“Un”-Marketing the Next Hit TV Show with the Creator of “Undateable”

“Un”-Marketing the Next Hit TV Show with the Creator of “Undateable”
Julie Krueger
October 02, 2014
Undateable cast

As someone working in the marketing industry, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the cast of the show “Undateable” (yet to be broadcast at the time) was going on tour. Yes, like a real, live, in-person, cross-country comedy tour. I caught up with Adam Sztykiel – the show’s creator and writer – to get his take on this seemingly unconventional way of marketing his new project.


JK: So, we know you’re credited for a slew of comedies – “Due Date,” “Made of Honor,” “Awesometown” and soon-to-be “We’re the Millers 2” (which I’m personally most excited about). But, I really want to talk about “Undateable,” specifically the marketing of the show by way of a cross-country, stand-up comedy tour. How did that come about?

AS: One of our greatest assets on “Undateable” is that we have four stand-up comics who were also great friends long before the show existed. And, like you said, TV is a crowded and competitive landscape these days, so we thought a comedy tour would be a great way to use what makes our show special and different (the comics) to promote it.

JK: Pretty unconventional show marketing by today's standards…

AS: Yeah, but that was what we liked about it. Because it was unconventional we thought people might actually notice and pay attention, which they did.


Chris D'Elia (Danny), Brent Morin (Justin) and Adam.

JK: How was the idea received by the cast?

AS: They loved it. First, it was an opportunity to tour and perform with their close friends. Second, because Bill Lawrence (who emceed each show and did some stand-up of his own) planned the tour, everything was very luxurious. Bill has achieved that level of success where you simply don’t stay in cheap hotels anymore. So the cast got to ride the Bill wave and, though we called it a “grassroots tour,” they flew first class and stayed in really nice hotels and got a lot of massages.

JK: How was the idea received by others in the industry?

AS: They thought it was a cool idea and a smart way to promote and market the show. Our last show was in L.A., and I think that’s when people really got it, though – when they were able to see these guys live and a get sense of how incredibly funny and talented they are.


JK: Did you write the material or was the cast responsible for their own?

AS: For the tour? All the cast. Those guys are pros and certainly don’t need my help when it comes to putting their acts together. In fact, it was very cool to watch them work material, night in, night out. Seeing what they left in, what they took out, trying different combinations of material, and then watching them come up with new stuff on the fly was incredible.

JK: Was the material a prelude to the content of the show or not at all related?

AS: Absolutely a prelude. For instance, I had seen Ron Funches’ stand-up in YouTube videos, and the character of Shelly was written with him in mind. And once we cast Chris D’Elia, we “borrowed” from his act, too – letting him do accents and writing a lot more physical comedy because he’s so good at that. Brent Morin does a lot of singing and incredibly detailed monologues in his stand-up, which we now do a lot of in the show. It made it a lot easier to write for all four of them and capture their voice because they have a pre-existing body of work, in their stand-up, that we could look at.


JK: Do you think the tour had an effect on the success of the show? If so, how?

AS: There’s obviously no way to know for sure, but I think getting these guys in front of audiences under the “Undateable” banner was the moment that buzz for the show started to build. I think our success was a combination of everything we were doing to promote the show – the tour, the affiliate visits, the social media stuff … all of it.

JK: Do you think the tour allowed viewers to have a relationship with the characters before the show even began? If so, in a good, bad or indifferent way?

AS: One hundred percent and definitely in a good way. The idea was that if you’re a fan of these guys as stand-up comics, then you will probably be a fan of the show. In addition, the tour gave us an opportunity to introduce a large part of the cast, even though someone might have come knowing only one of them. A lot of Chris D’Elia fans left as new fans of Ron Funches, Brent Morin and Rick Glassman. And that’s what we were going for – showcasing our ensemble of funny people.


JK: congrats on Season 2! With so much competition for prime-time TV, what does this mean to you (personally, professionally, etc.)?

AS: I’m a very competitive person, so it’s hard for me not to distill everything in my life down to winning and losing. And, getting a second season definitely felt like a win. But it also feels like an opportunity — an opportunity to build on the success of Season 1 and hopefully grow the audience of our show, an opportunity to write more episodes of television for a cast I love to write for, an opportunity to make the show even better and, of course, an opportunity to put Shelly in even more Detroit-themed clothing. Personally it meant a lot, because I genuinely love the show — the cast, the crew, the writers … they’re all incredible and it means a lot to be jumping back into the sandbox with them for another year.

JK: What do you think is the main reason(s) it was picked up again?

AS: First and foremost, I think it’s a funny, accessible show with a lot of potential to find an audience. But I’m biased. Beyond that I would say the two big reasons are Bill Lawrence and the cast of the show. Bill is one of the most successful show-runners in television with an extraordinary track record and the kind of person I think you bet on if you’re a network. And the cast. Casting is everything and we really hit the jackpot with a great mix of experienced TV actors and some incredibly talented newer faces. More importantly, though, is their cast chemistry. Most of them have known each other a long time, they all love each other, and I think all of that comes through in the show. Plus, we have four stand-up comics who are only getting bigger by the day, which is great when you’re trying to build an audience.

Twitter: @sztyks and @NBCUndateable
Facebook: /NBCUndateable

Adam on set while shooting an episode.