Skip to main content

RACHEL IDZERDA FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL/The Globe and Mail

The bespectacled former MTV star has started his second act – this time as producer, writer and star of the new CBC comedy series Schitt's Creek. Dan Levy developed the show with his comedy-legend father Eugene, and recruited dad's frequent collaborator Catherine O'Hara as a co-star. Here, he shares some of the secrets to his success, including why you should never listen when they make fun of your glasses.

The downside to compromise

It's quite common for a television show to start off as one thing and end up as something completely different. There are so many cooks in the kitchen – the network, the studio. Everyone involved in a project has their opinion and everyone wants their say. Shows can get lost in the mix, so really that was the big challenge of making Schitt's Creek: to protect the sensibility of the show, both cosmetically and from a story perspective. That means everything from the scripting to the sets to wardrobe. CBC was really great and the show that you see is exactly the show we wanted to, and intended to, create. That in itself is a huge success in this business, so I felt like everything else from here on out is icing on the cake.

Story continues below advertisement

Stick to your guns (and your frames)I remember before I started high school, I was really intrigued by the Buddy Holly/James Dean style of glasses. This was a long, long time before they were sold at every Urban Outfitters. I remember going to L.A. one summer and finding a pair at a vintage shop. I was so excited and I wore them to my first day of Grade 9. Let's just say the reaction was not what I had hoped. I remember the girl who was sitting beside me at the time tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had considered contacts. But I stuck with them. I've had thick plastic frames ever since and you know, people have really come around.

A foot in the door can get slammed on

When I started [doing The After Show] at MTV, I really didn't want to involve my dad in what I was doing. I wanted to prove myself because I know how quick people are to judge. I wanted the audience I was in front of to like me for me and also I needed to discover whether I had what it takes to stand up on my own. Once things started going well for me, I was happy to involve my dad. Working with him is amazing, but I'm glad I didn't do it right away. On the topic of nepotism and kids getting jobs: Having produced a TV show, I can tell you wholeheartedly that there is way too much money at stake for some celebrity to just hire their kid. That's something a lot of people don't realize. When Girls was first on the air, Lena Dunham took a lot of criticism because her parents were these famous New York artists. HBO is not going to invest that kind of money just because her parents are successful. It's easy to make assumptions. Family might be able to help with getting a foot in the door, but after that you're on your own.

To get creative, get away

I always try, if I can, to travel before I start a writing project. For me, travelling is my education. It inspires me and it clears my mind and allows me to come back with a cleansed palate. Before I started writing the first season of Schitt's Creek I got a call from my friend Tommy Ton, who is a street-style photographer and who asked me to come to Tokyo. I wasn't in the best financial situation at the time, but I decided to go anyway and it was just the best trip. I came back completely inspired and reinvigorated to start in the writers' room.

Reality is the best gag of all

People always ask about my dad and his comedic influence. It's funny because my mom is really the comedian of our household. So much of my understanding of what's funny comes from osmosis and just being under that roof. I guess the main take-away from my dad in terms of comedy is that I like the kind of funny that focuses on reality – real situations, real people. You don't play for the laughs, you just play the situation and the laughs come. That's what they were doing on Second City and of course the Christopher Guest movies. There are a lot of different kinds of comedy, but that's what I know and love.

Story continues below advertisement

This interview has been condensed and edited by Courtney Shea.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter