Comedy and television as a whole can have a tendency to become quite jaded. We live in a time when cynicism is frighteningly high, and amid all of the comedies that attack and are angry at things, it’s genuinely refreshing to fall back on Detroiters’ power of friendship and the unstoppable duo that is Tim Cramblin (Tim Robinson) and Sam Duvet (Sam Richardson). The chemistry that Robinson and Richardson create with their characters is dangerously infectious, and if you don’t laugh at the antics of these two man-children, then you legitimately have no soul.
The dynamic between Sam and Tim is strong, but the comedy in Detroiters is some of the more brilliant, ridiculous storytelling that’s currently on television. These two hapless ad men try to succeed in a heightened-yet-not universe that is endlessly celebrating Detroit, warts and all. It’s a bizarre mash-up of elements that shouldn’t necessarily work, but it’s hard not to enjoy Detroiters and the show’s second season only continues the program’s winning formula. In honor of the show’s new season, we talk with Tim Robinson about Detroit’s unusual traditions, the show’s unique tone, and what to expect this year.
DEN OF GEEK: Many people really appreciate the optimism that’s present in this show and that it all boils down to this beautiful friendship between Tim and Sam. You’re the kind of guys who wave to sanitation workers. Why is that tone important for the show?
TIM ROBINSON: It’s just what their friendship boils down to. These guys might not be the greatest at their jobs, but their love for their city and their love for each other, plus wanting their company to be successful depends on that optimism. They’ll try and maybe they’ll make some mistakes, but they just want to be successful and keep on fighting. They can be petty at times, but that’s who the characters are!
Was there anything that you consciously wanted to do differently this season or something specific that you wanted to set out to accomplish?
I think that we just wanted to dig more into the characters and their families. We wanted to see a little more from Tim’s family and we do the same with Sam, too. That’s the fun thing, when they stick together or revert to their former selves in those situations. It’s fun to write these characters interacting with their parents or siblings. It also just helps show why these characters act a certain way. We understand why Tim has a quick temper after we see him interact with his brother. It makes a whole lot more sense. We wanted to show more of that and of course build on the weird rules that we’ve set up for ourselves. There are other characters that can have more of a sketch element to them.
Do you prefer writing more for Tim or for Sam?
I kind of prefer writing for the one-off characters, like a client who comes in to do a commercial. Those guys are the most fun because they can say crazy stuff and then you don’t have to live with them. They’re only going to be there for one or two episodes so you can make sketchier choices for them that you couldn’t with Tim or Sam.
I mean, one of my favorite performances from the entire series is how you guys use Rick Mahorn. You definitely need to get him back again.
Absolutely. We had such a good time and he’s a legend. We’ll definitely have him back if we can.
Is it satisfying to bring these bizarre Detroit traditions that everyone from outside the area is unaware of, like the “April in the D phenomenon” for instance?
It is! And we do our best to be accurate. “April in the D” is a very weird thing that only existed for five or ten years? It’s a contest that Detroit holds every year where fans make videos and then they pick one and it becomes the “theme song.” It involves local bands and it’s kind of hard to explain, but I think we get it across on the screen in a natural way. But all areas have their regional stuff that they know and love and more of these overlap than you’d think. They’re easy to translate over, but they’re very fun to play out and there are still lots of “April in the D” videos online. I think my brother has one online—I know he does—but you can really do a deep dive on that stuff.
Similarly, one of my favorite gags from the first season is Richard Karn’s incredible performance at the D Awards. This season, you have Carl Anthony Payne from Martin. Do you plan to keep this joke going? In a perfect world, who’s next?
That’s a great question because we love going back to the D Awards. It’s a great place where Sam and Tim are out of their element and amongst all of their peers. But the premise of the gag you’re talking about is that each year the host of the D Awards is some actor that’s from a sitcom that’s set in Detroit. I don’t know who would do it next…
It’s tough because the more that you do, the more you limit your options. There have to be more out there though…
There certainly is. For sure. I’d have to think about what else is set in Detroit, but there will definitely be more of that.
We touched on Rick Mahorn, but who’s your favorite local celebrity from Detroit that you’ve put to use on the show?
Well, Mort Crim is always incredible. He’s a real news anchor that was on TV when Sam and I were kids. It’s always nice to have him because the minute that Detroiters hear his voice they’re transported back to hearing his voice on TV from their childhoods. He’s really fun to have on the show and every time I hear him talk I’m just back at my grandmother’s house watching TV.
Were there any big clients that you wanted to base episodes around, but then you weren’t able to?
To be honest with you, everybody has been incredibly nice and overall pretty into the show and wanting to be a part of it. We really haven’t gone after anyone who didn’t want to do it. We did want to do something with the Detroit Zoo and they said no, but that was it.
Any interest in somehow doing a flashback episode that’s all based around Tim’s dad and his days as an ad man? Do you have any radical episode ideas like that that you’ve considered?
We would love to do that. Knock on wood, if we get a third season, that’s definitely something that we’ve talked about in the writers’ room. We’ve discussed seeing the company back in its prime and doing more of a Mad Men thing for big Hank Cramblin or also an origin story over how Tim and Sam meet. We haven’t hammered the specifics out yet, but it does get talked about.
Do you have a favorite episode or gag from this season or something that you’re just particularly proud of from this year?
I feel pretty good about all of the episodes. I’m happy with the whole lot. The one where Sam gets hit in the head with the football and it turns into a commercial is maybe my favorite, though. I just like the idea of how Sam’s character, who is a very proud person, does not want to get embarrassed and then a very embarrassing moment happens to him and he doesn’t just have to live with it, but work with it every day. It’s fun to watch Sam do that.
This might seem like a silly question, but have you ever considered putting the Kathryn Bigelow film, Detroit, in your crosshairs on the show? Could Tim and Sam create a better movie with the name “Detroit?”
We definitely think about that, but we did discuss this video game that just came out that’s called Detroit. I don’t know too much about it and it was too late to touch on it in this season, but we were definitely like, “Well, I’m sure Cramblin-Duvet tried to make a Detroit video game at some point…”
Oh, that’s great. Season three for sure. Finally, and this is important, who makes the best hot dog in Detroit?
We talking coneys? My personal favorite is a place called Dooley’s, but I also love a Lafayette Coney. Detroit really has a lot of places to go—I’ll even do a Leo’s Coney, which I know some people frown upon, but I’ll do it. It’s not as good as a Lafayette, but I’ll do it. Dooley’s is my favorite, though.
Detroiters season 2 premieres with back-to-back episodes on Thursday, June 21st at 10pm (ET) on Comedy Central.