Arts & Culture
Spotlight On: Jake Hurwitz of ‘Jake & Amir’
Talking to the writer/comedian about new TBS sitcom and his love affair with Amir Read More
If you haven’t heard of Jake Hurwitz, it’s probably because you haven’t heard of CollegeHumor. Jake Hurwitz and his partner in crime, Amir Blumenfeld, became “Jake and Amir” in 2007 while working together as interns at the comedy website. The two comedians began making videos for fun, which led to a feature web series for CollegeHumor. The show, which focuses on the two BFF’s “acting a fool” in the office, also developed into a weekly podcast, and now they’ve signed on with TBS to adapt Jake and Amir into a sitcom.
I spoke to the 28-year-old triple threat three days after he landed in LA to begin writing the show, which will be executive produced by Ed Helms. We spoke about the new series, missing the East coast (and his mama), and his deep-rooted love for Amir.
So it is true that Jake and Amir was never intended to be a series? How did you get started?
Amir and I were just making funny videos at work as an extracurricular activity, and we kept on making them, and that happened for so long that it’s still happening. Originally I was an editorial intern, so part of my job was to write articles for CollegeHumor and brainstorm video ideas. Back then we used to have a feature on the site called “Cute College Girl of the Week” or month, and so part of my job was to curate that section of the website, which was a generous job to give the intern.
Do you think if not for Amir, you would have pursued comedy? Was it that when you met him sparks flew, or were you always a theatrical kid?
I don’t think I’d be anywhere without Amir. I definitely had no ambition to act or perform before we started making videos, and I’m not so sure he did either. It kind of came out of necessity, because we had these funny ideas, but no money to pay anybody to be in our videos, so we did it ourselves. And it all stemmed from that—our first live show was together and now we perform live and are acting and I don’t think I’d be doing any of that if not for him. Before that my ambition was to just be a writer. So maybe I’d be doing that, or maybe I’d fail completely and be doing something else.
Who knows! So you guys are like comedy soulmates.
Yeah we are. And I’m sort of nervous, because I think you can only meet one soulmate in your life–and I met mine, and it’s Amir, so I’m totally fucked.
I feel like there’s more than one, and they show up in all different sexes and relationships.
I hope so, because otherwise I’m going to have to marry Amir.
How will the format and planning of your episodes change now that they will be longer? How much of Jake and Amir is scripted now?
In our videos right now we script everything out and then we shoot. It goes like this: usually the first take we don’t really know our lines yet and we stumble through, it’s terrible, almost unusable. The second take we’ve already learned our lines, so we say them all correctly, and we have that tape as a safety net. The third take is loose, improvised, whatever we want, and when we’re editing we use the second and third take. I don’t know how that’s going to affect anything that’s longer form. I know that Amir and I want to keep our dialogue playful with room to improvise. We like that energy, so we want to keep that alive.
So you must be very excited about having a show. When you got called what was your reaction?
Well it happened over the course of two years, so I was less excited than my mom, who found out the day of. It was almost like a relief when we found out that everything was set in motion. It was surreal that what we’ve been hoping for and working towards for so long was finished, and now we have the very real job of writing a show. It’s a little daunting, but it’s different and exciting; hard but great.
Ed Helms signed on to produce and write for Jake and Amir. How did he come in the picture?
Basically we just begged him to work with us. We have the same comedy management, and they thought we would be a good fit. We met with him, told him about our show, and we got along really well. After the meeting he said he wanted to help out in anyway he could. We were like please, please, please don’t let this be a joke.
Were you sad to leave NY? Are you happy to be in LA?
I don’t know. You’re catching me at a very emotional time.
That time of the month?
It is—that time of my life! I just got here three days ago, so I’m still adjusting. I miss New York a lot. I love New York. I grew up in Connecticut, so I have a lot of East coast pride, but I’m excited about the things that brought me out to LA. I’m head over heels in love with Amir, and I think I will find cool things to do out here. And I always have New York, too.
Where in LA are you settling?
Actually right now I don’t have a place to live, so I’m sleeping at Amir’s Mom’s house.
Ok, that’s comforting. She must cook well for you guys though, no?
Great cook! She makes me eat way more than I want to. Since I’ve been out here, I felt a couple times like I just want my mom, and I’m scared that I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen in my life, so it’s nice that I have someone’s mom around. Amir grew up in the valley, so that’s where I am right now. I hope I can land something in the East side of LA, because I hear that where all the people who like Brooklyn go.
I get the impression from watching the videos and the podcasts that Amir has two different personalities. In the podcasts he’s pretty chill and in the videos he’s hyper to a point of annoyance. Who is the real Amir?
In person he’s much more subdued than anybody expects. He’s quiet, reserved, and actually private, but he’s also prone to loud outbursts. He’ll yell an inappropriate joke; he’s still got little bits of character in him too. The lines are very blurred.
Well I guess that’s a big role of his character: to exaggerate his neuroses so that you seem more normal, more grounded.
Yeah, I think he’s in the middle. Because “Podcast Amir” is his very real self, but he knows that it’s a public forum where thousands of people are going to listen to him. “Video Amir” is like, “I have to be entertaining, I have to over the top and insane.” So when he’s just Amir alone, he’s the middle guy of those two guys.
Who are some of your favorite comedians?
My favorite stand-up comedians right now are Kevin Barnett, Josh Rabinowitz, and Jermaine Fowler. Those guys are hilarious. My inspirations in comedy would be Mitchell Hurwitz (not related) who made Arrested Development. I think that was a formative show for me, in terms of figuring out what kinds of things I wanted to write–and early on, The Simpsons and Seinfeld. Also, of course Billy Madison, Happy Gilmour, Tommy Boy, Dumb and Dumber, all those movies.
Tell me about your Jewish identity.
I grew up half and half; my Mom is protestant and my Dad is Jewish. I had a bar mitzvah and went to Hebrew school, and we were never very religious, but I still identify culturally with Judaism because it’s such an open religion.
When you have mental telepathy with your best friend and are playing off each other, it must be hard not to just laugh hysterically, or even want to tell Amir how amazing he is for just saying what he said. Do you find it difficult when you’re trying to get out your reply sometimes?
Yes. In the moment I feel like I’m almost a younger brother where instead of wanting to say, “great job” on something, he elevates me, like I want to keep on playing with the big kids. Then later on, when I’m talking to you, that’s when I gush. It was great; Amir let me play with him today!
What are you looking forward to most with the show?
The thing I’m looking forward to most is learning how to write a television show. We’ve spent the last 7 or 8 years making Internet videos, and I’d like to think we got pretty good at it, but we have no idea how to write for television, and we’re getting a lot of lessons from professionals. I’m just excited to learn that craft, it seems really fun. And I’m excited because we can’t still just be across the desk from each other for 23 minutes, so we have to have to create a world around us. I think we’re coming up with some fun characters, and hopefully people agree.