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Fox’s hit comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine entered Season 2 last night in its new Sunday evening timeslot, bringing just as much laughter as it did for its Golden Globe-winning freshman season. It’s quite possible that you’ll be seeing jokes and hearing lines over the next few months that will make you think, “How on Earth did somebody write those?” As it happens, it’s entirely possible nobody wrote them and they were just spur of the moment instances of comedy magic. According to Andre Braugher, who plays Captain Ray Holt, the show’s creative team is far from averse to improvisational spontaneity.
Speaking with Collider, Braugher shared a fun bit of information about how creators Daniel J. Goor and Michael Schur handle each episode’s production. “I think they’ve developed a good way of working on the set,” Braugher explained. “It was put into operation last year and we’re continuing with that.” This technique should really be how comedy series auditions are handled, to make sure the funniest people possible are secured for roles. The Emmy-nominated actor explains the process below.
We’re working faster and more efficiently, which actually gives us more time to play around. In any given scene, we’re going to do five or six takes of the material that’s scripted and really cover that thoroughly, and then we have enough time to do what we call “fun runs,” which is where everyone pulls the craziest stuff they know out of a bag and throws it into the scene.”
He says the unpredictability keeps the set energy lively and loose, and that he’s watching his more seasoned improviser co-stars like Andy Samberg and Joe Lo Truglio “like a hawk.” Braugher’s background is centered more in heavy drama than comedy – and I dare anyone to prove to me that Men of a Certain Age counts as comedy – so it’s excellent to see the actor embracing the tricks and tactics of the improv community. Next stop, Upright Citizens Brigade.
Filmmakers like Judd Apatow have been using this kind of filming style for years now, letting his comedy-oriented casts just riff and riff and riff on camera. He doesn’t always use the on-the-spot material in the main film, of course, but some ad-libs are just good enough to replace the written words, and it also makes for some pretty hilarious Blu-ray/DVD features. FX’s The League basically does away with scripts altogether, setting up narrative directions but allowing the actors to come up with whatever they want to fill the scenes out. (And it’s usually the filthiest thing you can imagine.)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine never really goes for potty humor, which is nice, opting instead for silly and odd over gratuitousness. It's always easy to come up with a good dick joke, but it takes a special skill set to create PG-13 absurdity. I bet extended scenes between Chelsea Peretti and Terry Crews are amazing. Check out a promo for Season 2 below.
Find Brooklyn Nine-Nine busting crime in the funny bone when it airs Sundays on Fox.