Brendan Hunt, AKA Coach Beard, Says Chicago’s Comedy Scene Helped Shape ‘Ted Lasso’

Ted Lasso
Brendan Hunt arrives at the premiere of the second season of "Ted Lasso" on Thursday, July 15, 2021, at the Pacific Design Center. Jordan Strauss / Invision/Associated Press
Ted Lasso
Brendan Hunt arrives at the premiere of the second season of "Ted Lasso" on Thursday, July 15, 2021, at the Pacific Design Center. Jordan Strauss / Invision/Associated Press

Brendan Hunt, AKA Coach Beard, Says Chicago’s Comedy Scene Helped Shape ‘Ted Lasso’

Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” became an instant hit last year in part because the show’s positive tenor was in stark contrast to a real world in the midst of a global pandemic.

The beloved show stars a quick-witted, perpetually upbeat Ted Lasso [played by Jason Sudeikis], an American football coach who finds himself coaching soccer in England with his trusty, even-keeled assistant Coach Beard [played by Brendan Hunt].

Hunt, who grew up in Chicago, said he was more interested in The Second City than soccer — although he does recall the now-defunct Chicago Sting and their eye-catching black-and-yellow uniform. Hunt said his early influences weren’t athletes, but seeing Steve Carell, Chris Farley and Tim Meadows perform in Chicago.

In the late ’90s, Hunt joined the Amsterdam-based sketch comedy group Boom Chicago. Living in Europe made him a soccer fan and introduced him to fellow comedians with Chicago ties, Sudeikis and Joe Kelly. They went on to create “Ted Lasso” together, along with screenwriter Bill Lawrence.

Hunt’s performance in the show recently earned him an Emmy nomination for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series. It’s one of the whopping 20 nominations the show received for its first season. The Lasso-Beard coaching combo, and the cast of characters around them, is now back for season two, which premiered earlier this summer.

Hunt recently joined WBEZ’s Reset to talk about what makes the show special, why his character is so quiet and how his home state helped him prepare for the role. Here are a few highlights from the conversation.

On Coach Beard’s cool, calm and collected demeanor

Brendan Hunt: Once we had the character of Ted and Ted’s yet unnamed assistant coach character, Joe Kelly [the show’s co-creator] was like, you should talk as little as possible. We know that Ted is going to be a blabbermouth … So the appropriate balance for that is to try to have as many lines of dialogue as possible that are just one word, so that has always been the goal. Certainly, I can say that Coach Beard’s whole mission is to balance Ted.

On how Illinois has helped shape the characters

Hunt: [Beard] is shaped not just by Chicago, but by my time at Illinois State, down in Normal, Illinois. I think Beard is from the Prairie more than from the city. Jason talks about how Ted comes a lot from just his Midwestern upbringing and some role models he had there and I’m kind of drawing from a wide range of people who I knew.

On the response to the show from real-life coaches

Hunt: There’s definitely been a lot of cool response from a lot of coaches and, and they love it for the most part, guys like Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, just to name a few. I haven’t seen anything from Matt Nagy yet … I at least hope we get to David Ross by now and Tony La Russa probably doesn’t know how streaming works, so I’m not going to hold my breath there. But it’s been pretty cool, the response.

On becoming a hit

Hunt: Before it came out, some kind of major publication reviews came out that were really good and [we’re like] oh, OK, you can’t worry too much about reviews, but this indicates that we don’t suck. But then there became this stream of people on Twitter just gushing about the show … and very quickly with those early adopters it seemed like it meant a lot to people.