Spike Feresten Interview -- JustJared.com Exclusive
Spike Feresten currently hosts his own late-night talk show, Talk Show with Spike Feresten, on FOX. Years ago, the 44-year-old funny man was also on the writing staff for Saturday Night Live, The Late Show With David Letterman and the hugely successful sitcom Seinfeld (he wrote episodes “The Muffin Tops” and “Soup Nazi”). Check out what Spike had to say about taking his act to late night:
JJ: How are you, Spike? Where are you calling from?
SF: Great! I’m in the office here in Hollywood, editing the show, and we have a funny little video we put out this week called “Lil’ Bill O’Reilly” that no one knows is ours. It was on Gawker this morning and it’s been all over the place all of a sudden. It’s going viral as we speak. This is an exclusive for you! You can say it’s us.
JJ: What are the work hours like for your show?
SF: We go in every day. We shoot two shows a week, one show that airs two days after on Saturday nights that we shoot on Thursday. And the other show that might air in May–we call it an evergreen show.
JJ: Can you explain the second show you tape?
SF: The second show is just FOX saving money. They double up tape nights for us. In the fall, we’ll be shooting shows about what’s happening that week, the debates and anything else that’s happening. The other show is pure silliness. Since we can’t predict what’s gonna happen in the spring, we kinda just do odd comedy.
(Continue reading Spike Feresten’s interview inside…)
Spike Feresten Interview – JustJared.com Exclusive
JJ: Do you keep up with celebrity gossip? Which blogs do you read?
SF: I float across a bunch of blogs during any given day. TMZ, Defamer, Gawker, Best Week ever… I kinda float around.
JJ: Which political blogs do you frequent?
SF: Right now I tried to read everything. Daily Kos, you know anything that’s got good information. But it’s mostly just to write comedy from. I kinda take the pulse of all these different sites and then try to see where the funny is.
JJ: Are you a registered Democrat or Republican?
JJ: Is the vice-presidential debate going to be covered in tomorrow’s show? What are your thoughts on it? (Editor’s note: The one that aired this past Saturday October 4th.)
SF: Watching [Sarah Palin], I thought she would make a great mayor of Alaska. (laughs) And Biden, the way he stood there pretending to listen to this woman rambling on about herself, it was like watching the world’s worst first date. You know what I mean? They were recapping this morning she literally told [moderator] Gwen Ifill, “I’m not going to answer your questions,” which is the same thing she told the same thing told her daughter Bristol about where babies come from. Pretty strange coincidence that happened there.
JJ: How has “Talk Show” progressed since the first season?
SF: You know, the show has grown a lot since the original concept. It’s a very good question. I think we’re about halfway there.
JJ: What’s the other half you’re trying to finish?
SF: Well as I said before, half the season is topical, half the season is about the week’s events. I firmly believe on Saturday night, people want to watch comedy about what happened that week, and that it gets a little more difficult to connect with your audience when you’re not doing that. And this year, FOX gave us the money to do it for at least half the season, which we’re pretty grateful for. But for me, the biggest complaint from fans is that it’s too short (it’s a half-hour show) and I agree. It should be at least be an hour, and it should be about what happened that week. So we’re kinda halfway there. But we are, at three years, or in our third season, the most successful late night show in FOX history. We’ve beaten all records! There are a lot of cadavers in the Fox late night schedule. Talented people like Chevy Chase, and Joan Rivers, but no one has been as successful as us to date, and we’re proud of that.
JJ: Who is your target demographic?
SF: We found, that the people watching FOX on Saturdays at midnight are people on drugs. We generally write comedy for them.
JJ: What’s your average viewership week to week?
SF: We have about on average about 1.5 million people watching every week and it’s a pretty good audience. And it’s a pretty good healthy number of 18-49 year-olds, men and women. Not many old people watching, and not many super young kids like under 10 watching. The right people are watching the show. And what we’re hearing over and over again is, “I didn’t know what I was watching because the network didn’t promote it, but when I came across it, I really laughed hard. It’s a really funny show! You guys are underrated.”
JJ: Why is it that Fox doesn’t promote your show?
