In the TBS comedy "The Detour," a girl gets her first period in a strip bar, voluminous vomit destroys the interior of a mini-van, and the parents of pre-teens give one of the most uncensored birds-and-the-bees talks ever seen on television.
All of the above sprang from the creative minds of former "Daily Show" correspondents — and married couple — Jason Jones and Samantha Bee. The two have three children of their own and Jones tells The Frame that they are "parents first and comedians second." But as co-creators of "The Detour," they clearly tap both sides of their identities.
The show stars Jones as a father of pre-teen twins (a girl and a boy), with his on-screen wife played by Natalie Zea. The first season involves the family going on a road trip that, not surprisingly, takes a detour or ... four. Jones is the show runner and Bee was one of the writers on the first season. Meanwhile, she is the star of her own weekly late night show, "Full Frontal," (you can hear The Frame interview with that series' show runner here), for which Jones is an executive producer. Both shows air Monday nights on TBS.
When Jones joined The Frame's Senior Producer Oscar Garza in our studio, he painted a picture of playing "Family Feud" with Samantha Bee and their three kids, but he refused to perform his Steve Harvey impersonation for us. He also revealed (exclusive?) that season two of "The Detour" will shoot in New York so that he can be present for the live tapings of "Full Frontal."
You can hear the interview by clicking the play button at the top of this page. Below are some highlights.
When you and your wife, Samantha Bee, started thinking about leaving "The Daily Show," what sort of projects did you want to do? Did you have "The Detour" in mind already?
We had been pitching and selling shows like this for a long time — I think this was the ninth that we had sold. We pitched double that. [laughs] But they were always with networks, so this was our first cable experience, and networks would always say to us, Eh, your sensibility's all off. But when we went to a cable network they went, Oh, your sensibility's just right, it's just perfect! So it's been an ongoing process.
By the time you sold this show, what had you figured out about pitching and navigating the TV business?
Nothing. I still don't know anything about it, honestly. [laughs] It changes every day! I'm in a nice groove right now because the people I'm working with are fantastic and trust me, but should that regime change, I'll be met with other people who might say, No, the show should be about teenagers and vampires and zombies. Where's that show?
(Left to right: Jason Jones, Liam Carroll, Ashley Gerasimovich, and Natalie Zea star in "The Detour")
"The Detour" has been renewed for a second season, and you're moving the show to New York?
You've officially got the first scoop. Season two will take place in New York, yes.
Which is where you live and work, correct? That's convenient.
It's convenient, but we also designed the show in a way that it would never be in the same place twice. I like the idea of movement, or detours, if you will. And as the show goes on, you'll see that, while it appears in the first episode as a "National Lampoon's Vacation" kind of show, it's nothing quite like that at all. [laughs] I won't use the "detour" pun again, but it'll take a radical departure from what you think it is.
You and Samantha have three kids, and I've read that some of this series is inspired by real events...
"Inspired" is the right word. You take a germ of an idea that happens in real life, and then you exploit it for comedic purposes.
Because I was going to say, there are some fairly outlandish things that happen in this show, and I hope they haven't happened to you. [laughs] I'm thinking about episode four and kids getting violently sick in the car.
[laughs] That actually has happened. Since we've had kids, we've had three mini-vans, and within the first week, all of them have been christened by vomit. So that has happened to us, yes. And as any parent would know, that happens all the time. Again, we take that level of truth and then blow it up to ridiculous proportions in the show.
I didn't mean to bring up vomit as the first example of what's on the show, because it's more than broad comedy. When you were looking to cast your on-screen wife and children, was there a part of you that was looking for people similar to Samantha and your own kids?
My wife's character, Robin, is maybe 40 percent of who Sam is, and then we stretch her a little further. But I was really just looking for people who could act well, who could say my lines of dialogue. [laughs]
It seems like a fairly risqué show for a 9 pm time slot on a basic cable channel. Have you had much interaction with the TBS Standards and Practices folks?
You know what? No, I haven't. [laughs] When you get a TV-MA rating, everything's on the table, so it's like, Oh, really, I get to do this? I don't think they said no to me once.
So do you find yourself thinking, Well, we've gotten away with everything so far, so let's see how far we can push it?
No, I don't frame comedy that way. I don't want to push things as far as they can go to shock people. I sit in a place that I think is funny — if I think it's funny, my buddies think it's funny, my wife thinks it's funny, then I know there are more people that will find it funny.
There's so much of your personality and tone in the script, so how did you recruit your writers, knowing you had such a firm handle on the show?
I brought two of the main guys over from "The Daily Show," so they've been working with me for five or so years. They're exceptionally funny and knew my voice, because they share my voice.
When you were on "The Daily Show," did you have designated writers that worked only with you?
No, not at all. There was a bigger writing team, but the relationship that correspondents forge on that show is with the producer. When we'd go and shoot field pieces, they're the writer/producer and we are a writer/performer. Together, we're this unbreakable team, and these two guys were two of my favorites on the show, so I brought them with me.
And they stepped up — the network was worried in the beginning, like, Well, they've never written for a sitcom before. It actually worked out well because they hadn't, and I think that's why the show feels a little more original than most sitcoms out there.
There's a scene in the first season of your show where you and your wife talk to your kids about sex. Those young actors are exposed to a lot in this series, both language and content-wise. So how was the casting handled? How do you interact with their parents?
Their parents are the coolest ever. There are two moms who are every day with them, and yeah, we have a very frank discussion about the consistency of a certain male fluid. I'm trying to be delicate here. [laughs] They read the script and went, Oh, I didn't think I had to have this talk. [laughs]
The boy's older — he's 13, she's 11 — so he knew that stuff, but she hadn't heard any of it, so her mom needed to have that conversation with her. Which is good — I was forcing her mom to do her job! Don't be like me — I learned it at school from some dummy on the playground. Be the cool mom that teaches her kids at a young age.
How do you and Sam bring your humor into your life with your kids? Is there a part of you that turns off your satire when you're at home?
Well, yes and no. At home, we're parents first and comedians second. [laughs] Certainly, I keep it on a lot more than she does at home because they look at her to do chores for them ... those entitled children. Mom, wash my track pants! I have to wear these tomorrow!
They won't ask me to wash anything, but they will ask me to entertain them. So we'll play "Family Feud" at home. And if I'm not bringing my full Steve Harvey impression, they'll be disappointed.