The NBC improvisational comedy “Superstore” had its season two premiere last night. I didn’t watch the show when it initially aired last year. However, with a cast that includes America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Lauren Ash and Colton Dunn, the amassed talent is undeniable.
Recently I spoke with actor/writer Colton Dunn, wrote for the Fox sketch comedy MadTV, among many job about his road to “Superstore.”
The Shadow League: How did you get into comedy?
Colton Dunn: I’ve always been interested in comedy. I started out in improvisational comedy, and that led me to a lot of comedy writing. I wrote for Mad TV, which was my first writing job. Then I worked for a couple shows as a writer.
While I was writing I started wanting to perform more.A few years ago I just started focusing on that, doing live shows and working with other people. And I just started auditioning. I worked with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, where I trained and worked on my improvisational skills.
TSL: To be a funny person I suppose you have to be comfortable in your own skin. As a big black dude, how are you able to feel free enough to do improvisational comedy?
CD:For me, that’s just kind of who I am. I am goofy. I know a lot of people have these preconceived notions of a big black guy, but I’m goofy. That’s who I am. I think a lot of times it surprises people. When they first see me they don’t expect me to be goofy.
TSL: After the success of Parks & Recreation, what made you chose “Superstore” as your next project?
CD: I just kind of go out for everything. This script came along and, not only did I like the character, but he’s a cool dude and he’s pretty chill. Then, when they started putting the cast together, it was America Ferrera, Ben Feldman and Mark McKinney and I was like ‘Oh, this is not even a question whether or not I’m going to do this.’
It was great. So, I met with Rueben Fleischer, the director, and executive producer Justin Spitzer about where they want the show to go. It was one of those things where I was like ‘This is great. Even if I don’t get on this show I’m going to watch this.’
TSL: Talk about the balance between acting and improvisation.
CD: Contract wise, I’m just an actor, but we all improvise on this one. We’re always improvising and coming to the writers with ideas. We’ll just meet at the writing sessions and just kind of share ideas. We’ll talk about the things that we’ve been through, or process and our jobs. It’s pretty much an open discussion between the actors and the writers, which is great.
TSL: You’re kind of like a unicorn in that you’re a comedy writer and improvisational actor who is black.
CD: There’s definitely not a lot of black writers that get into rooms, especially in comedy. And it’s a little odd, but you also have to look at the pool that’s there that they’re hiring from. A lot of times, young black students aren’t pushed into writing and those sort of things.
If that’s what someone is interested in, and maybe they haven’t had someone push them in that direction, they’re just going to have to take the initiative. What I’ve found is, once they’re doing it, game recognizes game.
You get in a room, you get a meeting and you’ve got good stuff, they’ll hire you. Work at it, stay hard and try to be undeniable. The best advice that I ever got was just try to be undeniable.