ByCraig Whyel, writer at
Film & TV news, previews and commentary
Craig Whyel

The Comedians is a half-hour comedy on FX, starring Billy Crystal and Josh Gad. They play exaggerated versions of themselves thrown together as an unlikely comedy team trying to make a go of a late-night cable sketch comedy show, aptly titled, The Billy & Josh Show.

The show airs Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. (EST), a lead-in for the current season of Louie.

The Comedians is based on the Swedish sitcom, “Ulveson and Hergren,” and done in mockumentary style.

Since it debuted in early April for a run of thirteen weekly episodes, the reviews have been mixed and the ratings are not good.

While it is true that it takes time for a new show to find an audience, there is some concern because The Comedians, according to, lost roughly half of its audience over the course of its first three episodes.

I’ve checked out the show and, to be honest, it didn’t do much for me in the beginning but that is changing for the better.

Here are, in my opinion, five reasons why I think you should give it a chance:

The Stars

Billy Crystal and Josh Gad play the tension of their relationship to the hilt. That’s the idea. For two men, with a more than thirty year age difference between them to hit it off immediately would just be foolish.

Crystal is the legend, mature and confident in his ability. Gad is the up-and-comer with skills that are considerable but not established. Crystal is finesse while Gad is an insecure sort of pit bull. Each comes at situations from different angles while trying desperately to find a middle ground in their dystopian relationship.

It is cringe comedy and it burns slowly and steadily.

The Supporting Cast

Stephnie Weir plays Kristen Laybourne, the producer of The Billy & Josh Show. Kristen’s crippling anxieties and insecurities would rack up psychotherapy co-pays that might rival the national debt. She is to misery as the late Mr. Presley was to Rock and Roll. (There is no “a” in the spelling of Ms. Weir's first name, lest you think my spell check is on the fritz.)

Kristen is In need of an intervention.
Kristen is In need of an intervention.
Esme (Megan Ferguson) doesn't care to help much.
Esme (Megan Ferguson) doesn't care to help much.

Megan Ferguson plays Esme McCauley, a completely disinterested, unfocused and disconnected production assistant. One wonders how she manages to keep her job or even show up.

Her comely appearance seems to work in her favor.

She could learn to be an asset job-wise but it might get in the way of her timely response to her smartphone.

Matt Oberg plays Mitch Reed, the show’s head writer. He couldn’t be much more emasculated and out of place.

His desperate attempts to assimilate into the team result in figurative face plants as does his efforts to make others believe in his various alleged talents.

The Writing

The writers are hyphenate scribes and producers with impressive track records.

Billy Crystal is a member of the team as is Larry David who, among his writing/producing credits includes Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Matt Nix is less experienced than the aforementioned but his credits include Burn Notice and The Good Guys.

Rounding out the team is Ben Wexler who previous worked on Arrested Development and Community.

Part of the challenge in writing is keeping the tension level high while maintaining a sense of naturalism in an unnatural environment. It feels almost improvised and yet, thanks to the writers’ talents, the one-liners are many and they bring the requisite sting.

The Guest Stars

Since The Comedians is set in Hollywood, it seems a natural fit to feature celebrity guests. Some play roles while others play themselves.

So far, Steven Weber played a transgender woman director for two episodes while Dana Delaney played a fictional version of Mrs. Billy Crystal.

Again, to be clear, Ms. Delaney is not actually married to Billy Crystal.

Guests playing themselves include Will Sasso, Sugar Ray Leonard and Joe Torre. Mel Brooks and (Mr. Crystal's BFF) Rob Reiner are on tap for future appearances.

The Show Is On FX

If The Comedians would have been on one of the traditional “big three” networks, it would have been gone by now because its audience has been, to date, too small for their notoriously impatient standards.

Instead, the show might have a bit more time to try to improve while increasing viewership. Such is the luxury of being on a cable network.

Frankly, to be fair, The Comedians needs some improvement and it seems to be making incremental steps in that direction.

One example was the show’s third episode where Billy and Josh partake in a bit of herbal stress management before an award show and, in the quest to cure their subsequent “munchies,” find themselves dressed in tuxedos and wondering about a late night supermarket.

The ensuing riffs (which were quite funny) and substance-fueled silliness show a more human side of the show’s version of their characters who end up embarrassed but with a shred more mutual respect for each other.

Still, despite the potential for the show, it needs to sharpen its edge in The Billy & Josh Show scenes. Even though it’s ensconced in the trappings of show business, it’s still about people in the workplace and when they are on the job and absolutely must produce results to continue. Anything less means Billy & Josh could quickly be on the outside looking in.

Remember, there is an insanely large support group for people who endure such regular pressure. It’s called the working class.

Cringe comedy seems to be a niche sub-genre. There’s nothing wrong with it but it rarely seems to catch on quickly if at all.

My personal opinion is that, in the long haul, the show won’t be around too long. Then, a few years after it ends its run, binge watchers will likely find it on video streaming or DVD and then it will finally have the audience it needed.

Of course, by then it will be too late.


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