I recently had the good fortune to interview How I Met Your Mother writer Joe Kelly. While we chatted at length about the show, I had to open with a basic game of Marry/F-ck/Kill...
Given that HIMYM likes to reference Star Wars, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Karate Kid, your choices are Princess Leia, Sloan Peterson and Ali Mills.
I guess I gotta marry the girl from Karate Kid (Mills), bang Sloan Peterson and kill Princess Leia. Never was a big Princess Laia fan.
I never was a big fan of the Return of the Jedi bikini fantasy, either. So, where are you from?
Born in Fair Lawn NJ, we moved to the suburbs of Atlanta when I was seven and I was there until college when I moved around a number of places before I ended up in Los Angeles. It was there I started doing improv, comedy and corporate entertainment. Pretty much anything that could help me pick up a check.
Where did the idea for Robin Sparkles (pictured) come from?
I have a writing partner I do pilots with, Kourtney Kang, she has done all the Robin Sparkles episodes. I wasn’t working with the show when the genesis of that character occurred, but I don’t think it has anything to do with anyone’s real life experiences. I think it just started when they were joking that the 80’s happened ten years late in Canada. They just started brainstorming from there about a secret one of the characters was carrying. As far as I know, neither Kourtney nor anyone on the staff was a teenage pop star in the United State or Canada.
Punchy is one of our favorite characters. It was a late Tuesday night and we were doing a rewrite, I forget the episode, but Punchy was a very late night creation when we were all tired and, I guess, literally “punchy.”
Initially, he was scripted to have one or two lines, but then we just started brainstorming about his background and getting into where he came from and stuff. Carter Bays actually gave him the name Punchy and we spent hours that night talking about him. We’re very happy he came back and hopefully is coming back again. Chris Romano - the actor who plays Punchy - is on a show called Blue Mountain State. If you like Punchy, you should check out Blue Mountain State.
I’ve loved the guest stars this season. Are there any plans to Mila Kunis on the show? She and Jason Segal had great chemistry in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
I think there will be now, that’s a great idea. I don’t think she’s looking to do TV; she is doing so well in film and doesn’t need the money with Family Guy and such. That would be a tough get, but definitely would love to have her on the show.
I was enamored with the end of "Bad News." It seemed like a great opportunity to show off Segal’s acting depth.
A big goal of the season was to give Jason more focus, which culminated at the end of this episode. The next episode, "Last Words," will be a huge episode for Jason to show his talent. I think it will be a real big episode. It’s very emotional and very powerful.
What would you say to those viewers who were critical of the serious turn the show took with the death of Marshall’s father?
It’s your right to not appreciate the more serious moments of the show, but don’t walk away because there is some great stuff coming right around the corner. There are those who crave the emotional stuff, so we try to please everyone. Ultimately, though, this wasn’t done to please or piss anyone off. Carter and Craig write stuff that is close to their hearts...
The show is not just jokes and humor. We have actually felt that when we lose sight of the emotional aspects of the show and focus more on the laughs that we actually piss off more viewers than when it’s the other way around. Our director, Pam, definitely steers us back to those emotional moments when we start to drift to heavily to one side. I am always up for a silly fun episode. I came from sketch so I like the comedic aspect, but working on this show has been huge for me in teaching me the emotional side of writing.
Looking back at shows like Cheers, every one of those episodes had emotional sides to them, deep deep deep stuff that as a kid I just didn’t pick up on or pay attention to. I think people forget how emotional sitcoms are. I think Seinfeld changed the game and people kind of forget how deeply dramatic a lot of the shows used to be.
Are there any hints you can give as to when we might find out more about Ted’s wife?
Oh, I’m not touching that with a ten-foot pole. I will say there is definitely a very specific direction the creators are heading in and they are on pace. Carter and Craig usually do the episodes that tend to deal with the Mother aspect of the storyline. They try not to overplay the card. They do not want to annoy the viewership with the too many twists and turns. Follow the umbrella is all I’ll say.