‘Good Talk’ offers fresh take on interview format

Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

Those who like to laugh out loud while learning about comedy culture through the witty banter of dueling comedians will certainly enjoy “Good Talk with Anthony Jeselnik.” In the new series, stand-up comedian Anthony Jeselnik interviews a series of friends from the world of comedy. He is known for being offensive with his material, which sometimes loses him some fans, but does not intimidate his comedian counterparts.

In the premiere episode, Jeselnik is joined by Nick Kroll. Kroll is a comedian who performs improv and previously starred in his own series “The Kroll Show.” He is also known for the Broadway show “Oh, Hello!” and “Big Mouth,” the animated Netflix series of which he is co-creator and star voice actor.

Interview formats are common in entertainment, whether it be talk shows, podcasts or articles. “Good Talk” sets itself apart from those in three main ways.

The first is its humor. It certainly is not the only interview-style show to be hosted by a comedian, but it is one of few where comedy is the focus and is not restricted by daytime TV regulations. Even the intros and outros to and from commercial break have odd tones and bookend the ads with the show’s characteristic sarcasm.

The second is that the interviewer and interviewee are experts in the same field. When Jeselnik asks Kroll about his comedic influences, the two can bounce off of each other when discussing “Wayne’s World.” Specifically, they are able to discuss their respect and experience with Dana Carvey.

The third thing that sets “Good Talk” apart from the rest of the pack is the friendship between Jeselnik and his guests. Though they may not be the best of friends, their experience with each other’s style makes the interview feel more conversational even while still clearly largely scripted. Their comfort with each other aides in the transition between joke and legitimate question and answer.

The show includes goofy bits like a game called “Actual Turtle or Turtle From ‘Entourage’?” in which Jeselnik describes a turtle and the guest has to guess whether the description was of an actual turtle or the character Turtle from the TV show “Entourage.”

In contrast with this quite simple game, the end of the episode features a game called “Agree or Disagree” in which Kroll has to state his position on some debatable topics within the entertainment world. To the question of whether or not to react to internet comments, Kroll references Maya Angelou in saying essentially “If you don’t pick up the compliments then you don’t have to pick up the criticism either.” And just as the episode reaches a new level of depth, Jeselnik comes back with “But doesn’t Maya Angelou deserve all the s*** she gets.” Still, the emotional and deep side of the show is not entirely over.

In a final segment titled “Making God Laugh,” Jeselnik asks Kroll about his relationship with Brody Stevens, a comedian and friend who died by suicide at the age of 48 earlier this year.

Those who do not like being ping-ponged between comedy and deep discussion and laughing at dark things will probably not enjoy this show. It isn’t joke after joke as Jeselnik says of “Big Mouth,” but it is an impressively humorous approach to discussing someone’s life and career in comedy. Viewers should not expect stand-up, but they should expect to laugh and to learn something new about a comedian.

Future episodes feature Kristen Schaal, Kumail Nanjiani and others. The show airs Fridays at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central.