, and they're wonderful for what they are. But pound for pound, these are as funny or funnier, I think.prevnext
Before we go, since I am with ComicBook.com, I do have to ask about Supergirl.
Oh yeah, fun.
Are you going to a return at all? Is there anything in the works?
I am going to return as soon as television is open again. Crap, we've never announced this, but yes, when the show returns, which I hope is sooner than later, there is definitely a plan for the return of Mxyzptlk. And thank God because it took me so long to learn how to say the name.
It wouldn't have been worth it for just one episode, but no, there's more talk, and I really can't wait to do it because Melissa and that whole crew over there is just amazing. And it's one of the most fun shows to do.
What other shows would you like to see pop up on Quibi?0comments
Think it over and let us know either in the comments section or by hitting me up on Twitter at @AdamBarnhardt!
Cover photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Imagesprev