CS Interview: Creator Dana Gould talks Stan Against Evil
Comedian Dana Gould is known in the industry as a hilarious and innovative stand-up (he’s considered one of the founders of the Alt Comedy movement in the ’90s) as well as a talented writer, including a seven-year stint as a staffer penning episodes of The Simpsons. He’s also the mastermind behind The Dana Gould Hour, one of the most well-produced — and mercilessly hilarious — podcasts around. Now Gould is finally getting to unleash his own scary brainchild with the new IFC horror/comedy series Stan Against Evil, which premieres tonight at 11pm with the first episode titled (in a clever play on a Pedro Almodóvar movie) “Dig Me Up, Dig Me Down.” You can also watch the first episode RIGHT NOW at this official link!
The show stars John C. McGinley as “rough-around-the-edges” small town man’s man Stanley Miller, who’s dealing with both the recent death of his wife as well as being replaced as town sheriff by a woman named Evie (Janet Varney). In the premiere episode, he finds out that his wife had secretly been burning the midnight oil keeping 172 (literal) demons at bay, and now it’s up to him and Evie to keep all those monsters from fulfilling a prophecy to kill every sheriff the town has ever had. And yes, with at least one new monster every episode Gould is counting on that number providing him with 172 episodes worth of material.
We had the chance to have an exclusive 1-on-1 with Gould, who wrote the first 8-episode season of Stan Against Evil around the premise of “What if my Dad was Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” He based McGinley’s character on his own New England father, whom he describes as, “Archie Bunker without the elegance and sophistication.” A lifelong hardcore genre fan, Gould talked to us about building a horror show inside the body of a sitcom, his ’70s cult movie/TV references and how his time writing on The Simpsons influenced this fun new series that both horror and comedy fans will devour.
ComingSoon.net: This is unapologetically a “monster-of-the-week” show in the great “Kolchak” tradition.
Dana Gould: Absolutely! Fully informed by “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.”
CS: How many monsters did you come up with before you settled on the ones in the first season?
Gould: For the first season I had two that I knew I wanted to do, and then I literally went to a store in Burbank called Dark Delicacies and bought an Encyclopedia of Demons and just went through it and went, “That looks good. That looks good. That sparks an idea.” You just go through it and pick what you want. We have an episode with evil flowers that turn a Pomeranian into a big scary demonic Pomeranian. Things like that. It’s a trick of, “What haven’t I seen a million times? What’s a funny way to do something?” and then I took it from there. Right now I’m coming up with ideas for Season 2. I keep a notebook pad by my bed. The other day I woke up and looked at the notepad and it said, “Demon Baby: full-person-sized baby.” That’ll be one episode next year and I’m farming them out as they come along.
CS: My frames of reference for “Stan Against Evil” are TV shows by guys like Dan Curtis, Rod Serling…
Gould: There’s a TON of Dan Curtis in the show! This show feels like “House of Dark Shadows.” It was absolutely created to feel like it took place in New England in the early ’70s. They still have the internet, they still have cell phones but they have old cars, they have console televisions. “House of Dark Shadows” was the visual template for the show as well as the musical template. A huge Dan Curtis fan, huge “Dark Shadows” fan. There’s a lot of that in there and that’s also why the monsters are practical. I wanted it to feel tangible.
CS: That’s awesome. What were some of the other references on the table?
Gould: Yeah, “When Michael Calls,” “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death,” all of those early ’70s TV movies. We talked about “The Night Stalker,” “Dark Shadows”… “The Last House on the Left” was another one.
CS: And you certainly embraced that bare bones ’70s TV movie-style low budget aesthetic…
Gould: I had no choice! (laughs)
CS: Do you want to keep that grungy feel as the show goes on or do you want to expand the production values if it gets increasingly popular?
Gould: I have an idea for the arc of the show and I’d like to do some cool new monsters, but no, I want it to be down and dirty. It should feel like a movie you would see at the drive-in.
CS: For the make-up you used Greg Nicotero’s company, KNB EFX right?
Gould: Yeah. Well they did the original concepts, then our schedule moved and “The Walking Dead” picked up, so we went to Autonomous F/X. Greg Nicotero is just a friend of mine, and he said, “I can’t do it but Jason Collins can do it.” So I said, “Okay, I’ll go over there.”
CS: So you kept in the family?
Gould: Absolutely! Everybody’s friends.
CS: Because you used to write for “The Simpsons,” did you ever hit any walls where you accidentally found yourself writing gags that would only work in animation?
Gould: What I did was I put jokes into the show the way we would put jokes into “The Simpsons.” You hear stuff on the radio, people are reading a weird book, there’s a sign… there’s a lot of density to the jokes like we did on “The Simpsons.” They are called literally “radio jokes.” If you watch the show, especially as we get into the season, there’s a lot of layering.
Stan Against Evil premieres tonight (Halloween Night) on IFC with an airing of Episode 1 at 11pm EST before it moves to its regular time slot Wednesdays at 10:00pm starting with Episodes 1 & 2 airing on November 2.