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Nerdette

A Sitdown With The Lucia Aniello And Paul W. Downs Of The Comedy Duo Paulilu

Nerdette's Tricia Bobeda sat down with Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs, who together make up the comedy duo Paulilu.

Together they co-wrote the movie Rough Night, which is directed by Aniello and stars Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer and Kate McKinnon. Aniello and Downs are also involved with Comedy Central’s Broad City. Both are writers and co-executive producers on the show. Aniello has directed a number of episodes and Downs plays the character Trey Pucker.

On their comedy origin story

Paul W. Downs: Lucia, I will never forget, got there late to this class [at Upright Citizens Brigade]. I had gotten there really early because I was so nervous and it was my first improv class. I was really excited and she came in like 15 minutes late and was totally nonplussed and was like, "hey what’s up?" And she was just so confident and I was like, "who is this?"

Lucia Aniello: We started taking a bunch of classes together. There’s kinda like a group of us from that first class which I think kind of happens in improv. You take a bunch of classes with friends.

We eventually started making videos… The internet – it was less of a thing at the time. There wasn’t like a hundred videos coming out a day like there is now, so it was a lot easier to get attention – not that we got it. 

Aniello: There were a few groups that started to make videos, and I had made some stuff in college. I kind of knew how to turn a camera on, and I vaguely knew how to edit. We started making stuff, and it’s kind of awesome when you’re able to make a video and even if it gets 3,000 views and I can either do that, or do 10 shows and the same amount of people see me perform. It’s a numbers game.

On working with Amy Poehler 

Downs: UCB is the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. At the time there was one in New York and L.A. when we started. It was a theater that was originally born in Chicago. It was Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Matt Besser and Ian Roberts who came from the Del Close Second City world. 

They came to New York and brought with them that training and opened an improv and sketch comedy theater which, when we started, had an L.A. location ... It was a training ground for a lot of comedians. 

Aniello: I one time Googled “Amy Poehler” and that’s what led me to the UCB website, and I’m like OK. How can I be like Amy Poehler?

On making each other laugh for the first time

Aniello: Yes, Paul I remember quite vividly… put both of his elbows up and went up to a girl and didn’t actually touch her and said "Double boob smash!" And pretended to do a double boob smash, and our teacher, who I was sitting next to her, and I said "Write that down."

Downs: I don’t remember the first time you made me laugh, but I do remember one of the hardest times you made me laugh.

We also perform at the magnet theater, which is another improv theater. In a show at that theater, Lucia ran on as a squirrel, and it really got me. She was always good at knowing when to end a scene. 

Aniello: I know when this improv scene should end. It’s earlier than most people think.

Downs: Honestly, it’s a gift to have someone on the team who can do that. It’s like … let’s move. Let’s move on.

On their writing process

Downs: We break story together and we’ll write an outline.

Aniello: We’ll have some piece of dialogue and the jokes and we just piece them together.

Downs: After we’ve broken story. We’ll write a scene separately. We’ll write a scene for the other person. I’m writing to make her laugh and she’s writing to make me laugh. Then we’ll switch scenes and we highlight the things about the scene we liked, and then we’ll combine those.

On working with the cast of Rough Night

Downs: We were so lucky to have amazing improvisers, and this happens on Broad City. We don’t improvise and go off the rails. ...basically they just kinda make it their own and give it the kind of flourish that’s true to the character point of view. So on set, things do change, but they stick to the story. The story is the same the script is the same. With these women, they had so many amazing ideas and came with so much stuff, it was pretty remarkable. ...

[Kate McKinnon] is so funny. We can give her any piece of boring exposition and she would make it magically funny.

Aniello: If you’re ever going to write a movie and Kate gets to be in it: Who’s going to say this boring piece of dialogue? Have Kate say it because she’s going to figure out a way to make it genius. 

Downs: She’s liquid funny.

Aniello: They all are. It’s like Captain Planet. It kinda felt like all those girls had their own thing. This is what they’re bringing. They put all their rings in the sky and created this glow. They feel like they have been best friends forever. It just all worked in a way that we couldn’t have planned we couldn’t have prayed enough to get it to that place.

Downs: The thing that made it so great was they made each other laugh and they had fun. And you can really feel it, and can feel the chemistry and that’s an important thing.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Rough Night premiered in theaters on June 16, 2017.

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