NEW YORK (AP) — What would the mean ol' Grinch be doing in 2023? Would that Christmas sad sack be hosting a cooking show on TikTok? Writing long essays for Substack? No, you know what he’d be doing — a podcast.
“This is a celebration of great Christmas mischief,” says Johnson during a recent break from taping the show in Brooklyn. “I think he is a curmudgeon and he’s grumpy and he just needs a nap and a bottle.”
The 30-minute podcasts — a production of Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Wondery — hopes to be something that both adults and children can enjoy, like during that 30-minute commute to skating lessons or while baking a pie.
“Hopefully kids hear stuff that’s funny to them. Hopefully the parents hear stuff that’s funny to them and everybody’s having a good time listening to it together,” says Johnson.
Guests include actor Bob Odenkirk and his daughter, Erin; singer Meghan Trainor;TV host Seth Meyers; actor Tabitha Brown; comedian Pete Holmes; singer-songwriter Chloe Bailey; WWE star Cody Rhodes; actor Skai Jackson; fellow “SNL” cast member Bobby Moynihan; and comedian-actor Patton Oswalt.
Listeners can expect prank phone calls, comedy bits, weird commercials, the Grinch messing with his dog, Max, and freaking out when his heart jumps in size. The series is available now and kicks off with Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson East as the first guest.
“Part of the great thing about this is show is that there's a lot of room for improvisation and James is just so good at that,” says show producer Sara Mathes.
During a recent taping session, Johnson playfully jostled with Cindy Lou Who — playing his producer — and goes on an anti-Santa rant, joking that the jolly elf has "an entire North Pole sweatshop."
“He flies around the world, entering people's homes through the chimney? Why hasn't anyone called that out as extremely inefficient? Not to mention, it's basically breaking and entering, right? Hey, Merry Christmas — let's celebrate this plus-sized burglar-type guy who breaks into your house through the chimney, then leaves gifts, like some kind of deranged Looney Tune?"
Johnson, known for dead-on impressions of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, was tapped for his ability to spend a lot of time improvising in character, a flair he also shows on his Instagram account. “I think they were looking for somebody who can embody a gruff character and keep it fun and light,” he says.
He has studied the voice work of Boris Karloff in the classic animated Grinch cartoon, as well as Jim Carrey and Benedict Cumberbatch, who both made Grinch live-action movies. “What I’m doing may be a little bit more Karloff than Carrey,” he says.
Johnson, who started doing stand-up in his teens in Nashville, Tennessee, describes his Grinch as a creature perpetually having a bad day. He likens him to a sassy gate agent at the airport during the busy holiday season.
“He’s a little snooty. He’s a little kind of Karen-y. He’s a little bit of like a fussy mom. He’s a little bit of a fancy dog that’s in that mom’s purse,” he says.
“I think I can be very cranky given the right circumstances. You know what I mean? Over-caffeinated, underfed. You know, every morning I’m like this guy right before lunch.”
The show is influenced by such fake interview shows as “The Eric Andre Show,” “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis” and “Primetime Glick.” “I would say that I’m I am trying to bring a little bit of that anarchic vibe to this,” says Johnson.
The Grinch, he thinks, plays an important antidote to the often forced holiday cheer — he can pop up whenever there's someone feeling grouchy at a gathering.
“At any Christmas celebration, there’s somebody who’s got a grumpy look on their face and they’re having a bad time. Sometimes that’s mom, sometimes that’s dad, sometimes that’s the kid,” says Johnson. “I think all of us have these negative Christmas moments where we’re cranky and we’re being the Grinch now."
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits