Brow Beat

Jay Baruchel on the “Dream Logic” of Man Seeking Woman

Jay Baruchel.

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Man Seeking Woman, which airs its third episode on FXX Wednesday night, tells the story of Josh Greenberg (Jay Baruchel), a sad-sack young loser looking for love after being dumped by Maggie (Maya Erskine), his longtime girlfriend. Created by Simon Rich, based on his book of short stories The Last Girlfriend on Earth, it’s the kind of absurdist comedy in which Maggie can be romantically involved with Adolf Hitler (he was hiding in Argentina), and Josh can go on a blind date with a troll (Gorbitchka, who lives in a dumpster).

I discussed the show with Jay Baruchel at the recent Television Critics Association gathering in Los Angeles.

Man Seeking Woman has a very absurdist vibe.

It’s a cartoon come to life. We use what I call dream logic. That’s not to say that they’re fantasy sequences. The show exists in a plane of reality. Our plane of reality just has an elasticity to it, and as a result, when you tune into our show, you literally have no idea who could show up or what could happen, because we have broken these boundaries. We can go wherever we want. It’s incredibly cool.

Do the special effects and the surreal elements bring special acting challenges?

Not challenges. It just makes it more fun. Robert Patrick years ago said that all acting is just a version of cops and robbers, and he’s completely right. Some people have one foot in that imagination part of their childhood more than others do, and on a show like this, you really have to flex that muscle a lot. For whatever reason, this is a far more natural setting for me than any other normal, traditional format.

Do you think Josh is a nice guy?

Oh yeah. He’s a bit of an uncooked French fry, but there’s a lot of unrealized potential and promise. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he doesn’t have a ton to offer. But there’s very little funny about someone who’s incredibly confident and always at ease. I don’t know what’s funny about a guy who’s content, either. To me, pettiness is funny. Rowan Atkinson is my hero, and I think if you watch Mr. Bean, you see Bean is a piece of shit. He’s a terrible person. He’s so bloody petty. Every time he sees the three-wheeled Reliant Robin, he has to stop whatever he’s doing just to tip it over. But that’s what makes it so good.

Josh had a scene with Hitler in the first episode. Are there any boundaries on comedy for you? Things you’re not willing to do?

They would be personal things less than ideological things, because I believe on paper that either everything’s funny or nothing is funny. Maybe that’s a testament to my heritage: I’m Jewish on one side and Irish on the other, so there’s a gallows humor that permeates both. I do think there’s a joke to be made about everything. I can’t make every joke about everything, because I’m a human being. I have shit that is the holiest of holies that I won’t ever talk about. But it’s very rare. I rarely get to that point.

This interview has been edited and condensed.