SF: Part of it was a strategy for them. In the past, you know I mentioned Chevy Chase and Joan Rivers. They put a lot behind throwing these people on the air, and sometimes that can have a bad effect because it forces people to like somebody. And the theory was, let’s just put you in the middle of nowhere and let’s see if people find you and if you can find an audience, and people get excited about it. That way you have a little bit edge, rather than me, Spike Feresten, a complete unknown at the time, just going on the air and risking it. Kinda like what Conan [O'Brien] went through when he first went on the air. A year of attacks. And it’s been fun because I’ve worked on a lot of very high profile projects, like Seinfeld, and Letterman, and there’s a lot of freedom doing what we’re doing.
JJ: How do you keep in touch with your fans?
SF: I communicate with everybody through MySpace. Tim Meadows let me know he was in a movie recently and I booked him through MySpace. We dropped this funny public service announcement about the switch to digital. It’s just showing an old person trying to follow the directions and doesn’t do it so well. So TV stations, and local affiliates have been emailing me for permission to show it on the air, so that’s the place also where I talk to fans about the weeks show. I use their suggestions for guests. Right now, they’re clamoring for Bob Saget. They wanna see him so we’re gonna be going out to Bob Saget. It’s also a great place to hear what sucks, what people don’t like, don’t wanna see, and what people love and wanna see more of. I’m generally returning every message myself.
JJ: Where do you see your career going? Do you want to host award shows?
SF: I’m really liking what I’m doing right now. We finish shooting at the end of December. Last year I got to co-host the New Year’s Eve special with Cat Deeley, that was a lot of fun. I really like doing this, and I hope this show continues to grow, and gather the same enthusiasm. A lot of the other guys have been around a long time, a couple of decades. We’re like the Obama of talk shows. We’re new. We’re the change. We just hope the polls just put us in the lead soon.
JJ: Do you have a dream guest that you’d like to have on the show one day?
SF: You know who that is? Tom Cruise. Because everybody was saying his new movie wasn’t good, and wasn’t gonna be good. Valkyerie, it is, and I watched the trailer online the other day, and it looked really cool. I thought, alright well he plays a Nazi in this movie, and I wrote the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld, maybe that’s my connection to getting him on the show.
JJ: Since you did write for Seinfeld, what the royalties like? Do you get like a $5 check in the mail every month?
SF: They’re decent, we make some decent money. I was in the Writer’s Guild back then. Actually you make some pretty decent money off of that–thousands of dollars. Older shows, like old Letterman’s from NBC, you’ll get a check for four cents. And then you’ll see the producer’s cut, $10,000, and you go whoa, I really gotta produce these things. It doesn’t pay to be a writer or an actors on these things.
JJ: How’s your [8-month-old] son Jack doing?
SF: He’s great! He’s in the office right now, having lunch. Because we’ve been working, we came in, had a little bit of lunch, learning to crawl in the office, just a moment ago. My wife, and I, and Jack on all fours, marching around the office with the door closed so the staff couldn’t’ see.
JJ: Does Jack inspire any of the material for the show? How does your family inspire stuff for the show?
SF: He does, we just did a monologue about kids, and how that affects your life. And how you’re not allowed to have anything in the nursey that off-gasses. No off-gassing carpets, no off-gassing woods. Pretty much the only thing that’s off-gassing in that nursery is my son. Jokes like that.
JJ: Any more thoughts on Palin?
SF: This thing that she said during the debates, that her message speaks to “Joe Six-pack.” And I finally realized what she means by that. That you have to be five beers in to just begin to understand what she’s talking about. You have drunk, to get it. Did you see that Katie Couric interview she did?
JJ: Yes, I did.
SF: I thought she appeared so ill-informed that CBS should probably ask her to host the evening news.
JJ: Do you think that’s just her strategy? To avoid the questions?
SF: Well, yeah, I mean it looked like she came in with a bunch of written responses, and then she even said I’m not gonna answer your questions. I’m just gonna read these responses. You know, what 7-11 clerk couldn’t do that? I don’t understand, I thought this was a debate, I thought we we were gonna cut loose and let go. Somebody screwed up there.
JJ: What would you do if she did make it as vice-president?
SF: Oh my God. I would enjoy four years of joke writing and joke telling. I would have it made. All my shows would be filled.
JJ: What would you do if she became President?
SF: That’s an interesting question. Who would she pick as her running mate that would make her look good? Does that person exist? I’m trying to think of somebody and I can’t quite find the nut who makes her look smart.
And there you have it. Tune into Talk Show with Spike Feresten at 12/11c on FOX! Let me know if you guys are interested in tickets to Spike‘s show and I’ll try to run a giveaway of some sort. Hope you enjoyed the interview!