Tony Hale has made a name for himself playing lovable oddball that can hold discomfort and tension in their wrought faces until the wires snap and the comedy boils over in fits of hilarity.
Following the Saturday world premiere of dark comedy “Brave New Jersey” Saturday night at the Austin Film Festival, Hale appeared at the Driskill Hotel ballroom Sunday to talk about his career with AFF executive director Barbara Morgan. Here are some of the highlights:
- Hale currently plays the neurotic and overprotective bag man to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ president Selina Meyer on HBO’s “Veep.” True to form, when Morgan’s phone buzzed in her purse at the back of the stage, Hale transformed into his Gary Walsh character and retrieved the phone from the purse of AFF’s commander in chief. Later in the talk, Morgan’s water bottle fell and Hale dutifully returned it.
- Hale says he has dealt with anxiety in the past, which he has gotten a handle on through therapy but that he’s been able to “use it for good” in portraying a character who often looks twisted in knots on the inside.
- Not surprisingly, Tim Conway and Bob Newhart are both huge comedic influences on Hale, who says those two greats, “didn’t push comedy; they sat with the tension.” Audiences would often laugh at the two actors because you could tell what was happening in their heads. Since Gary can’t often speak up in his role on the president’s team, Hale has found ways to use a raised eyebrow or a sigh to deliver his point (and laughs).
- When Hale is finally able to let Gary blow off some steam when he loses patience with Meyers’ team, Hale describes it as “Five years of build up watching idiots around Jesus.” Indeed, Hale says Gary loves Meyer so much that his spare time his spent practicing how fast he can retrieve things from her bag.
- Asked to reflect on some moments from his time on the short-lived series “Andy Barker, P.I.,” Hale (who drew a blank on specific memories) used the opportunity to praise star Andy Richter as “the coolest guy.” In discussing his high regard and appreciation for Richter, whom he called “a very normal guy,” Hale explained how “arrogance sucks the creative energy out of the room.” He likes an atmosphere of respect and giving, which he says he found on “Brave New Jersey,” as well.
- Don’t ask Hale about his favorite aired episodes. He doesn’t watch his shows over again. He does, however, watch the blooper reels from his shows because he says that they make him laugh and remind him of the great camaraderie and energy on set.
- Echoing something Jason Segel said Friday, Hale said that his biggest challenge is to stay present. That is something which must be practiced, he said. “If you don’t practice being content where you are, you are not going to be content when you get where you want to go.”
- On whether he wants to break from his typecast (that of Bust Bluth and Gary Walsh), Hale, joked, “I am very comfortable in emasculation.”
- Hale obviously has had much fun with his work on “Veep” and “Arrested Development,” and some of his favorite moments are not being able to contain his laughter. He says he cracked most often at Will Arnett’s outrageous alpha male on the latter. As for the former, he said one time Louis-Dreyfus looked at him after cracking and said, “Tony, you know you’re not watching the show; you’re on the show.” Hale doesn’t just enjoy cracking on his own shows; he said he loved the “Saturday Night Live” Debbie Downer at Disney World sketch (featuring a rattled
Jimmy Falloneveryone) so much that he’s watched it 500 times.
- What else does he watch in his spare time? Apparently not a lot of scripted television. But he loves YouTube. Bloopers for a laugh and soldiers-coming-home videos for a good cry.
See Tony Hale for yourself. “Brave New Jersey” screens again Monday night during AFF at Alamo Village.